Peter Gabriel

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Peter Gabriel

Up (Geffen/Real World)

It's been 10 years since Peter Gabriel's last full-blown commercial release, Us. Instead of staying home to count royalties from prior albums, the former Genesis frontman has been busy as a producer, soundtracker (Rabbit-Proof Fence), label chief of distinguished international imprint Real World Records, and co-founder of the human rights organization Witness. With all that going on, it's no surprise that Up is about nothing less than existence. Like most of Gabriel's albums, his songs are of two broad categories: accessible, poppy cuts like "The Barry Williams Show"-- where the Jerry Springer-esque host sings, "Dysfunctional excess is all it took for my success"-- and minor key introspective works, such as songs of loss "No Way Out" and the subsequent "I Grieve." A reprise to his well known "Here Comes the Flood," the closing piano/vox "The Drop" uses the image of being in an airborne jetliner with an open door to embody our existential crisis. While Gabriel is justifiably known for his arrangements, Up could rightly be called his symphonic work, with several cuts featuring astute arrangements from the London Session Orchestra. Gabriel fans will appreciate the typical band contributions, lyrical sexual innuendo, and thanks to Latin Playboy Tchad Blake's binaural sound recording -- headphone happiness. And it wouldn't be a Gabriel album without notable global cameos, like "Signal to Noise," featuring the late, great Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Punjabi percussive ensemble the Dhol Foundation. While Up isn't stylistically different from his canon, it proves that Peter Gabriel is back in the big time.

*** .5

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