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Peter Gabriel - Love Can Heal

Song 09: "Love Can Heal"

Bright-Side Mix
Dark-Side Mix
In-Side Mix

With Love Can Heal comes the second song for i/o, which was already known from concerts prior to i/o The Tour. This time from the tour with Sting in 2016, where Gabriel sang the track a few times and dedicated it to the politician Jo Cox, who was murdered shortly before in an assassination.

In the Uncut article, Gabriel had then said that Love Can Heal would have a different sort of feel on the album than it did at those concerts. The performance during the i/o tour did not confirm this, as both the lyrics and the musical arrangement showed no significant differences. - But more on that further below.

Gabriel himself admits that the title of the song sounds like "an old hippie slogan". But he finds the idea essential. "When people feel interaction, warmth, giving, part of something alive and not isolated, that they're much more likely to do well and be able to offer more themselves." These are also central themes of i/o.

Musically, Love Can Heal also seems uncomplicated at first - but here, too, there is more interwoven and layered than it seems. Gabriel was looking for a repetitive moment to create something dreamy, in which the musical elements "not necessarily supposed to stick out, but just form part of a whole".


The first verse is basically one continuous sentence, which is only concluded with the chorus. It is the address to a counterpart: "Whatever mess you find yourself within" - more enumerations of failed, defenceless states follow, culminating in the assurance: Love can heal. This is repeated four times, almost like a mantra, and alone forms the refrain.

The second verse says that something moves out of body and skin when the cold has clenched its cords. And that one is alone with it. There is no "Love Can Heal" this time, instead the bridge with a vision: "Out in the sunlight, in all the colours, set against a bed of green." And this thought also concludes with the tireless repetition "Love Can Heal".

That's all the lyrics this piece has.

It's all clear as well as simple in its message. Disarmingly simple. Here, on the one hand, a lost condition is shared - and then encouraged. Critics may call the central idea banal - but truthfulness can lie in simplicity.

Of course, memories of Don't Give Up may come to mind - but Love Can Heal is different. It does not focus on reviving, but on a compassionate embrace. Its context is also not so concrete, more general and universal.


This time, the British artist Antony Micallef contributes a painting to the i/o collection. It is called A Small Painting Of What I Think Love Is (2010, oil on cardboard, 29 x 21cm) and shows in black and white two human figures holding each other intimately. They are only roughly indicated, yet clear in appearance and strong in expression.

Micallef is considered a modern expressionist and is known for his "visually charged figure paintings". Most recently, especially for portraits in a very wild, raw style with thick application of paint. The rawness contrasts with other elements of his work, which seem graphic, almost comically banal.

Thematically, he deals with consumption and seduction, but also with human existence and emotions. His website gives an impression of his work. He has already written online that he worked together with Gabriel on a clip for the song Love Can Heal, in which Aardman Studios were also involved. The result now reminds us of the video for Zaar, which also plays with painting in motion.

On our page about the music clips we go into more detail about the video, which by the way was released twice - each with the audio of one of the two main mixes.

We have gathered more about all artworks and the artists behind it here.

Bright-Side Mix - 31 August 2023

Words and Music by Peter Gabriel
Engineering by Oli Jacobs, Katie May
Assistant engineering by Faye Dolle, Dom Shaw
Pre-production enginneering by Richard Chappell
Produced by Peter Gabriel
Mixed by Mark 'Spike' Stent
Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis
Recorded at Real World Studios, Bath, The Beehive, London, Rexall Place, Edmonton Canada (Rock, Paper, Scissors Tour)

Percussion: Ged Lynch, Peter Gabriel (Hairy Drum)
Bass: Tony Levin
Guitar: David Rhodes
Guitar FX: Katie May
Piano: Peter Gabriel
Synths: Peter Gabriel, Angie Pollock
Cello: Linnea Olsson
BVs: Peter Gabriel, Ríoghnach Connolly, Melanie Gabriel, Jennie Abrahamson, Linnea Olsson
LVs: Peter Gabriel

Length 5:59

Contrary to previous practice (regarding the quieter tracks), this song does not appear first in the Dark-Side Mix - but in the light version.


