True to Gabriel form, the follow-up to his smash hit album was not a commercial endeavor, but another soundtrack to a controversial film, and an album that came out nearly a year after its theater companion. But by giving it the title of Passion, rather than boldly stating it as the soundtrack to The Last Temptation Of Christ, Peter firmly established it as an album on its own. Moreover, he got to explore and promote all kinds of music from Third World countries, adding such luminaries as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan to the dedicated musicians in his studio and touring bands.
Because of the ambient nature of the album, many of the tracks blend together for a unified listening experience. But some tracks do stand out on their own, and convey a mood not necessarily tethered to Martin Scorsese’s vision. “The Feeling Begins” evokes a windy desert, with a variety of percussion to add tension. The same method is used for the suite of tracks bookended by “Of These, Hope” with “Lazarus Raised” in the middle. “Sandstorm” really does sound like one, and the title track is particularly haunting.
But it’s not all African and Mideastern sounds. “With This Love” is heard twice on the album: once led by an oboe and cor anglais, and again with a choir. Both add a distinctly English touch in the midst of an otherwise geographically accurate musical portrait. Peter’s voice is finally heard on “A Different Drum”, a wordless chant that seems just on the verge of becoming a catchy chorus. “It Is Accomplished”, which accompanies the last seconds of the film as the end credits roll, manages to speak the emotions of triumph and release over an amazingly simple, repetitive melody. (Blasting it from your car speakers even enhances the catharsis of driving away on your last day from a job you hate.)
To best appreciate Passion, it should be approached not as an album but as background music. And like the best of its ilk, it has the power to rise above such a negative label to deliver a riveting listening experience. It’s similar to Birdy in that respect, but on a grander scale.
Peter Gabriel Passion (1989)—4