Review Summary: While this is a superb album, it’s still only a soundtrack.
The year was 1989 and Peter Gabriel had just come off his most successful album So
. One might figure with the way the album fared that he would just as easily return to the studio and break out another pop album, only to see it rise to the top of the charts. Well that is if you hadn’t heard any of his prior work. I’m sure it didn’t come as a surprise to those who were familiar with his music when he decided to make the soundtrack for Martin Scorcese’s controversial film The Last Temptation of Christ
. While I have never seen the film, I am, like many others, very familiar with the tale of the Gospel. I’m also aware of the film’s twist (hint, it’s related to the title of the film). While it may seem that I should see a film before critiquing its soundtrack, I think it gave me an opportunity to solely focus on the music, while not getting caught up with all the film’s scenes.
Mostly all the music here takes on a middle-eastern style to fit the film. In fact Gabriel collaborated with many African and Arabic musicians through his organization WOMAD, to help give the album an accurate sound. It utilizes instruments such as the ney, qanun, and many hand drums. Gabriel’s biggest accomplishment here is that he is seamlessly combines these styles with more of his common sound. This style would help open doors to an expanded genre of “world” music. A great of example of this arises in the first track, “The Feeling Begins”
. The subtle ney opens up the album, only to be trounced upon by Gabriel’s signature bombastic tom work. It works though and builds a groove that anybody can enjoy.
This album flows extremely well and is very relaxing. Gabriel conjures up many emotions throughout the album. On “Passion”
you can just feel the pain coming from the wild middle-eastern singing. And on the sinister track “The Promise of Shadows”
, a very uneasy gloom hovers over the music. In fact this track sounds eerily similar to the music in the Shadow Temple of The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time
. I'm sure many of you know what I'm referring to.
While Gabriel’s voice work is limited to just a kind of back up ambience on a few tracks, he is heavily featured on the track “A Different Drum”
He sings an absolutely beautiful chorus: “Open your eyes! Let in the Light!” It is because of his singing that I think this is the best track on the album. This is however the album’s biggest problem. Gabriel’s singing voice is just not used enough. I strongly believe that stamping the sound of the album with more of his voice would have given the album a more distinct and unique quality.
However that’s my only real complaint. And seeing as it is a soundtrack to a film, I’m sure using his voice in more tracks would have been a difficult and unwise thing to do. So I guess the real problem is that it’s a soundtrack. It couldn’t live up to its potential because it had to cater to the movie. Don’t expect this to be your typical Peter Gabriel album to sing along with. It’s a beautiful piece of work in its own right. Highly Recommended