"Ovo Here" - The Peter Gabriel Millenium Project, "Ovo". Review by Ted Sayers.
Despite the publicity blurb, this album has been 2 years in the making (yes itís been eight since the last one, but Peter has only been working on this for two). "Ovo", as Iím sure you will now be aware, is the culmination of his work on the Millennium Dome project. It comes in two forms; The main one is the album with an additional bonus CD single and full colour cartoon booklet telling the story that is in the music and the second is the basic album, although both CDs are enhanced to include a CD ROM portion which is basically a time lapse video of the Millennium Dome show for which the music was written.
In essence this is a good, old-fashioned concept album; musically it may not hark back to the Seventies, but the music sets out to tell a story, one of forbidden love, of the balance of nature, of the bonds between family members, of prejudice and of the possibilities of the future.
In some ways it is somewhat inaccurate to label it as a Peter Gabriel album, because there are a large number of contributions from other musicians. But, as is usually the case with Peter, he does hold the vast amount of differing styles together. The major surprise is the list of singers, Richie Havens, Elizabeth Fraser (The Cocteau Twins) and Paul Buchanan (The Blue Nile), to name just a few. It is the vocals of Havens that really stand out for me, bringing back memories of just how great he made Steveís "Please Donít Touch" album. In particular the yearning of the closing "Make Tomorrow" are showcases for his beautiful voice.
For anyone familiar with the Cocteau Twins, Elizabeth Fraser will be nothing new. However, itís worth noting a distinct change in style from her ethereal vocals with that band, to one which sounds remarkably like Kate Bush.
Many of the tracks include multiple singers, but only one track, "Father Son", has Gabriel singing solo. For those familiar with Peterís more recent soundtrack work this track sees him reunited with the Black Dyke Band, who he worked with on the song he contributed to the "Babe 2: Pig In The City" album. For those who donít know, it was a reworking of a Randy Newman song called "Thatíll Do" and is rather reminiscent of Peter Skellern, yes they are a brass band.
"Downside-Up" and "Make Tomorrow" have just about every vocalist thrown at them, but they both work to splendid effect. As mentioned earlier Richie Havens really stands out and only makes you wonder why he has never hit a vein of commercial success. His voice, in my mind at least, will forever be linked with the splendour of "Icarus Ascending", but his attachment to this album, and "Make Tomorrow" in particular, will go some way to moving on from the former.
Much of the album is instrumental, with Peter attempting to bring together Britainís varied, multi-cultural background. Strangely though this leads to many slow-building, minimalist pieces such as "Low Light" and "White Ashes". There is always something interesting going on, which is incredible in such circumstances.
While there are no grand statements here it is an album that cannot easily be dismissed unlike the Dome itself. Apparently the show the album was produced for is one of the more "entertaining" thing going on within its confines. I think Iíll take their word for it.
As mentioned earlier "Ovo" comes in two versions and for the completist, or those who would like to know, the second version kicks off differently with "Ovoís Story", this is basically the tale of Ovo told in the form of a rap by Neneh Cherry and Rasco. This track is on the boxed version, but is only on the CD single that comes with it. Then the album is the same as the boxed one except that it omits the short instrumental, "The Tree That Went Up". This more basic album also has an entirely different booklet and lyrics, the lyrics are not included in the limited edition version of the CD sleeve.
Personally speaking I feel the limited edition version of the album flows better. The rap version of the story is a little superfluous and I think that whoever put the package together realised this, hence the fact that the rap track has been put on a separate CD single.
There is much to be admired on this CD, but to call it a Peter Gabriel album may be something of a misnomer. There are so many people at work here and although a lot of Peter can be heard it is very much a joint effort. For now we have to wait for "Up", which hopefully will be early 2001 - date subject to change, as always!.
Track Listing (Limited edition version)