Review of Passion

Stereo Review - September 1989

Without getting into a long political or religious discussion, I would say it's probably significant that at first glance "Passion" appears to be just a new Peter Gabriel album rather than what it really is -- a slightly expanded version of Gabriel's soundtrack for Martin Scorsese's brilliant film The Last Temptation of Christ. I mean, if I were Geffen Records, I wouldn't want to contend with outraged fundamentalists picketing record stores either, so let's just say it's good this music has been released, even with somewhat, er, deceptive packaging, and leave it at that.

Profiles in courage aside, however, the fact is that without Scorsese's visuals, a little of this stuff goes a fairly long way. To his credit, Gabriel has avoided the cliches of Biblical movie scoring -- the angelic choirs and nineteenth-century Romantic orchestration associated with, say, Miklos, R6sza or Alfred Newman (estimable as some of their work may have been). Along with an interestingly international collection of musicians, Gabriel often manages a nicely postmodern mix of the sophisticated and the primitive that seems thoroughly apt for Scorsese's revisionist take on the Greatest Story Ever Told. Still, thematically the score is fairly parched, and over the course of more than an hour's playing time it gets a little tedious. There's also a faint, annoying whiff of that patronizing, "Isn't the Third World exotic?" attitude you can sense in similar work by Brian Eno or David Byrne.

In sum, this is well-crafted and occasionally attractive music, but if you must have it you'd do better to get a hi-fi videotape of the movie.

-- S.S.

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