The Ar­chive

The Sound­tracks: birdy (1985)/Pas­sion (1989)/ The long Walk home (2002)

UNCUT - - Contents -

In­clud­ing: Peter Gabriel, Ra­dio­head, Tele­vi­sion Per­son­al­i­ties, ZZ Top

Gabriel’s three am­bi­tious movie sound­tracks get the re­mas­tered, high-def­i­ni­tion, 45rpm vinyl treat­ment. By John Lewis

Someartists – par­tic­u­larly those at the peak of their ca­reers – might view a sound­track com­mis­sion as a mar­ginal side-project, some­thing to be dashed off while you con­cen­trate on your main al­bum. Not so Peter Gabriel. For him, sound­tracks have al­ways been epic projects,which he can dive into and pad­dle around in for years. often he’d spend more time on them than on his multi-mil­lion-sell­ing al­bums, meet­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors and de­vel­op­ing method­olo­gies that would have a pro­found ef­fect on the rest of his mu­sic.

In­deed, much of the fur­lough be­tween Gabriel’s fourth self-ti­tled solo al­bum, 1982’s ‘Se­cu­rity’, and his all-con­quer­ing 1986 opus, So, was spent on film con­tri­bu­tions. He provided songs for two sep­a­rate hit films from 1984 – a track called “Walk Through The Fire” for Against All Odds and “out, out” for Grem­lins – both col­lab­o­ra­tions with pro­ducer Nile Rodgers. They in­spired that high-end state-of-the-art digi-funk that would in­flu­ence tracks like “Big Time” and at­tune Gabriel for the mTV gen­er­a­tion. His first full-length score com­mis­sion, how­ever, came from di­rec­tor Alan Parker for the ’85 film, Birdy, about two dis­turbed Viet­nam vets who de­velop an avian ob­ses­sion. Parker, re­cov­er­ing from a gru­elling part­ner­ship on Pink Floyd’s The Wall, found Gabriel a rather more amenable cre­ative part­ner than Roger Waters. “We got on so well, he’s such a sweet man,” said a re­lieved Parker of Gabriel. “It was a re­fresh­ing change – he doesn’t have any of the hang-ups or the un­pleas­ant­ness of that par­tic­u­lar busi­ness.” Birdy’s mu­sic is in­ter­est­ing but frag­men­tary. While edit­ing, Parker had used a few tracks from Gabriel’s third and fourth solo al­bums as stock mu­sic, and Gabriel de­vel­ops th­ese themes fur­ther. The haunt­ing pi­ano line in “Fam­ily Snap­shot” (from 1980’s ‘melt’ al­bum) is reprised on “Close Up”; the sim­i­lar pi­ano fig­ure in “Wallflower” (from ‘Se­cu­rity’) pro­vides the ba­sis for “Un­der Lock And Key”; while the in­tro­duc­tion from “No Self Con­trol” (also from ‘melt’), was slowed down and trans­formed into “Slow marim­bas”. most

spec­tac­u­larly, the coda from that al­bum’s punky “Not One Of Us” pro­vides the ba­sis for “Birdy’s Flight”, a ti­tanic, drum-heavy in­stru­men­tal which sound­tracks Matthew Mo­dine’s PTSDin­duced fan­tasy of fly­ing like a bird. In the film it ac­com­pa­nies a three-minute crane-filmed flight over a wrecked in­ner-city Philadel­phia – over burned out cars, shanty towns, muddy al­ley­ways and baseball games. Even di­vorced from th­ese images, the tribal drum beat seems to mir­ror the flap­ping of wings, the dis­torted bass pro­pel­ling us through the air. Many of the tech­niques ex­plored on Birdy – par­tic­u­larly the ex­per­i­ments with am­bi­ent sound on “Dress­ing The Wound” and “Sketch­pad With Trum­pet And Voice” – would lay the ground­work for So, and both projects cer­tainly shared many of the same per­son­nel.

Gabriel spent much of the three years that fol­lowed So sound­track­ing Martin Scors­ese’s

The Last Temp­ta­tion Of Christ. Set in first-cen­tury Pales­tine, filmed in Morocco and draw­ing from re­vi­sion­ist source ma­te­rial, Scors­ese’s epic in­vites a ge­o­graph­i­cally and his­tor­i­cally con­fused sound­track, and it’s why Gabriel’s time­less, pan-global score works so well. It draws from the Fourth World ex­per­i­ments of Eno and trum­peter Jon Has­sell (Has­sell him­self guests on Pas­sion, as he did on Birdy), but Gabriel keeps things de­light­fully con­fused by mix­ing up syn­thetic tex­tures, tribal rock per­cus­sion and au­then­tic per­for­mances by star mu­si­cians from In­dia, Pak­istan, Sene­gal, Ar­me­nia, Iran and Egypt.

