Masters Of Chant (ALBUM)
:: GREGORIAN
:: introduction : publication : tracklisting : production : notes : reviews

:: INTRODUCTION

It will be difficult to find another album in 2000 that is as beautifully arranged and as emotive as this album, combined with such exquisite singing. It is perfect in almost every way, and the idea of using a Gregorian choir is expertly realised. The vocals are some of the best you will ever hear from a choir, the arrangements are more layered than the arrangements of the original songs and the bonus of Sarah Brightman in the final song just makes this brilliant album even better. Every track has a new, strong rhythm and drumloop which was often lacking from the original versions. It is also very orchestral, with instruments such as piano, violin, string ensemble, organ, guitar and timpani, yet overall it is accessible and easily listenable. Above all this is a pop album, but one with spirit and depth. If you enjoy the Enigma style, or you like any of the original songs you must own this album. It is music to inspire you, and also to relax you. This album just goes to prove that a remix or a 'cover-version' need not be just a rehash of old principles. Every song on this album is a new, more mature, more impressive version and reworking of the original. All that is left of the original is the theme, the new versions cast the songs in a completely new light.

ORIGINAL RELEASE

:: PUBLICATION DETAILS

Release Date 1999
Label edel media & entertainment GmbH
Catalogue # 4009880588925 / 0058892ERE / LC 1666
Purchase Buy
Lyrics Available

RE-RELEASE

:: TRACKLISTING
 
1. Brothers In Arms
5:09
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Mark Knopfler / Originally Performed by: Dire Straits
2. Scarborough Fair
4:06
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Traditional, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel / Originally Performed by: Simon & Garfunkel
3. Tears In Heaven
4:43
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Will Jennings, Eric Clapton / Originally Performed by: Eric Clapton
4. Still I'm Sad
4:02
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Paul Samwell-Smith, Gim McCarthy / Originally Performed by: The Yardbirds
5. When A Man Loves AWoman
4:08
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright / Originally Performed by: Percy Sledge
6. Nothing Else Matters
5:30
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich / Originally Performed by: Metallica
7. Fade To Grey
3:38
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Christopher John Payne / Originally Performed by: Visage
8. Losing My Religion
5:01
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: William Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Mills, Michael Stipe / Originally Performed by: REM
9. Vienna
4:22
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Midge Ure, Warren Cann, Billy Currie, Christopher Allen / Originally Performed by: Ultravox
10. The Sound Of Silence
3:35
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Paul Simon / Originally Performed by: Simon & Garfunkel
11. Sebastian
3:05
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Steve Harley / Originally Performed by: Steve Harley
12. Don't Give Up
5:22
 
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Peter Gabriel / Originally Performed by: Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush

:: BONUS TRACKS (Re-Release)
 
13. Save A Prayer
4:15
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Taylor, Rhodes, Lebon / Originally Performed by: Duran Duran
14. I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For SINGLE
4:52
  Original Theme & Lyrics: Bono / Originally Performed by: U2

:: PRODUCTION DETAILS

Produced & Arranged by: Frank Peterson
Additional Arrangements & Production: Michael Soltau, Jan-Eric Kohrs, Carsten Heusmann
Gregorian Variations by: Frank Peterson, Michael Soltau, Jan-Eric Kohrs, Carsten Heusmann

Track 12 Female Vocals by: Sarah Brightman (uncredited)
Orchestra Conducted by: Paul Bateman
Sample Loops Courtesy of: Spectrasonics, David Thorn

Recorded at: Angel Studio (London) and Nemo Studio (Hamburg)

:: NOTES
 
— re-released on 9 October 2000 with two bonus songs: I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For and Save A Prayer. In regions that did not receive this re-release, these tracks were later included on Chapter II
— a special version of this album was released with a bonus VCD (Video Compact Disc) version of their first DVD/VHS, and two additional songs (Breathe and Make Us One) appended to the first CD [ thanks to Henrique for providing this info ]
— released in 36 countries worldwide
— went Gold in 12 countries (Australia, Belgium, Finland, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Singapore and South Africa)
— went Platinum in 2 countries (Philippines and Portugal)

:: TRACK BY TRACK ANALYSIS & REVIEW

Brothers In Arms (Original Theme & Lyrics: Mark Knopfler / Originally Performed by: Dire Straits)
The album begins gently with churchbells, rain and floating piano notes. A lead Spanish guitar plays a short cadence, before allowing the monks to start their smooth, warm singing. The song is comprised of this exchange between emotive solo guitar playing and Gregorian voices, perfectly harmonised. A synth bassline, sometimes reminiscent of Robert Miles' Children, is heard in the background. The bridge is comprised of roaring solo electric guitar before the drums return a little stronger this time. The song makes a wonderful introduction to the album, giving us an idea of how the monks will perform the vocals, and the depth of the arrangements. The first Variation features a lonesome electric piano theme with rising strings, which perfectly melds into the opening chords of Scarborough Fair. TRACKLISTING

