The portrait of John Bull on the cover of this two-CD U.S. release gives an idea for the uninitiated of what to expect from the composer's music: it's intense, single-minded, and even a bit demonic (although the hourglass topped with a skull with a bone in its mouth is apparently an alchemical symbol). Bull was, in the words of an unidentified writer quoted by harpsichordist Mahan Esfahani, "the Liszt of the virginals." The most immediately apparent feature of his music is extreme virtuosity, on display especially in the mind-boggling set of variations entitled Walsingham (CD 1, track 8) and in the galliards of the pavan-galliard pairs. But the opposite pole in Bull's style exerts just as strong a pull: he is fascinated by strict polyphony by what would be called harmonic progressions, and by the close study of the implications contained within small musical units. As spectacular in their way as the keyboard fireworks are, the three separate settings of a tune called Why Ask You? on CD 2 are marvelous explorations of compressed musical gestures.
OVO is the soundtrack to the Millennium Dome Show in London that was composed by the English rock musician Peter Gabriel. It was his eleventh album overall. It was released on 12 June 2000 and features guest vocals by Neneh Cherry, Rasco, Richie Havens, Elizabeth Fraser, and Paul Buchanan (of The Blue Nile). Two versions of the album were released, a standard version which was sold in stores and a limited edition deluxe version, which was sold only at the Millennium Dome and petergabriel.com. The deluxe version which was discontinued after 2000, includes a comic book telling the OVO story and a bonus disc with the track, "The Story of OVO".
Almost every one of Peter Gabriel’s best-laid plans winds up going awry, and so it was with Scratch My Back, his 2010 collection of orchestral covers of some of his favorite songs. He had hoped to have the artists he covered return the favor by interpreting his songs but that project never got off the ground, so he pursued New Blood, an album where he turned that orchestra upon his own songs. New Blood is in every way a companion piece to Scratch My Back; it’s cut from the same aesthetic cloth, it's austere and cerebral without being chilly, it finds emotion within intellect.
Invited by Deutsche Grammophon to reinterpret Bach’s six cello suites for their Recomposed series, cellist/composer Peter Gregson has come up with beautiful tributes to these 18th-century masterpieces. Following each movement’s natural harmonic curve and rhythm, Gregson explores different approaches, using electronic effects that ripple beneath Bach’s lines (the first movement of Suite No. 5) or taking single bars, transforming them into minimalist gems. Elsewhere, he plays alongside a small cello ensemble, creating playful dances and sumptuous textures. Sometimes, as with the Menuet from Suite No. 1 or the Sarabande from No. 5, Gregson barely touches Bach’s original notes—an homage to the music’s timelessness.
Generally regarded as Peter Gabriel's finest record, his third eponymous album finds him coming into his own, crafting an album that's artier, stronger, more song-oriented than before. Consider its ominous opener, the controlled menace of "Intruder." He's never found such a scary sound, yet it's a sexy scare, one that is undeniably alluring, and he keeps this going throughout the record. For an album so popular, it's remarkably bleak, chilly, and dark – even radio favorites like "I Don't Remember" and "Games Without Frontiers" are hardly cheerful, spiked with paranoia and suspicion, insulated in introspection. For the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes, plus the songs to articulate his themes.
Peter Gabriel tells why he left Genesis in "Solsbury Hill," the key track on his 1977 solo debut. Majestically opening with an acoustic guitar, the song finds Gabriel's talents gelling, as the words and music feed off each other, turning into true poetry. It stands out dramatically on this record, not because the music doesn't work, but because it brilliantly illustrates why Gabriel had to fly on his own. Though this is undeniably the work of the same man behind The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, he's turned his artiness inward, making his music coiled, dense, vibrant. There is still some excess, naturally, yet it's the sound of a musician unleashed, finally able to bend the rules as he wishes.