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Peter Gabriel - Scratch my back CD (album) cover

SCRATCH MY BACK

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

2.91 | 176 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lazland
Prog Reviewer
4 stars I have listened to Gabriel and admired and loved his work for over 30 years now. So when a new Gabriel album is released, it's a must to get it on the day of release. He is one of the few artists I buy physical CDs for nowadays, rather than MP3 downloads, so off I rushed to the local superstore to get my copy.

I admit freely that I was disappointed to learn that the great man was releasing an album of covers, rather than original material - after all, we have, I think, waited far too long since Up.

I have played it quite a few times until putting keyboard to review, and I am glad I did. First listen, I thought it was shocking, but it has since grown on me enormously. Of course, when you relate so strongly to a particular and unique voice such as Gabriel's as I do, it's difficult not to enjoy.

The interpretations are very much in the mold of the piano/voice versions of Father Son and Here Comes The Flood on the last tours, except these are with the backing of an orchestra.

The album starts off extremely strongly with versions of Bowie's Heroes and Simon's Boy in the Bubble, both very suited to this type of interpretation, and it really does proceed much in this vein throughout. Mirrorball, a song I was not familiar with, is simply stunning - Gabriel does Elbow to incredible effect.

Flume gets the full Gabriel vocal effect and is simply beautiful with the backing of a piano only.

Listening Wind, a Talking Heads track written by Byrne & Eno would, you would have thought, be suited to Gabriel. After all, he has collaborated with Eno and I rather think that he and Byrne are alike in their eccentricity. Somehow, though, the track does not pick up beyond a mere pleasant vocal and light orchestral backing, which is a shame. It's not a dirge, but it's not really that far from one.

On Lou Reed's The Power of the Heart, we are back to piano and voice, and this works far better, with some very understated instrumental backing accompanied by a lovely vocal which cracks, literally, with emotion.

My Body is a Cage is another I was totally unfamiliar with, by Arcade Fire, this is a dark piece played slowly and to effect. There is some pulsating orchestration on this track.

The Book of Love is by The Magnetic Fields, and was another new listen for me. I will definitely be listening to more of their material which, I suppose, was the whole point of this exercise. You can almost see Gabriel smiling and indulging in the love of his music and family when you listen to this track, it really has the most lovely Gabriel vocal, backed by his very capable daughter Melanie, who has been such a revelation on tour with her father. Violins create the mood in harmony with these two remarkable voices.

Randy Newman gets the PG treatment next, with I Think It's Gonna Rain Today. This is another piano & voice lead track, and is pleasant without being exceptional.

Regina Spektor's Apres Moi is next up, and this gets the full brass treatment at the start - isn't it nice to hear proper instruments, rather than pure sampling, a sin which even the great man has been overly guilty of sometimes? This is another delicate interpretation with dark underflowing strings bringing a sense of impending doom to proceedings. Very good, very strong, and very dark.

Neil Young is, by common consent, one of the most important North American artists of the 20th Century, so any interpretation of a great track such as Philadelphia deserves a serious listen. A fulsome and emotional Gabriel vocal is once again backed by some quite exquisite instrumentation. Gabriel has the knack of sounding frail when, in reality, he is really rather strong, and this comes across clearly on this track, and I really love the trumpet/cornet solo backed by the trademark Gabriel chant. This is very reminiscent of some of the work on Ovo, and no poorer for that.

The album closes with Street Spirit, that exceptional Radiohead track which, for me, marked the arrival of one of the greatest British bands of the last 20 years. Because it is an original that is so intense and features some incredible guitar work by Greenwood, I don't find Gabriel's quiet interpretation working for me very well. It's not bad, far from it, but the original can barely be bettered in my opinion.

This is an album which will divide opinion sharply. So, here's a warning from an old Gabriel and prog fan - this is NOT a prog album, and doesn't even pretend to be. It is the work of a supreme songwriter and singer interpreting some of his favourite music in his own unique style. By and large, it works extremely well.

If you enjoyed Ovo, as I did, you will love this. If you enjoy Gabriel's original quieter works, this is the one for you. If you are prepared to step out of the box in your listening, as he has with this work, then you will get a great deal of pleasure out of this work. Most of all, though, this is a GABRIEL album, albeit not with original work, and if you love his work, you will love this.

A pleasantly surprising four stars for this. 2010 has gotten off to a good start for me.

lazland | 4/5 |

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