Friday, October 14, 2011

Peter Gabriel 12: Scratch My Back

The good news was that fans didn’t have to wait another decade for a new Peter Gabriel album. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the long-promised I/O, said to have been derived from the pre-Up period. Instead, he recorded an album of covers, with orchestral backing.
The earliest hint of what would be Scratch My Back came with his version of “The Book Of Love”, recorded for a movie nobody saw, but soon became ubiquitous on TV soundtracks. From there he chose songs from established and newer artists, and gave each an impassioned vocal reading over stark arrangements.
By choosing from such a big pool, he risks blasphemy by screwing with songs people already know and love, but may also introduced the uninitiated to music they might have otherwise never heard. The “standards” arguably come first; “Heroes” takes the drums out of the Bowie song, leaving the strings to drive everything, while “Boy In The Bubble” is far removed from Paul Simon’s African groove. He’s about the 80th person to tackle “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”, but interestingly redoes Neil Young’s “Philadelphia”, from the movie soundtrack to which he’d also contributed. However, his interest in deep catalog unearths lesser-known tracks by Talking Heads and Lou Reed. (Apparently, Radiohead were not pleased with his overhaul of their song.) He can thank his kids for exposing him to bands like Elbow, The Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire and Bon Iver.
Scratch My Back was supposed to inspire a songwriters’ exchange called I’ll Scratch Yours (get it?), wherein each of the artist Peter covered would in turn record a version of one of his songs. (Not surprisingly, this was easier said than done; only six new recordings appeared, and as iTunes exclusives. A completed album, with a few substitutions, finally appeared in late 2013.) While his delivery throughout certainly displays his enthusiasm and devotion to this music, but ultimately one wishes he could get the same inspiration from his own personal muse, and come up with something as simple and pure.

Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back (2010)—3

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