Picks and Pans Review: Up

UPDATED 09/30/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 09/30/2002 at 01:00 AM EDT

Peter Gabriel (Geffen)
Album of the week

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It has been 10 years since Peter Gabriel released his last studio album, Us, but, aside from his balding pate, not much seems to have changed. Making a comeback at 52, Gabriel sticks to what he does best: cerebral, eclectic art-rock that sounds as great now as it did back in the '70s and '80s. In fact, Us sounds so contemporary that it reveals how far ahead of his time the progressive Brit once was. One of the first pop artists to embrace world music, Gabriel continues to deftly explore African rhythms and incorporates Middle Eastern influences with guest vocals by the late Pakistani great Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. He also weaves atmospheric electronica into his sonic quilt on tracks such as the propulsive "Growing Up," one of several songs that deal with death (its title to the contrary, this disc can be a downer). There is a cathartic power in sumptuously somber cuts such as the mesmerizing "Sky Blue," with its haunting background vocals by the gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama; its artistry requires no sledgehammer.

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