Peter Gabriel

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OVO Review

by Thom Jurek

In 1997, Peter Gabriel was asked to pilot a visual project for London's Millennium Dome. OVO is a work based on the intersecting problems of race relations, environmental concerns, family issues, and fairy tales as allegories, violence, and more. And keep in mind that this was to be a visual piece. Gabriel, to meet the challenge for CD, added a ton of multimedia to the musical soundtrack: there is a drawn storybook, The Story of OVO, a view of the installation itself from every angle, and many stopgap notes, drawings, and the like. For the soundtrack, he enlisted the help of collaborators such as Elizabeth Fraser, Neneh Cherry (whatever happened to her third record, the one she did with Tricky?), Richie Havens, the Black Dyke Mills Band, the Electra Strings, Paul Buchanan (of Blue Nile), Adzido, the Dhol Foundation drummers, and Iarla Ó Lionáird from the Afro-Celt Sound System. Needless to say, the music is all over the map, from a rap version of the "Story of Ovo" to an Irish jig to Gabriel's percussive culture plundering soundscapes and new songs (including a truly dull rework of "Digging in the Dirt") to Eno-like ambiences to folk songs and new songs with Havens and Ó Lionáird singing like the opposite ends of a heavenly choir and Liz Fraser soaring over the Dhol Foundation drummers. It sounds awesome doesn't it? It should be. But it's not. OVO sounds labored, choppy, and pasted together, like it is the soundtrack to a visual installation, and feels incomplete without it. This is not a project like Passion was or even Birdy; it's a pastiche that attempts to be as ambitious as the installation project. And it is ambitious. Unfortunately, musically it isn't consistent enough to sustain the listener's interest for the entire length of the recording. It is a curious project with moments, but is most likely for hardcore fans only.

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