"All sound and fury, signifying.... Nothing!" - "OVO: The Millennium Show" album by Peter Gabriel. Review by Alan Hewitt.
Let's get one thing straight before I start this review: I have followed Peter's solo career from its beginning in 1977. I have "Expected the unexpected", "Toured China", gone along with the "Conspiracy of Hope" and been privileged enough to enter his "Secret Word" and so it gives me no pleasure to have to say what I am about to in this review. It has been some eight years now since Peter's last studio album and frustrating years they have been too, with one rumour or another tantalising us. His dabbling with what to my ears at least have been mediocre soundtrack efforts (apart from Signal To Noise) hasn't helped. My own aversion to the whole Millennium Dome project both politically and geographically (I am a dour Northerner after all!) doesn't help, I suppose but I was prepared to hope that with Peter's involvement in this part of it might at least bring some artistic credibility to what has been seen by many (myself included) as a vast waste of public money. Were my hopes justified? Well, we shall see....
The album opens with "Low Light" a typical piece of atmospheric music which wouldn't have been out of place on the magnificent "Passion" soundtrack of some eleven years ago. So far, so good. This is in turn, followed by "The Time Of The Turning" which is graced by the vocal talents of Ritchie Havens another worthy track.
"The Man Who Loved The Earth/The Hand That Sold Shadows" is to my mind "Digging In The Dirt" regurgitated without any of the fire that made the latter such a stand-out track on "US" although, in its favour I suppose is that this is very much a part of the Dome "show" and therefore conforms to requirements of musical drama rather than rock. "The Time Of The Turning (Reprise)/The Weaver's Reel" features a brilliant vocal performance which is sadly let down by a cod Corrs/Riverdance style jig which is totally uninspired I'm afraid.
"Father, Son" features Peter's first vocal on the album accompanied by his sparse and haunting piano playing, however, once again this track is sadly derivative of previous efforts and the lyrics are nauseatingly trite to say the least! The album is redeemed by a genuinely inspired piece - "The Tower That Ate People" - a thoroughly enjoyable and dramatic piece that combines Peter's rock sensibilities with a healthy nod towards today's club culture.
This is followed by another rhythmic piece, "Revenge" which although fair enough but nothing to write home about. "White Ashes" certainly continues Peter's film music style which as I stated at the beginning of this feature, does very little for me I am afraid, and this is no exception. "Downside-Up" almost harks back to Peter's first solo effort and is without doubt my favourite track on the album, musically and vocally it is everything I have ever admired about Peter's work. The only shame is that Peter doesn't opt to song on this one himself, giving those honours to Elizabeth Fraser and Paul Buchanan, whose combined harmonies are quite superb!
"The Nest That Sailed Away" is yet another piece that I feel would have been so much better if committed to a film or tv programme, although it is contrasted quite nicely with "The Tree That Went Up" which recapitulates some of the previous themes almost like "It is Accomplished" on "Passion" before leading into the album's final track - "Make Tomorrow" - a suitably atmospheric closer.
So, there you have it. The album is not my favourite by any stretch of the imagination. When it works it works well, but when it doesn't it bombs. However the main reason for its failure must lie with the fact that this project is inextricably linked with the visuals of the Dome show itself. This does not translate purely into music, the visuals must be there as well for it to succeed on every level. There are certainly signs that the vital spark of Peter's creativity are still there I only wish that he would apply himself to what he is good at and leave these projects to others. The long overdue new album certainly has a lot riding on it.. can Peter live up to his illustrious past? Well, on this showing, I think the jury is still out on that one!