Scarborough Fair (Original Theme & Lyrics: Traditional, Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel / Originally Performed by: Simon & Garfunkel)
Although traditional, this song was originally made famous by Simon & Garfunkel. Now the song is to be reborn, in a unique way with Gregorian choral voices — but everyone will be able to sing along. The song starts with a simple guitar strumming and voices, before the effects and sounds are added in the background. Eventually the beat kicks in along with a multi-layered vocal arrangement (i.e. voices sing both high and low). This is a brilliant showcase of the voices of the 12 men, as they range from bass to tenor and back again. We break for a piano interlude playing an embellished form of the lead melody. Strings become louder, as do the voices as the song climaxes. Very romantic. Interestingly, the Sarah Brightman album La Luna features her rendition of this song as well. Variation 2 introduces us to some more piano, but set against a darker background with ethnic flutes and bubbly effects. Suddenly the music lifts and grows inspiring, it sounds redemptive. TRACKLISTING

Tears In Heaven (Original Theme & Lyrics: Will Jennings, Eric Clapton / Originally Performed by: Eric Clapton)
The Eric Clapton hit, done far better and with far more variety this time round. A spine-tingling solo vocal sings one line and is answered by the full vocal. Synthetic voice 'oohing' provides even more backup during the chorus. A steady beat and rhythm keep the song moving with distant strings forever adding to the ambience. It is wonderful to have such rock-pop orientated drumloops in all these songs now, considering that most of the originals were more acoustic. The drums add a new energetic dimension to the songs, and make them more accessible to a wider audience. This time the instrumental solo is a weird synthetic pipe of some kind as well as some violin playing. What makes the Gregorian 2 arrangements so remarkable is their blend of rousing upbeat passage, suddenly undercut by a tender, semi-lonesome part. This is one of those songs with a title that seemed destined to be performed by this project! Variation 3 is my favourite, as it introduces the major hit of the album. Heavy orchestral strings set the mood as low voices are steadily held (which for the rest of the album will be a staple of the Variations) before we are taken into... TRACKLISTING

Still I'm Sad (Original Theme & Lyrics: Paul Samwell-Smith, Gim McCarthy / Originally Performed by: The Yardbirds)
The choir starts intoning the most beautiful melody on the album, with an ethnic kanoon-like instrument interspersed during their verses, along with some tubular bells. The welcome return of the famous Sadeness-style beat carries the song giving it a very pop-dance feel. After the first chorus, a beautiful, epic ethnic flute plays an infectious melody taking us into this strange, undiscovered world. In the background one can hear female wails and other unsettling sounds, supported as always by the The London Session Orchestra conducted by Paul Bateman. After the solo, the powerful voice of the lead soloist is heard singing the whole of the second verse, before returning us to the solo. I was not familiar with this song before, but with the perfect layering of Gregorian 'aaahing' and the ethnic flute it is a remarkable and beautiful song. It also ties in perfectly with the So Sad / Sadeness concept. Why is everyone so sad when such beautiful music is here? Variation 4, sees the Gregorian choir singing much higher notes along with the dripping sound first heard in MCMXC a.D. by Enigma. TRACKLISTING

When A Man Loves A Woman (Original Theme & Lyrics: Calvin Lewis, Andrew Wright / Originally Performed by: Percy Sledge)
Actually the title is a wonderful juxtaposition of concepts, considering we have Gregorian monks singing about men loving women. After Still I'm Sad, we have to quieten down for this very famous ballad. Gentle and flowing, before beating up with violin and cello instrumental leads as well as a flute similar to the one used in the previous track. I think we will hear a lot more of this ethnic-flute on future Peterson albums, it is a perfect choice. The song continues building up with stronger drumloops, and more instruments playing the solo. A synthetic line bubbles beneath the final part of the song, every so often coming to the forefront. Variation 5 sees simple piano note cascades and rising strings. TRACKLISTING

Nothing Else Matters (Original Theme & Lyrics: James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich / Originally Performed by: Metallica)
Yes, did you ever think you would hear a Gregorian choir performing a Metallica song? You'd never believe it! But it sounds brilliant — pizzicato orchestral strings keep a constant tempo throughout, while we have ambient whistling in the intro (it may be synthetic or just the monks affected voices). The song is very orchestral in fact, with little drumming (except for the occasional timpani), as well as supporting French Horns and heavy bass piano notes. The occasional synthetic bleeping sound and wispy wind-chimes add a slightly alien touch. Until the music cascades for the chorus which also adds some church organs, much stronger drumming and crashing cymbals. The song has a beautiful neo-orchestral arrangement, with a mixture of 'traditional' acoustic instruments and a very steady swaying-rhythm. The song slowly fades with the whistling and a lonesome solo violin before the rhythm abruptly halts. Variation 6 has some more strange alien sounds, before bringing in some electric piano. TRACKLISTING

