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Peter Gabriel - Big Blue Ball CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

2.76 | 147 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

4 stars Big Blue Ball is not so much a PG album as it is the result of several uber sessions of his Real World studio. Many different artists and styles are found here, more so than on your typical (if there is such a thing) release from Peter Gabriel. These artists include the expected, such as Papa Wemba and David Rhodes, and the unexpected such as Vernon Reid and Sinead O'Connor. A complete list of all those involved would be as long as any review, so I will not even try to get all the names in. A few more deserve mention, however: Natacha Atlas, Manu Katche, Tim Finn, Billy Cobham, Hossam Ramzy, and Marta Sebestyen. If you are familiar with these names you can get a sense for the World Music style found throughout this album. It is not even universally recognized as a PG album but this belies the fact that even if he is not found on every track, his presence is felt throughout. The sound is rich and clean. Many of the sessions were spontaneous and this gives the music a freshness that sounds great to my ears. PG gave the musicians space to create and let them do their stuff. And what wonderful stuff it is. But the original tapes, finished by 1995 (note the album release was not until 2008), were described by the man himself as a bit of a mess. Great performances do not a great album make. Production comes into play, and Stephen Hague was called in to organize it all into something worth listening to, much in the same way Teo Merceo organized a bunch of Miles Davis sessions into coherent albums. I think he did a good job. As an album, Big Blue Ball is not centered around any particular idea or plan. This is a collection of songs performed by dozens of different artists. The PG sung tune can be placed alongside anything else he has done. The rest run from the contemporary to the traditional, jazzy to atmospheric, pop to experimental. The mix of African, Asian, Latin, and European styles, often in the same song, is dizzying. This is not an album for purists; rather it is one of the global village signifying that music is music no matter how many different styles express it. As has been said before, music is a universal language. That may not be entirely true, but there is plenty of room for musical crossovers such as what we hear here. Many people may be turned off by the eclectic nature of the offering but I revel in it. The key here is that they are all good songs. My least favorite is actually the closing titular piece, which is the most pop of the bunch, but I understand why this became the name of the album. What better way to call our own planet and a project of people from all corners of it than Big Blue Ball? My favorites include the opener, Whole Thing, very PG, and Altus Silva, one of the more atmospheric pieces. Serious fans of music often say that they are open to new sounds but this is only so to varying degrees. If one wants to get away from the typical guitar-bass-drum-keys-vocals of most rock, this may be a good place to hear what is going on in other parts of the world, or as I should say, other parts of our global society. There is no good excuse to be bored by the same old thing as there are plenty of other options out there. And perhaps this is the broader purpose of Big Blue Ball; to introduce people to music from around the world. This is fully consistent with PG's WOMAD (World Music, Art and Dance). The world of music is more diverse than many of us realize. This is not to say that we would all enjoy all the different styles, but for the adventurous it is a grand and broad world. It is a big blue ball on which we live; explore it.
Progosopher | 4/5 |


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