Monday, November 21, 2011

Peter Gabriel 13: New Blood

Now things were starting to get a little out of control. Having enjoyed the kudos for Scratch My Back, Peter got the idea to extend the orchestral remake approach to—wait for it—his own songs. This was hardly a new concept, for people as widespread as Sting and Spinal Tap had gone this route, and it was a worrying trend when once-vital performers saw the remake idea as fresh. The fact of the matter was that they simply couldn’t be bothered write a new album’s worth of tunes. Or maybe it’s the fault of the generation who put them on the map, who’d grown up to be wary of anything unfamiliar.
At any rate, and as might be expected, New Blood is exceptionally concocted, with great care given to both the new arrangements and capturing the sound. It’s an album for diehard fans, who will likely get much more out of it than the casual listener. Some of the tracks actually provide a new perspective; “San Jacinto” in particular is given a sweeping arrangement with a chilly piano intro reminiscent of Tubular Bells, and moves smoothly into its own coda. Without its booming drums, “Intruder” is very different, and scarier. “Darkness” is just as unsettling in this format too. Two songs from his Millennial Ovo project might spur interest in that obscure CD, even though one is an instrumental (and a lovely one at that).
But much of the album comes off more like background music. Most of “Rhythm Of The Heat” isn’t that different from the song, until the big climax happens, sounding less like a tribal ritual than a movie soundtrack. “In Your Eyes” is much too urgent, and comes off like a stalker. “Red Rain” is given a brass-heavy treatment that misses on the tension, and “Don’t Give Up” is sung with a woman who trills like a cartoon bird. (He duets with his daughter Melanie on two other tracks for a superior blend.) A “bonus” rendition of “Solsbury Hill” is preceded by five minutes of ambient sound actually recorded on location, which is a great idea until if you like listening to wind blowing.
New Blood is certainly harmless, but it’s just a shame that so much time was put into something that still comes off as a distraction. In fact, a disc of the tracks without any vocals, included in the “deluxe edition”, is almost preferable, as some of the pieces work best that way, like “Mercy Street”; otherwise that song isn’t any more riveting than the original version.

Peter Gabriel New Blood (2011)—3

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