It begins with careful fading in of the swinging synth carpet, which then runs through the whole piece. Accompanying sounds are also woven in alongside the dripping main pattern - bright chimes and others. The main structure of Love Can Heal, however, is woven on the keyboard. Spherically echoing, it floats in space.

Purely this runs as an intro. After 36 seconds, a cello enters for the beginning of the main part, rising and falling, accompanied by a muffled drum pulse and a softly striding bass.

The cello is replaced by the first verse when Gabriel begins to sing - rather high and reserved. Once again, this gives his voice something fragile. And once again it is clearly placed in the foreground.

Towards the chorus, the structure hardly changes - essentially, a polyphonic chorus of women joins in. They sing in unison with occasional, individual ornamentation.

A noticeable change comes with the bridge. The harmonies become brighter, the cello enters again, this time following the line of the main chorus.

Then the piece goes back to the sweeping line "love can heal". Here something changes again: Gabriel contrasts the women's choir with a low solo voice. This gives noticeably more volume. The cello also continues to play, female vocals add ornamental loops - imperceptibly the structure thickens.

Gabriel's long-drawn-out scream, familiar from the concerts, lies far in the background here - basically it is just another filling element in the arrangement. But with it, the climax is passed - it is followed by a gradual ebbing away, a fading out. Everything is reduced until almost only lying, simple synth chords remain.

The final beat, also familiar from the concerts, is not one here - rather a fine chord on the guitar. And the song even continues after that - so even a second chord accent from the guitar can follow. Only then does it come to a slow fade-out (in which a third chord accent can be heard very quietly).

On the whole, this recording is astonishingly undynamic. It flows steadily and restrainedly with little enforcement. Perhaps this is the difference Gabriel meant from the concert versions?

It should also be noted that Love Can Heal is the first song on i/o to be faded out.


The participation of Jennie Abrahamson, Linnea Olsson and Angie Pollock already suggests this: Love Can Heal is based on a recording from the Rock Paper Scissors Tour 2016, from which the solo cello, parts of the keyboards and the backing vocals come.

The solo cello, which is somehow a center part, is played by Linnea Olsson, who has been associated with Gabriel since the Back To Front Tour, where she actually only filled in as a substitute due to illness. Her soulful playing also came to show in several of her own albums.

Guitar is also featured (twice: regularly by David Rhodes and by Katie May as "Guitar FX"). Not much of that can be heard in this mix. Fine plucks (which wander in the stereo image) can be heard in the run-out phase. Otherwise, there's not really anything.

Once again, Ged Lynch is present on percussion - although their work is also rather modest. Gabriel, also registered for percussion, gets the specification "Hairy Drum" - whatever is meant by that again.

Ríoghnach Connolly, who sings in the choir - which is even expanded to "lead vocals" in the explanations - had already mentioned by Gabriel for Panopticom, adding that she would be even more present on a forthcoming song. Is this what is meant here?


Dark-Side Mix - 15 September 2023

Words and Music by Peter Gabriel
Engineering by Oli Jacobs, Katie May
Assistant engineering by Faye Dolle, Dom Shaw
Pre-production enginneering by Richard Chappell
Produced by Peter Gabriel
Mixed by Tchad Blake
Mastered by Matt Colton at Metropolis
Recorded at Real World Studios, Bath, The Beehive, London, Rexall Place, Edmonton Canada (Rock, Paper, Scissors Tour)

Percussion: Ged Lynch, Peter Gabriel (Hairy Drum)
Bass: Tony Levin
Guitar: David Rhodes
Guitar FX: Katie May
Piano: Peter Gabriel
Synths: Peter Gabriel, Angie Pollock
Cello: Linnea Olsson
BVs: Peter Gabriel, Ríoghnach Connolly, Melanie Gabriel, Jennie Abrahamson, Linnea Olsson
LVs: Peter Gabriel

Length 6:01

Once again, Tchad Balke has managed to wrest an altered appearance from an i/o song. It also sometimes seems as if he is always given the task of creating the more experimental mixes. Even if this occasionally disrupts the flow a little.

