Peter Gabriel - Big Blue Ball
Jorge Costa 02/10/2008
Proving that timing is everything, Peter Gabriel's multi-artist music project has finally been completed - thirteen years after its last recording session. Recorded during the summers of 1991, 1992 and 1995 in Gabriel's Real World Studios, Big Blue Ball was a huge project composed of collaborations of artists the world over and if I was listening to this during the dry summers of the mid 90's, there's no doubt in my eight year-old mind (filled as it was with Spice Girls, Michael Jackson and Boyzone tunes), that I would consider this to be a modern, cool record. However, time has not been kind to these tracks and now I can't help but feel a little bit embarrassed at what I'm listening to.
It's not that the artists who've showed up are incompetent - far from it! It's just that nearly every English lyric, vocal delivery and chord progression is dripping with cliché. Of course, it is incredibly easy to say this now and I'm constantly reminding myself of secondary school studies in which we were encouraged to think of just how damn scary 'Psycho', for example, was to the audiences of its time, but I'm rather sure that music aficionados of the mid-90's would wrinkle their noses at Big Blue Ball. Tracks like 'Forest' and the title song sound like they've been bolted together from M People samples and left-overs from the Lion King soundtrack, while any track with an Irish singer is sure to be accompanied by flutes and Irish fucking whistles; yes, Iarla Ó Lionáird and Sinead O'Connor, you're Irish - we get it.
Lionáird fares the best out of the two as the Joseph Arthur-led 'Altus Silva' is actually quite catchy. O'Connor's track, on the other hand, is the album's biggest stinker, one where she's her preachy, boring and pious self as she pleads earnestly to God to “Stop war, stop terror!” In an album full of earnest and overly dramatic songs, it's this one that most carries that repugnant self-importance of a 'Live Aid' charity song.
Elsewhere, a few tracks truly work in making this sound like the jam-fest that Gabriel so intended: 'Jijy', with Madagascan singer Rossy rapping over busy percussion and brass, is a fantastic racket, while Hungarian singer Marta Sebestyen makes 'River' one of the album's more emotive songs. Otherwise, I'm left scratching my head as to what the point of this record is meant to be? And why spend years and years meticulously producing it without improving some of the sounds that date and distract the record so badly? And most importantly, why now?