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15 juillet 2008

Gabriel finds strength in numbers

by Tristram Lozaw

Take about an indentity crisis Whatever you call it, it's good Gabriel finds strength in numbers We don't dispute the album title He's got wheels of his own

Big Blue Ball (Real World )


Peter Gabriel's best albums are usually slow burns, favoring muted melodies and slip-n-slide rhythms over full-bore hooks. So it's a mild surprise that his jigsaw of collaborations, co-produced with Stephen Hague and Karl Wallinger, with its global scope and 17-year incubation, has this much immediate appeal.

"Big Blue Ball" was drawn from musical connections made during open sessions at Gabriel's Real World studios between 1991 and 1995, among them the Holmes Brothers' gospel blues with Arona N'diaye's djembe. Gabriel's fingerprints are all over it - vocals, keyboards, rounded tonalities, layered big-beat grooves, and flares of ethereal texture that add interest and depth. Some songs shine without his help - "Habibe" is a stirring, seven-minute improv led by Hossam Ramzy's Egyptian string ensemble.

Meanwhile, Sinead O'Connor, Japanese percussionist Joji Hirota, and Guo Yue's Chinese flute make "Everything Comes From You" a moody, antiwar standout. Not everything is as wonderfully exotic; Gabriel's touch can't fully rescue a couple tracks from easy listening. Luckily, most of "Ball" follows the inventive lead of "Jijy," a brassy Madagascar rap pumped by Rossy's wordplay and Jah Wobble's dub bass.

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