Fade To Grey (Original Theme & Lyrics: Midge Ure, Billy Currie, Christopher John Payne / Originally Performed by: Visage)
The song is the 'b-side' of the previous track: it is more melancholic and gentle. The slower, gentler songs demonstrate the range of the Gregorian choir's vocal abilities and during their verse and chorus performances Peterson has ensured that the singing is pure and unaffected. One must be reminded that these are only 12 singers — they produce a much bigger sound than expected. The song eventually beats up, with the combination of synthetic strings before we have a false-ending halfway through. Gentle bells lead us into a dark storm-wind sound for Variation 7. Once again some distant electric piano chords and held vocals from the choir. TRACKLISTING

Losing My Religion (Original Theme & Lyrics: William Berry, Peter Buck, Michael Mills, Michael Stipe / Originally Performed by: REM)
The song opens with the familiar piano notes of this song from REM. Easily the most famous song on the album, and the one that will get everybody singing. But it takes on a completely new quality when Gregorian voices sing about losing their religion! One could argue about its deep philosophical meaning, but above all it is a very catchy track. This new version is also more upbeat than the original, with a simple, steady rhythm and fretless bassline. The soloist sings the second verse crisply, often a rarity in music — you can actually hear all the words he and the choir are singing. The chorus is very infectious, with super-high strings adding to the emotional feel. The song also demonstrates the fantastic use of backing and supporting instruments on this album, as they interject contra-phrases to the main vocal melody, most notably a brief two-note bell-sound used during the chorus. Eerie and yet uplifting at the same time. Variation 8 begins with weird effects and sounds, setting a very dark and eerie atmosphere, before bringing in a simple bell melody. TRACKLISTING

Vienna (Original Theme & Lyrics: Midge Ure, Warren Cann, Billy Currie, Christopher Allen / Originally Performed by: Ultravox)
An experimental style rhythm begins this song. Very strange, industrial effects, and traditional drumming. It is interesting to see that Frank has also made use of the occasional sampled groove and effect from the Spectrasonics range. This company distributes CDs and CD-ROMs containing royalty-free samples, from chants to basslines to techno effects, which many famous composers and producers meld and affect to add to their songs. The choir sings the occasional line, with a solo violin before the song breaks into more traditional upbeat, with piano and organ. The rhythm has now turned a little more electronic after the first chorus. The song breaks with just a triangle keeping the rhythm as we add more dissonance in the form of organs and effected oboes. Beautiful high piano notes sound during the bridge. This tense part in the song is broken by the return to the chorus, which ends with held organ notes. An eclectic and experimental song, but the chorus and piano melody is superb. Variation 9, starts with sharp rapping sounds (like someone knocking on a door, twice at a time). And then: silence! TRACKLISTING

The Sound Of Silence (Original Theme & Lyrics: Paul Simon / Originally Performed by: Simon & Garfunkel)
Those who were not familiar with Losing My Religion, are sure to know this one. Another song to use pizzicato string, as in Nothing Else Matters, but more to accentuate the rhythm than keep it. The rhythm this time is maintained instrumentally by a harpsichord playing steady broken chords throughout. Ethnic drumming supports the second verse, before breaking and adding a stronger rock style rhythm. The song continues to build, as does the vocals, with the ever-present piano and tubular bells. Very uplifting and moody arrangement. The tenth Variation starts with just silence, before we introduce the held choral vocals again. Another masterful touch on this album, is how the Variations subtly introduce elements and ambiences we are about to hear in the following track. TRACKLISTING

Sebastian (Original Theme & Lyrics: Steve Harley / Originally Performed by: Steve Harley)
A Gregorian soloist begins this track and sounds like he's singing another language. Gentle bells and such float about the vocals. The music eventually breaks, and then brings in a slow rock drumloop. The song continues like this, very gently and quite brief at only three minutes. The organ returns to support the choir towards the end, as the song wanes out with a brief reprise of Variation 10. This seamlessly melds into the next track. TRACKLISTING

Don't Give Up (Original Theme & Lyrics: Peter Gabriel / Originally Performed by: Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush)
The song starts with ominous ethnic drumming, guitar strumming and what sounds like a brief sample of a woman moaning. A solitary violin weaves its way through this. The monks sing the first verse, before the most beautiful surprise of the album: the angelic voice of Sarah Brightman sings to us in the chorus, almost replying to the choir. The original song was also a duet. The monks sing the second verse, with acoustic guitar strumming in the background. Sarah features again as soloist in the chorus, her voice clear and central to the song. She's singing lullaby-like, which makes this a perfect song to end the album on. The monks return, stronger than before, along with some added synthetic chords. The song makes wonderful use of the mixture of Sarah's vocals and that of the choir's. The album credits do not list her name anywhere, so it is an unexpected but all the more welcome addition, especially when she ends the song in such a climactic finish, superbly demonstrating her enviable vocal ability to swap from pop-style vocals and then operatic. Variation 11 uses the familiar water-dripping sound from Enigma 1 to lead us slowly out of the song and toward the distance. TRACKLISTING