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Peter Gabriel - OVO Print E-mail
Tuesday, 08 August 2000
Ovo (Import)
Real World Records, 2000
| Performance 9.5 | Sound 9.5 |

ImageOVO is not the new Peter Gabriel record you and I have been anxiously awaiting for the past six-going-on-seven years. That record is called Up and is slated for release this fall. Two of my friends in the music industry have heard Up and say it is worth the wait. Stay tuned.

OVO is a fully developed musical composition by Peter Gabriel and Mark Fischer for London's Millennium celebration. The concept behind the record is to musically tell the story of three generations of a fictitious family. Their story is broken into three acts. Act One is focused on nature and prehistoric times. Act Two describes an industrial period and Act Three is set in the future. There are six main characters in the story who are described in the first song: Theo (father), Beth (mother), Lon (son), Sofia (daughter), Skyboy (Sofia's boyfriend) and OVO (Sofia and Skyboy's love child). The story develops so that Theo knows and loves all that comes from the Earth. Beth is more of a visionary. In her weaving, she sees the future and looks for a way to heal a feuding family. Eventually she turns against her son. Lon, the son, develops a machine that he hopes will free his people but actually ends up enslaving them. Sofia defies her father and brother by falling in love with Skyboy, who in turn leads her and their people away from Lon's industrial empire. OVO, Sophia and Skyboy's child, is born in a time of flood and is sent into an uncertain future in a floating nest that sails the sky.

Once you know the story, the record makes much more sense. I listened to the record at least 10 times and didn't get one single point that Pete was preaching until I read the explanation in OVO’s liner notes. The first tune, "OVO," explains much of the story with the help of raps from Neneh Cherry (daughter of Don Cherry and known for her hit "Buffalo Stance"). Track three, "The Time of Turning," speaks of the trouble brewing in Act Two of OVO, as well as having powerful relevance to our modern world and environment. Pete's raspy vocals and classically inspired strings and programming make for an atmospheric, eerily tense song. The rhythm of the tune seems, curiously, to always be keeping time like a clock. There is a lot going on this tune, which feels less like a song than a composition.

Track four segues into Act Two. Gabriel masterfully transforms the organic sound of the first three songs into a more aggressive, electric new approach on "The Man Who Loved The Earth/The Hand That Sold Shadows." The tune uses the original motif from "The Story of OVO" much like the one heard in "In The Flesh" on Pink Floyd's The Wall. One of the best audio demos on OVO is "The Time of the Turning (reprise)/ The Weaver's Reel." The vocals (from Beth’s character) are very sweet and the music features Irish-inspired strummings with dramatic overtures featuring horn sections, tympani drums and much more. If you are fan of Peter Gabriel's Realworld Records, you'll understand the diverse musical influences here.

Other songs of note on OVO include "The Tower That Ate People," which is the most radio-friendly tune and is one action-packed track. Lots of programming, a slamming beat, purposefully and effectively distorted vocals and a huge overall sound make it a song you can single out on a record that is meant to be played from start to finish. On a number of tunes, including "White Ashes," the bass extension is absolutely astounding. It sounds so deep that it has to come from something like a Roland 808, because I have never heard an actual instrument create such a low tone. The effect is very dramatic throughout OVO and makes this record even more of a reference disc.

OVO demands your attention and is exactly the kind of record that can draw you emotionally into an important story. I mentioned to a friend of mine recently that I very much dislike Broadway musicals (Blue Man Group excluded). If Broadway soundtracks sounded and were performed more like OVO, I'd be the biggest of fans. Musically, OVO is rich and developed. Its story is ambitious and important. The overall effect of OVO is that it is one of the best complete records I have heard in the past 10 years. If you have been wondering what Peter Gabriel has been up to, well, here it is. With that said and 9.5 given for performance and a 9.5 for sound (a record for a non-reissue album on, can you imagine how good Up is going to be?

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