big blue ball… a world party

[Part eight of the New Music from the Past 30 Years series… with an asterisk]

I can’t think of an album that better fits the description “new music from the past 30 years” more than Big Blue Ball, which was released this week.

Big Blue Ball is really the brainchild of Peter Gabriel (you remember him, one of the many artists who were using world beats and supporting world music WAY before Paul Simon got all the credit for his “groundbreaking” use of African rhythms on Graceland), with an assist from Karl Wallinger. In the early 90s, Gabriel gathered many relatively unknown (at the time) artists to collaborate on a series of songs that would be truly “world” music – or music written and influenced by artists from all over the world.

The album includes work from:

As you listen to this album and consider the timing of its creation, you can almost put yourself back in the time when Live AID, Band Aid, WOMAD and other world music collaborations were really taking off. If you’re a Peter Gabriel fan, than you will also see past the supporting players and see that, at its core, this is a Peter Gabriel album, all the way.

Here’s a short promotional video for the album. Note the amount one ages in 15 years.

But even more exciting to me is that it is also, in lesser ways, a new World Party release.

World Party is essentially Karl Wallinger, who played mostly all of the instruments on the first studio release – Private Revolution. Karl Wallinger, to me, is the indie category version of Prince. He has mastered all of the “main” instruments and is far more prolific than his studio album output would let on.

In the late 90s, the World Party website had an area called “dropbox” that contained random recordings that Karl Wallinger was making between albums. It was home to many germs of music ideas and also Wallinger’s love for a good Beatles cover, which he largely reproduced note-for-note.

Not only can Wallinger play many instruments, but his music captures so many genres that its hard to classify. Most of his songs span the time between psychedelic rock and current funk and hip-hop. I can’t think of too many bands that have created music that captures so many time periods and ideas and ties them together so well.

Wallinger disappeared for a number of years earlier this decade. I didn’t think much of it, because there always seemed to be about four years in between his studio work. However, I finally got curious and learned that he had a brain aneurysm in 2001 that took him about five years to recover from.

There aren’t many artists who’s music I’d insist on you purchasing without hearing, but World Party is certainly one.

World Party has too many great songs to pick, but here’s “Is It Too Late” into “Radio Days”…


7 Responses to “big blue ball… a world party”

  1. 1 Rick Overton
    June 25, 2008 at 11:32 am

    Ouch, gratuitous Paul Simon dig alert! Isn’t it enough that Graceland is a great album? Is Simon also responsible for mainstream critics being largely ignorant of Gabriel’s global palette? And are we heaping convenient praise on Gabriel when really, truly, it was probably the Talking Heads who built the first bridges from punk to Pretoria? And, you know, Toto. (Alright, that time I went too far.)

  2. 2 Jon
    June 25, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    I understand my initial critique is with all the music media who fawned over him. But I never once heard him say “hey, man… I’m hardly the first.”

    Plus, I never thought it was that great of an album.

    Agreed on the Talking Heads note, although I think it was probably somewhat simultaneous.

  3. July 11, 2008 at 10:10 am

    I wanna know who designed the album cover for peter gabriel’s big blue ball album. SO if anyone knows that please lemme know… I’m hopin’ it’s Storm Thorgerson… Thanks!

  4. 4 Jon
    July 11, 2008 at 10:21 am

    There are two covers, one with the big blue ball in the field, and the hand-drawn face emerging from the earth. About which cover are you inquiring?

    Thanks for the comment,


  5. 5 Jon
    July 11, 2008 at 10:29 am

    Alan Tabrett – http://www.behance.net/AlTee – did the cover for the one with the big blue ball in the countryside.

  6. 6 Jon
    July 11, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Marc Bessant did the illustration for the cover with the face on it. Sorry, but no Thorgerson.


  7. 7 marc
    July 30, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    i have to take the blame for both covers i’m afraid – altho Alan put his 3D skills to great effect on one. i have to admit tho, that being a big fan of hipgnosis and Storm Thorgeson my influences are a little obvious. hope you like it.

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