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Peter Gabriel - Birdy Soundtrack Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 April 2003

Peter Gabriel

Birdy Soundtrack
format: Stereo SACD
label: Geffen
release year: 2003
performance: 9
sound 8.5
reviewed by: Jerry Del Colliano

Image 1985’s “Birdy” was Peter Gabriel’s first swipe at a Hollywood motion picture soundtrack at a time in his career when his popularity was surging, thanks to his creative move from somewhat edgy progressive rock towards more pop-friendly tunes. The music for “Birdy” is a collection of songs that include interpretations of past Gabriel songs, as well as new melodies and compositions that are inspired by the mood of the film. According to Gabriel in the liner notes, some of the tunes on the record never made the final cut in the film but they represent both “Birdy’s” themes and the album as a collection of songs that have their own creative life beyond the scope of the film.

With the help of well respected producer Daniel Lanois, the “Birdy” soundtrack feels seamless, representing an artful exercise in musical composition. While “Birdy” might not have caught your attention in the theaters back in 1985 (who could pry themselves away from “Miami Vice” anyway?), this record is certainly worth your attention if you are a Peter Gabriel fan and/or in need of a fantastically compelling, atmospheric record. Recently remixed by Universal for SACD, “Birdy” is a stereo disc, not a hybrid. What this means is that you will need a dedicated SACD player to enjoy the higher-resolution sounds. It will not play on a DVD player, CD player or in discrete surround sound. You can use matrix surround sound modes on your preamp or receiver, like Dolby ProLogic II Music, to try to expand the stereo field to surround.

Musically, the overall feel is atmospheric and spatial, with careful attention paid to mood. One of the more impressive moods is found on Track 3, “Quiet and Alone,” which groans through percussive synths and winding melodies in a curious little number. Much like the tracks before it, “Quiet and Alone” seem to set the stage for more musical excitement coming later in the record. The tune “Close Up” is an interpretation from the previously released tune “Family Snapshot” (from the third Peter Gabriel album, also known as “Melt”), which is reinterpreted into a more eerie production with haunting keyboard layering that gives a favorite old song a new graveyard-like appeal.

“Dressing The Wound” has overtones from other past Gabriel songs, but is not directly attributed to any past release in the liner notes. This track begins the more dynamic elements of the album and foreshadows Gabriel’s fascination with world music and especially exotic rhythms. The track builds from a primordial pool of synths and similar elements into a pounding, driving beat with swirling sounds (man, this should have been mixed for surround on SACD) and even a few growling guitars.

One of the more familiar melodies for Gabriel fans comes from ‘The Heat,” an interpretive work inspired by the tune “The Rhythm of the Heat” from the Security album. It is spiced up like a Bobby Flay fish taco with thunderously exotic drum hits that pushes the driver on my new Revel Sub 30 to never-before-heard excursions. If you want to impress your friends with how cool your subwoofer is, this progressively more intense track is a good example.

As a fan of the music of Peter Gabriel, I remember finding this album in the record store bins as a teenager and taking it home to my first audiophile system that included Polk speakers, an NAD receiver and a Nakamichi CD player. Was I ever impressed. More than 15 years later, I have had this higher-resolution SACD version of “Birdy” in my SACD player and have learned to love the record all over again. The composition is spectacular and the audio is noticeably better than the CD version in head to head comparisons. For dark-room, late-night listening sessions when you want to hear what your system can do and, more importantly, how it can make you feel, Peter Gabriel’s “Birdy” soundtrack is a worthy investment.

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