Review of Us

Washington Post - September 27, 1992
By Mike Joyce

Gabriel's "Us" (Geffen), his first album since 1986's "So," has an intimacy and emotional pull these others lack [He's referring to Amused to Death by Roger Waters and Am I Not Your Girl by Sinead O'Connor], which isn't all that surprising since it comes after the breakup of two relationships -- one with his wife of nearly 20 years, Jill Moore, and the other with actress Rosanna Arquette. There's no kiss and tell here -- Gabriel is too much a gentleman for that -- but he bares his soul on several songs in a way he seldom has before. The album's first single, "Digging in the Dirt," is as blunt as can be, unearthing layer upon layer of hurt, rage, and despair. Gabriel also comes to grips with some of his own desires, failings and vulnerability on the skewed fairy tale "Kiss That Frog," the confessional ballad "Secret World" and the opening salvo, a yearning duet with O'Connor called "Come Talk To Me"

All this soul-searching, however, doesn't mean Gabriel has altered significantly the kind of imaginatively textured music that he's made in the past. "Come Talk To Me," in fact, derives much of its appeal from a recurring tape loop of Senegalese drummers, an exotic rhythmic tapestry that sets the album's world beat tone

Along with co-producer Daniel Lanois, Gabriel deploys a large cast of musicians from Scotland, Africa, Russia, Armenia, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere, creating often percolating soundscapes that enhance the best lyrics and help compensate for "Love To Be Loved" and a few other trite ones. The words, music, and emotions never flow more beautifully than on "Blood of Eden" an insinuating arrangement that suggests Paul Simon's influence, but lest such subtleties are lost on radio programmers, Gabriel also has included such sure-fire Top 40 ammo as "Steam," a likable (if shamelessly obvious) sequel to his huge hit "Sledgehammer."

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