“A Dif­fer­ent Drum” (where Gabriel shares word­less vo­cals with Yous­sou N’Dour) and “It Is Ac­com­plished” (where Billy Cob­ham leads a charged drum stomp over a tri­umphant pi­ano riff) al­most stand up as proper, straight-down-the-line Peter Gabriel pop tracks that wouldn’t sound out of place on So or Us. There are also more am­bi­ent tracks like the hym­nal “Bread And Wine”, or the minia­ture “Open”, where Gabriel’s word­less vo­cals weave in and out of L Shankar’s swoop­ing vi­o­lin so­los. There is the stately, baroque cham­ber piece “With This Love”, where Robin Carter’s cor anglais floats over syn­thetic chord washes. Best of all might be the ti­tle track, where Gabriel, Yous­sou N’Dour and Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan all take turns in in­vok­ing a nu­mi­nous spirit with their melis­matic voices, while trum­peter Jon Has­sell and L Shankar pro­vide ghostly coun­ter­melodies.

The sound­track – re­leased in 1989 as Pas­sion – won awards and seemed to kick­start the nascent mar­ket for what had only re­cently been chris­tened “world mu­sic” (it even led to a com­pan­ion al­bum,

Pas­sion Sources, fea­tur­ing some of the folk­song and re­li­gious mu­sic that had in­spired Gabriel).

Pas­sion cer­tainly helped to pop­u­larise as­sorted global mu­si­cians in the West, with artists as di­verse as Ar­me­nian duduk vir­tu­oso Dji­van Gas­parayan, Egyp­tian per­cus­sion­ist Hos­sam Ramzy and Ira­nian san­tur and ke­manche spe­cial­ist Mah­moud Tabrizi Zadeh all us­ing it as a use­ful step­ping stone.

Gabriel’s 2000 al­bum, OVO, was tech­ni­cally the “sound­track” to his am­bi­tious Mil­len­nium Dome Show with Cirque Du Soleil, but his next film com­mis­sion came two years later with Long Walk Home: Mu­sic From The Rab­bitProof

Fence, for Philip Noyce’s film about three abo­rig­i­nal Aus­tralians who es­cape from a forced as­sim­i­la­tion pro­gramme and at­tempt to walk the 1,000 miles home. With Gabriel joined by many of his es­tab­lished col­lab­o­ra­tors – pro­ducer David Rhodes, drum­mer Manu Katche, vi­o­lin­ist L Shankar and qawwali singer Nus­rat Fateh Ali Khan – it con­tin­ues the pan-global ter­ri­tory ex­plored on Pas­sion. This is ar­guably a much more ac­com­plished and suc­cess­ful sound­track than the other two, draw­ing from found sounds, nat­u­ral sound ef­fects and sounds of the didgeri­doo to en­hance the bar­ren beauty of the Aus­tralian out­back. But, as with many other ef­fec­tive scores, it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily work in iso­la­tion, and Long Walk Home is one of those al­bums that bur­bles away in the back­ground, only oc­ca­sion­ally grab­bing you by the throat.

Some songs stand up – the haunt­ing theme to “Gra­cie’s Re­cap­ture” is just one over­dub away from an epic “Red Rain”-style Gabriel sin­gle, while the thun­der­ous drums of the Dhol Foun­da­tion breathe en­ergy into tracks like “Steal­ing The Chil­dren” and “Run­ning To The Rain”. Best of all are “Ngankar­rparni” and “Cloud­less”, two pul­sat­ing waltzes that start with the rhyth­mic abo­rig­i­nal chant­ing of Nin­gali Law­ford and end with the massed har­monies of the Blind Boys Of Alabama.

Gabriel has been re­spon­si­ble for other fine film con­tri­bu­tions – his vo­cal on a Randy New­man song for Babe: Pig In The City earned an Os­car nom­i­na­tion in 1998; the sound­track to 2004’s

Shall We Dance sees him per­form­ing a song by Mag­netic Fields’ Stephen Mer­ritt; he won a Grammy for “Down To Earth”, his con­tri­bu­tion to 2008’s WALL-E; and also con­trib­uted a song called “The Veil” for Oliver Stone’s 2015 thriller about Ed­ward Snow­den. Gabriel was also the first choice to sound­track the opera,

Mon­key: Jour­ney To The West (be­fore Da­mon Al­barn got the job). But an­other full-length sound­track surely awaits.

Gabriel at work with his col­lab­o­ra­tors on Pas­sion…

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