PETER GABRIEL – New Blood (Real World Records)

Watching Peter Gabriel’s stunning performance with the New Blood Orchestra on Jools Holland’s Later the other evening proved inspirational. OK, so the luxury of being a multi-millionaire can unburden you of the restraint of record company executives waiting their next fix of “…where’s the next hit single” but trust me, an indulgence this album is not. From a listener’s point of view in many ways you wind up willing that each track will surpass itself and that the recording will never end.I know I did and the sumptuous banquet spread out before me like an episode of a Heston Blumenthal TV show proves that the adage “…there’s life in the old dog yet” certainly has legs. It’s with this expectation and hope that Gabriel rises to the challenge making you feel justified that you have faith in his outpourings are met with a sigh of relief when he easily achieves each goal.

The songs included here are a snapshot of his career to date including the powerful horns/strings led “Rhythm Of The Heat”, the exquisite “Downside Up” (with additional vocals from his daughter Melanie) and the energising pulse of “Solsbury Hill” with its gloriously majestic trumpet counter melody as a finale. To my knowledge Peter Gabriel has never recorded an ‘Unplugged’ session for MTV and, if that is the case this CD could well be his homage to the genre. As long as we are blessed by performers of this calibre I can’t think of a finer way to celebrate Britain’s musical heritage. Unquestionably my album of the year!


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SHOW OF HANDS with MIRANDA SYKES – Covers 2 (Hands On HMCD32)

Ah, a three-piece suite always looks and feels better with a new set of covers and a new set of covers is exactly what you get here. Any musician will (usually) tell you that as part of the requisite for any performer it is the enjoyment you feel at having been afforded the opportunity to re-interpret someone else’s songs and make them feel as integral a part of a set as if you’d written them yourself. With this in mind our intrepid heroes Steve Knightley & Phil Beer and long time associate Miranda Sykes muster thirteen tracks of the highest calibre. Talking of Ms Sykes, it’s her brooding bowed double bass that resonates chillingly beneath Steve’s anguished vocals on the opening track Richard Shindell’s You Stay Here” that will steer the listener to check out the writer himself…so I did and now I’m a convert. Speaking as someone who has to sing songs like ‘The Wild Rover’ and ‘Whiskey In The Jar’ (I suppose you’d call them ‘covers’) in pubs in order to eke out a living it makes listening to Show Of Hands all the more enjoyable particularly when the songs are given a new ‘acoustic’ lease of life. From Springsteen and Knopfler to an invigorating version of Peter Gabriel’sSecret World” who wouldn’t feel honoured to be counted amongst such august company? If this is your first dip into the world of acoustic music (I’m not even going to try using the word ‘folk’ anymore) then you’ve come to the right place.


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