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Peter Gabriel

Ovo

Review by Steve Alspach

Peter Gabriel was one of the masterminds of the Millennium Dome in the East Docklands of London. The Millennium Dome was to be a multimedia-based attraction to celebrate the Millennium. It was short-lived and closed shortly. They're trying to sell it, but nobody wants to buy it. They can't even give the damn thing away. So there it sits, draining the tax money of Londoners. Gabriel would have been better off sticking to music to commemorate the year 2000. OVO, the album that Gabriel recorded, is an extremely inventive album that incorporates a wide range of musical influences from around the world. There is also a narrative story to this CD, but that story is a bit superfluous and, beyond the first song does not add too much to the music.

Gabriel arranged an astounding range of musicians for this project, and the eclecticism adds to the enjoyment of this album.

The personnel on this album: Peter Gabriel, vocals, keyboards, percussion, drone treatments, tanpura, piano, synthezizers, piano loops, hammer dulcimer treatments, crotales, claps, keyboard bass, African percussion, surdu, Peruvian drum, synth guitar; Neneh Cherry, vocals; Rasco, vocals; Richard Evans, synthesizer, Nord bass, treatments, guitar loops, mandola, bass, flute, hammer dulcimer, guitars, 12-string acoustic and electric guitars, caliope; Ganga Giri, didgeridoo; The Dhol Foundation, Dhol drums; Jim Barr, bass, upright bass, 12-string guitar; BT, drum and Nord programming, bass, fills, and chorus guitar; Richard Chappell, treatments, drum programming, drum loops, end toms; Babacar Faye, sabar; Assane Thiam, talking drum; Carol Steel, shaker, congas; Hossam Ramzy, finger cymbals, tabla, crotales, and dufs; James McNally, bodhran, whistles, piano accordion; Iarla O Lionaird, vocals; Shankar, vocals and double violin; Electra Strings, strings; Richie Havens, vocals; Ged Lynch, shakers; David Rhodes; Nigel Eaton, hurdy gurdy; Stuart Gordon, fiddle and viola; Jim Couza, hammer dulcimer; The Black Dyke Band, brass; Tony Levin, bass; Manu Katche, drums; Sussan Deyhin, vocals; Steve Gadd, drums; Omi Hall, vocals; Elizabeth Fraser, vocals; Paul Buchanan, vocals; Simon Emmerson, drum programming, finger cymbals, and bells. String arrangements by Peter Gabriel, Jocelyn Pook, and BT. Brass arrangements are by Will Gregory and Peter Gabriel. Brass orchestration is by Elizabeth Purnell.

Track by Track Review
The Story of Ovo
To show that Gabriel has his ears to today's music, OVO starts with a rap that narrates the general story of how the family gets started. Neneh Cherry and Rasco handle the rap vocals, and African drums and digeridoo add to a primitive feel to the rhythm.
Low Light
Slow, almost ambient, the song has three parts to it. The first part is a delicate, Eno-esque keyboard melody. The middle section consists of Gaelic vocals over a lush string arrangement, and the third segment is flute over atmospheric keyboards. The effect is a hauntingly beautiful piece of music.
The Time of the Turning
Richie Havens lends his voice to this song. Gabriel could have sung lead on this one, but giving the chores over to Havens was a smart choice. An uncredited female voice takes the lead on the chorus. Keyboards and strings dominate the arrangement.
The Man Who Loved the Earth / The Hand That Sold Shadows
Here we go back to the drumming that opens the album, but without the rap vocals. This shows the intricacies that were in the rhythm track. The song then carries into another rhythm track. Gabriel's love of ethnic music, and African rhythms in particular, are shown on this track.
The Time of the Turning (reprise) / The Weavers Reel
The uncredited female vocal takes the lead on "The Time of the Turning" reprise. "The Weavers Reel" then quickly enters, borrowing from "The Time of the Turning" and then reverts to that melody (with female vocal), but the reel slows down just enough for a brass arrangement to join the reel before it picks up again.
Father, Son
Here, in the sixth song, is where Peter Gabriel finally sings lead. This is a slow, somber song sung from the son's point of view, reminiscing about growing up under his father's tutelage. The arrangement (piano, synth, and brass section) is in pointed contrast to the rest of the album.
The Tower That Ate People
This is an abrasive, almost industrial number in places. Technology plays a big part in the Story of Ovo, and this song reflects that. Gabriel again shows that he has his ear turned to modern music. He takes the lead vocal at the end and assesses the link between society and technology quite accurately: "Man feed machine / machine feed man."
Revenge
A short number (at 1:31) that features the drumming of the Dhol Foundation, "Revenge" sounds much like the drumming that closed "The Rhythm of the Heat" from 1982's Security album.
White Ashes
Another song with polyrhythmic percussion, this one also features the Yoko Ono-like shrieks of Sussan Deyhin. The lyrics are not printed, but don't try to figure out the words - the vocals by Gabriel and Omi Hall are little more than a melody to add to the song.
Downside-Up
Elizabeth Fraser (ex-Cocteau Twins) and Paul Buchanan (from The Blue Nile) take the lead vocals on this song - another coup by Gabriel. Fraser's delicate voice and Buchanan's world-weary vocals are perfect complements to each other. The track starts softly enough, but it kicks into a strong, middle section before ending rather quickly.
The Nest That Sailed The Sky
This is an extremely ambient, dreamy instrumental. Shankar's double violin, accompanied with brass band and synthesizers, paints a reflective image of a nest, containing the character OVO, sailing to the uncertainty of a new world.
Make Tomorrow
Fraser, Buchanan, Havens, and Gabriel all take the lead in this ten-minute closer that encourages the listener to "Make tomorrow today." The arrangement is rather plain compared to the other compositions on the album. The track builds in intensity towards the end, but the tension is released in the last minute and a string section brings the album to a gentle close.
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