New Blood Live in London Import
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2012 two CD live release from the British singer, songwriter and Rock icon. Recorded at Hammersmith Apollo in March 2011, Live Blood captures Peter Gabriel performing live with the 46 piece New Blood Orchestra. The repertoire mixes cover versions from his Scratch My Back album with classic tracks from across his solo career in brand new orchestral arrangements. Gabriel is a renowned live performer and his onstage charisma and instantly recognizable voice combine brilliantly with the orchestral sound palette to breathe a new sense of wonder into familiar songs. This is truly a live experience not to be missed.
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Forgoing drums and guitars of a usual rock show - even a progressive rock show like Gabriel's, the distinguished artist instead implemented the 46-piece New Blood Orchestra. In doing so, he "re-imagined" some of his best known songs with awe-inspiring orchestral arrangements.
Picking the Boomerocity short list of favorites is difficult. In the battle for first is Gabriel's treatment of Paul Simon's The Boy in the Bubble. As he did on the Scratch My Back album, Peter dials this back a few beats per second as compared to Simon's original. In a live setting with full orchestra, it really does have a spine tingling effect.
Coincidentally, a second choice for our short list is another tune Gabriel recorded on Scratch My Back - The Power of the Heart, which was written by Lou Reed. As with Bubble, this live version gives chills to the body and leaves your mouth open from its beauty.
Last but certainly not least on the Boomerocity short list of favorites is Red Rain which comes from Peter's chart topping 1986 album, So. Just as the 3D video of this tune is mind-blowing, just listening to the audio is an incredible experience in and of itself. Add to that experience by listening through a great pair of headphones and you're in for an unforgettable experience.
Fans of prog, Gabriel and earlier Genesis will definitely want this CD in their listening library. You won't be disappointed.
But I have to say I find these orchestral experiements a very mixed bag and I can't say that any of the teatments changes the experience of a particular piece for the better (in my opinion, naturally).
From my point of view some of the pieces work well, some rather less well and some are total duds. It seemed to me that these arrangements lacked the dynamic feel and immediacy of the band arrangements.
I'm not talking about the difference in feel between live and studio performance here either. The version of Solisbury Hill on the first live album left me slack-jawed with amazement that the piece could be given that heavy a touch, and I prefer the version of Digging in the Dirt from Secret World Live to the one on Us.
I simply feel the orchestral arrangements were turgid and uninspiring in places, more than they were innovative and entertaining, and the album was for me a disappointing experience overall.
I saw the iMax film of this performance a few months ago and while the visual presentation certainly added to the experience I left that with mixed feelings too, though there I could at least verify that the orchestra was trying hard to rise above it all. I can't decide whether the problem is in the material not being well-suited to an orchestral treatment or that the "sparse" effect deliberately sought by the composer and arranger was just above my head.
As an experiment it is worth a listen, but I don't think I'll be playing this album much. Maybe odd tracks, now and again.
Your mileage will certainly vary.
Disc 1 : This is my favourite disc (11 tracks) of the two. Stand-outs/gems/solid tracks include "Wallflower" (great piano, melody & vocals), "Apre's Moi", "Washing Of The Water" (great duet, like it better than the studio track from the 1992 album 'Us') & "The Book Of Love" (incredible melody & vocals. This is my favourite performance track from the veteran). Great tracks include "Intruder" (orchestral movie score-like opening track), "Boy In The Bubble" (Paul Simon cover, slow-tempo track with great piano & vocals), "The Drop", "Darkness" (orchestral movie score-like, some 'talk/rappy' vocals, great duet), "Power Of The Heart", "Biko" (inspiring story/song about the death of Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko under apartheid in South Africa in 1977 under police custody. Would prefer the studio version, but has great orchestral arrangements nevertheless) & "San Jacinto". There is no weak track to talk of.
Disc 2 : This has 11 tracks as well. Stand-outs/gems/solid tracks include "Mercy Street" (beautiful 'tubular bells-like' orchestral sound & great vocals), "Red Rain", "Don't Give Up" (unbelievable vocals) & "The Nest That Sailed The Sky". Great tracks include "Digging In The Dirt" (great duet), "Signal To The Noise", "Downside Up", "The Rhythm Of The Heat" (interesting great orchestral sound & vocals), "Blood Of Eden" (this is one of my favourite Peter Gabriel song, very interesting orchestral arrangements), "Solsbury Hill" & "In Your Eyes" (always a crowd's favourite whether singing it with Youssou N'Dour or Papa Wemba or on this orchestral arrangement here : the crowd is on their feet & cheering). There is also no weak track to talk of in this CD either.
On overall, the veteran Peter Gabriel has outdone himself in this new beautiful orchestral arrangements of songs with his New Blood Orchestra in a 2 CD release, incredible performances & sound quality. A well deserved 5 star performance & a highly recommended 2 CD release listening!
This is just the audio only version of the DVD/Blu-ray released earlier in the year so if you bought that do you need this? At least the price is right, $15 bucks for two discs and a very modest booklet. Some of the performances are powerful and beautiful but, on the whole, these versions of Gabriel's own songs are not as interesting as his covers (of which only four appear here). I am more looking forward to the response album, if that ever comes together, and perhaps some new music from Gabriel, Levin and Rhodes? It's been a while.
The orchestration brings out the nuances like never before, place even more emphasis on his voice and the lyrics. I have been listening to some of these songs for 30 plus years and it was like hearing many of them anew as if for the first time. Not only does it bring out Gabriel in a way that I never heard before; he also makes room within the songs for the musicians to shine...and shine they do, there is not a note out of place. This is as close to being as perfect a record as possible.
It is truly an outstanding live recording, one that has instantly earned a top place among my more than 2000 discs.