"Big Blue Ball" - Peter Gabriel's latest offering reviewed by Alan Hewitt.

Peter’s willingness to collaborate with other artists is well known. His active participation in altruistic projects is the same. Irritatingly so, when if like me, you are waiting for the man’s next album! So, when I first heard about this project, I can’t exactly say that I was enthralled or filled with any sense of anticipation.

Thankfully however, for once, the project lives up to expectations. More than lives up to them in fact. With what looks like the entire roster of Real World artists contributing to it, Big Blue Ball features several artists whom I have come to admire over the years. Opening up with the corking Whole Thing which would surely have been at home on Up, the album is a glorious travelogue featuring the sounds and voices of artists from around the world or the “Big Blue Ball” that is the album’s title. Habibe is a near Eastern delight featuring sounds and rhythms that would not have been out of place on the Passion album and an infectiously catchy rhythm which is really delightful, the album is already shaping up as an enjoyable exercise and this is only the second track!

Shadow and Altus Silva are equally as enjoyable, stirring and emotional which is exactly what music should be, whichever part of the world it comes from. Exit Through You is another track which to my mind, should have been a contender for UP, funky, catchy and rude; this is a superb collaboration with World Party’s Karl Wallinger and Joseph Arthur and it is followed by another emotional track; Everything Comes From You which combines the unlikely talents of Richard Evans, Joji Hirota, Severa Nazarkhan; Sinead O’Connor and Guo Yue. I am no fan of O’Connor’s vocals but have to admit that here it works extremely well.

Peter is renowned for re-working existing tracks; his recycling of themes for the Birdy soundtrack and the numerous re-workings of I Have The Touch are evidence of this. Re-working Burn You Up Burn You Down, one of the best tracks from his last album could have backfired but what we have here is an even more potent mix than before, while Forest is an even more potent and exuberant celebration of the power of music. In fact, it was a phrase probably coined in the Sixties but nonetheless true today; “Music is the message” and this entire project is a fantastic celebration of the glories and wonders of music in today’s world and as such it should be on every music lover’s shelf - superb stuff!

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