For all the talk in the news about the downfall of the music industry, there certainly has been a lot of new releases over the past few months. I’ve had my hands (or is that ears?) on a lot of new music lately. But the album I keep coming back to is Big Blue Ball.
Almost eighteen years in the making, Big Blue Ball grew from three extraordinary Recording Weeks at Real World Studios in the summers of 1991, 1992 and 1995. The project’s originators and curators were Real World founder Peter Gabriel and Karl Wallinger of World Party and The Waterboys.
So very appropriately named, Big Blue Ball is filled with international artists, collaborating together. On “Shadow” Congolese singer Papa Wemba combines his vocal and musical styles with flamenco guitarist Juan Cañizares.
A few songs feature Peter Gabriel (who also produced the album) as the lead singer. “Burn You Up, Burn You Down” is a classic addition to the Peter Gabriel catalog.
“Rivers” featuring Hungarian singer Marta Sebestyen, has a very meditative feel to it. In fact, I almost missed my bus stop the other day because I was so enchanted with the song playing on my iPod. By the way, “Rivers” just begs to be listened to with headphones.
Cross-cultural collaboration is a huge part of Big Blue Ball and “Altus Silva” is an outstanding example. It features American singer Joseph Arthur with Irish singer Iarla Ó Lionáird providing a Gaelic choral counterpoint.
On another multicultural track Joji Hirota (Japanese percussionist and composer), Sinead O’Connor, and Chinese flautist Guo Yue create a musical prayer for peace on “Everything Comes From You.”
The title track (which closes the album) was written and sung by Karl Wallinger, but as on many tracks, you can also hear Peter Gabriel’s production influence.
At first listen, Big Blue Ball almost sounds like a world music sampler, but dig a little deeper and you can hear the all of the cultural influences, mixing together elegantly, to create a unified collection of outstanding music.