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Security Project: Contact

Geno Thackara By

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It's impossible to describe an outfit like the Security Project without that troublesome (if not entirely inaccurate) phrase "tribute band" popping up, complete with the inevitable baggage that term implies. It's usually reserved for countless local-level acts that entertain bar crowds with predictable staples on any given weekend, sure, but this group shoots for something much more sophisticated and exploratory. They almost completely eschew the obvious hits of the Peter Gabriel catalogue and primarily delve into the groundbreaking and unclassifiable art-rock of his early solo career. The main focus this time around is squarely on Security itself (Charisma/Geffen, 1982) and its immediate predecessor, the third self-titled Peter Gabriel album (aka "Melt") (Charisma/Geffen, 1980).

Of course it's a terrific batch of songs, iconic and exquisitely written, most of them not played by Gabriel himself for many a year. The one outside addition—a suitably haunting read on Kate Bush's "Mother Stands for Comfort"—is both surprising and perfectly appropriate, considering her connection with Gabriel's recordings of the 1980s. For that we can thank new lead vocalist Happy Rhodes (taking over the role after initially sitting in for a tour as special guest).

On their previous outings Live 1 and Live 2 the group had been fronted by Brian Cummins, who presented an impression (rather than an impersonation) both suggestive of and distinct from Gabriel's tone—much in keeping with the Security Project's intent. This time the overall sound is markedly different. The set list here is almost completely repeated from Live 1, but Rhodes' rich borderline-androgynous voice alone is enough to set Contact well apart from those renditions and indeed any others.

"No Self Control" keeps a pace manic enough to fit the theme (unlike the usual PG live treatment), while the sublime drama of "Family Snapshot" and "San Jacinto" make them positively cinematic. "I Have the Touch" gets a pleasantly flowing shape that smooths over the song's rough rhythmic edges without losing the inviting groove at its center. Those standout tweaks make it vaguely disappointing that most other arrangements are pretty much kept intact from their studio counterparts, though it's always interesting to hear them in the hands of different players nonetheless.

Gabriel band alum Jerry Marotta drums with power and precision, demonstrating his old mastery of the artist's worldly grooves without simply recreating the same parts again. Michael Cozzi's guitar, David Jameson's keys and the Warr guitar of Trey Gunn do the same kind of sonic sculpting in understatedly expansive ways with modern tones and impeccably atmospheric sonics. There's no mere soloing or showboating; everyone's parts do just as much or as little as needed to create the right immersive feel. For her part, Rhodes almost inadvertently (but deservedly) stands out as the star. Her low crooning does sensual justice to the earthy themes and wide-ranging emotions of the material, while the high-pitched Bush piece, even more bewitchingly airy than before, makes her sound like a different singer entirely.

Gabriel's catalogue is one of only a handful of in the rock world that deserve to be treated not just as "tribute" fodder but world-class art. With the Security Project it's in the hands of top-notch players as talented and respectful as the material deserves. And while it's still possible for the casual observer to wonder how truly necessary the endeavor is—the original recordings still stand timeless as ever, after all—Contact makes their most compelling case yet for presenting this as vital, living music richly deserving of further interpretation.

Track Listing: Lead a Normal Life; I Don't Remember; San Jacinto; Intruder; The Rhythm of the Heat; Mother Stands for Comfort; No Self Control; Family Snapshot; I Have the Touch; Games Without Frontiers/Of These, Hope; Lay Your Hands on Me.

Personnel: Happy Rhodes: voice; Jerry Marotta: drums, backing voice; Trey Gunn: touch guitar, backing voice; David Jameson: keyboards, Eigenharp; Michael Cozzi: guitar, backing voice.

Title: Contact | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: 7D Media

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