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Peter Gabriel - Up CD (album) cover

UP

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

4.00 | 563 ratings

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TCat
5 stars Peter Gabriel's 7th studio album, named simply 'Up', is still my favorite album by the artist, mainly for its originality and extreme use of dynamics. The album was actually reported to be near completion in 1998, but it didn't see the light of day until 2002. At the time of its release, I managed a multi-media store and I was excited to hear this new album. But, I immediately fell in love with it because it was so different from anything else, even his own albums. A lot of customers and employees complained about it and didn't seem to like it, but I loved it then and love it now. Where 'Us' was mostly unemotional and commercial sounding, 'Up' was the polar opposite.

Instantly, from the first track 'Darkness' you get a good example of the extremities of the dynamics in the first minute. The track starts soft and ambient and then scares the life right out of you with a sudden sound explosion and does this throughout the track. There is no sense of traditional song structure in this track, which shows Gabriel's ingenuity.

'Growing Up' is more like the older Gabriel music, not too unlike 'Kiss that Frog' on the surface, but not as commercial with a better use of dynamics. It has that unsettling feeling that is prevalent through this album, but in a more upbeat version and a more traditional structure than the previous track. At one point, two countermelodies play off of each other, which we have heard from Gabriel before. Even after only 2 tracks, you hear a much better album which is more prog oriented, less commercial and many times more original than the previous album 'Us'.

'Sky Blue' starts out ambient again, with some great atmospheric textures and Gabriel's vocals. The music builds little by little as it goes on. Soon, a tribal-inspired rhythm starts, as the main melody repeats with added musical accompaniment and vocal layers. This is a beautiful and emotional track that took Gabriel 10 years to perfect.

'No Way Out' builds off of a nice bass melody and has a subdued rhythm and, even though the overall theme of the album is death, it is the first track to deal solely with the subject. It is kind of a combination of the subtleties 'Mercy Street' and the driving sound of 'In Your Eyes', though more by style and not sound.

Gabriel has later dedicated 'I Grieve' to those who had family in New York on the day of the 9/11 attacks, even though the track was written and performed before the attacks. He suffered through not being able to contact his daughters who lived in New York on that day. This track is quite subdued and quiet, but is very heartfelt, pensive and the vocals even sound grief stricken. At 5 minutes, percussion fades in and a rhythm is established as life is breathed into the grieving process in that life has to carry on. But someone who has to grieve about losing a loved one will always have to return to grief no matter how much time has passed.

'The Barry Williams Show' starts out immediately more upbeat and much fuller. It has some jazz leanings with a brass section and occasional jazz harmonics. The topic of this track is day-time talk shows like Jerry Springer or Montel Williams, etc. The chorus is quite catchy and there are some cool effects throughout.

'My Head Sounds Like That' goes back to an ambient start with a piano and Gabriel's amazing vocals with a very subdued beat in the background. A brass section also appears later. The slight builds suddenly drops off for the bridge as Gabriel sings and then a sudden dissonant and noisy eruption and then back to the main theme again and then a atmospheric ending.

'More than This' is more upbeat again, but the rhythm is not as apparent as you think it should be and even drops off all together at times. The stress is kept on the vocals up until 4:30, when the background builds to bring the song to a glitch-y close.

'Signal to Noise' is my favorite Peter Gabriel tune and one of my all time favorites anywhere. It has beautiful and emotional orchestration alone with Gabriel's vocals and guest vocals from Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, who died before the track was completely finalized. The instrumentation is absolutely genius and excellent on this one creating tension and drama, the guest vocals are simply amazing. The song builds slowly in a slow burn with vocals pushing the song forward. All of this is done with very little percussion until a sudden explosion at around 4:30 and then the strings begin to get extremely passionate building to a dramatic ending. I absolutely love this track!

'The Drop' is a simple song that ends the album. It is only Gabriel singing with a solo grand piano. It's a very effective ending to this album, quiet and simple.

I know a lot of people disagree with me on this, but I find this to be Peter Gabriel's best album which utilizes dynamics better than most popular music out there. It is many steps above the last album, and I am happy that he still had this amazing music in him. I don't understand why most people look down on this album, other than the fact that it is not commercial like the last one, but to me, that is its biggest strength. I consider it an essential album which shows just how passionate progressive rock can be and still be so innovative. Easily 5 stars.

TCat | 5/5 |

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