It is perhaps not always fair to compare the second mix with the first and to point out the differences. But since a first mix is always known, the second one inevitably has the burden of having to make do with a juxtaposition.


Right at the beginning, it is noticeable that the fade-in is slower and extends almost over the entire 35-second intro. The volume is fully developed only shortly before the main part begins.

The repetitive sound carpet contains fewer ornamental elements - especially in the high pitches, all accessories have been reduced or omitted altogether. Moving only through middle ranges seems less filigree. Also, other components of the basic structure have been emphasised, so that it now seems less flowing, more prancing. The drum and bass in it have been prepared in a rather unimpressive way and together produce more of a uniform boom.

Also noticeable: the cello, so present in the Bright-Side Mix, is omitted and the vocals of Gabriel, but also the choir, are not brought so clearly into the foreground.

This structure remains quite constant through verses and chorus. Only at the bridge does something noticeably change. On one hand, the cello comes in now, and on the other hand, higher piano tones are woven into the sound carpet.

When returning to the chorus and the final run-throughs begin, the sound fabric is unexpectedly reduced until the choral singing stands almost alone. The cello comes more into focus - and its relative solitude makes it seem almost sighing. There is a brief gathering, then the basic accompaniment returns - above all bass and drum - and the mesh is really condensed in a very restrained way. The ornamental loops of the single choir voice are clearly shifted into the background - just like Gabriel's shout, which is again only incidental.

During the finale, the song remains rather uniform - without stronger dynamics or movements - at least for the last 60 seconds. Over a longer time, the song fades out - the striking final accents are not set.

In-Side Mix - 15 September 2023

Words and Music Peter Gabriel
Produced by Peter Gabriel with Brian Eno
Published by Real World Music Ltd. / Sony Music Publishing
Engineered by Oli Jacobs and Katie May
Mixed by Hans-Martin Buff

Length 6:01


Already in the introduction video to Love Can Heal, Peter Gabriel mentioned that his intentions were met by Hans-Martin Buff, because with the In-Side Mix "you're getting this sense of being touched in many places".

What he means by this becomes clear after a few seconds directly in the song's intro. The sound carpet consisting of various elements whirs in circles, literally enveloping the listener, which makes full use of the possibilities of a Dolby Atmos mix. The atmosphere of the song is thus shown to its best advantage.

The individual elements sound somewhat different than in the other two mixes. Either keyboard and guitar sounds can be heard here, which were mixed more into the background in the previous versions, or are only used in the In-Side Mix.

Bass and percussion kicks in at the usual place in the song and have a very warm sense. It is noticeable that especially the bass can be heard very clearly and differentiated, similar to some other In-Side Mixes. The cello, on the other hand, seems a little more discreet than in the Bright-Side Mix, for example. As usual, Peter Gabriel's voice seems to stay at the same spot in the sound image when you listen to the mix with Apple Air Pods and move your head.

The first chorus is also mainly carried by the female voices in the In-Side Mix. The use of the cello is completely dispensed with in the transition to the second chorus. Only in the chorus itself it can be heard again discreetly.

It is noticeable at this point that the three individual words of the chorus are repeated by Peter like a reverberation in whispered form. The "give into love" sung loudly during the concerts is clearly audible, but at the same time does not seem like a superficial scream due to the reverb effects used.

In the outro, "give into love" and "love can heal" are combined. "Give into love" is whispered by Peter, a reverb is created and the "heal" finally echoes back. At the end, only the "heal" remains as the song slowly fades out. At the same time, towards the end, certain keyboard sounds and guitar harmonics can be heard, which are again not present in the other mixes.

Since Love Can Heal is a song that lives from sound design, it naturally opens up a wide range of possibilities for a Dolby Atmos mix. But this never gives the impression that anything has been overdone. Buff stays true to the line of the other In-Side Mixes, does not get lost in technical gimmicks, but delivers a spherical and tasteful mix that fits the mood of the song.


Gabriel's explanatory Full Moon video for the track Love Can Heal:

Song-background on
Webside of Antony Micallef
Webside of Aardman Studios

Discuss this track in our forum

Author: Thomas Schrage
Review In-Side Mix: Martin Peitz

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