Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography


Peter Gabriel

Crossover Prog

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Peter Gabriel Scratch My Back album cover
2.87 | 266 ratings | 16 reviews | 11% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

Write a review

from partners
Studio Album, released in 2010

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Heroes (David Bowie cover) (4:10)
2. The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon cover) (4:28)
3. Mirrorball (Elbow cover) (4:48)
4. Flume (Bon Iver cover) (3:01)
5. Listening Wind (Talking Heads cover) (4:23)
6. The Power of the Heart (Lou Reed cover) (5:52)
7. My Body Is a Cage (Arcada Fire cover) (6:13)
8. The Book of Love (The Magnetic Fields cover) (3:53)
9. I Think It's Going to Rain Today (Randy Newman cover) (2:34)
10. Aprčs moi (Regina Spektor cover) (5:13)
11. Philadelphia (Neil Young cover) (3:46)
12. Street Spirit (Fade Out) (Radiohead cover) (5:06)

Total Time 53:27

Line-up / Musicians

- Peter Gabriel / vocals, piano (4), co-arranger (8) & co-producer

- Melanie Gabriel / vocals (8)
- Jason Rebello / piano (9)
- John Metcalfe / arranger & orchestrator
- Nick Ingman / co-arranger & orchestration (8)
- Will Gregory / co-arranger (8)
- Randy Newman / arranger (9)
- The London Scratch Orchestra / violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flute, bassoon, trumpets, horns, trombones, bass trombones, piano
- Louisa Fuller / orchestra leader
- Ben Foster / orchestra conductor
- Hungarian Orchestra / strings (8)
- Pejtsik Péter / strings conductor (8)
- The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford / chorus vocals (7)
- Clive Driskell-Smith / choir conductor (7)

Releases information

Cover versions of twelve songs by various artists, using only orchestra, piano and voice

Artwork: Steve Gschmeissner (photo) with Marc Bessant (design)

CD Real World Records ‎- PGCD12 (2010, Europe)

Thanks to el rey carmesí for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
Edit this entry

Buy PETER GABRIEL Scratch My Back Music

PETER GABRIEL Scratch My Back ratings distribution

(266 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(11%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(21%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (26%)
Poor. Only for completionists (9%)

PETER GABRIEL Scratch My Back reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by poslednijat_colobar
2 stars Peter, don't scratch by back, please!!!

Peter Gabriel released new album, but regretfully it's not new at all! This new album is called Scratch My Back and consists of covered songs made by PG. Some of the original artists are famous, other not, but the idea is not the type, I'm looking for. The songs are unvaried and the album will only catch my attention, until it's new. After that I'll forget it like many others. So it's time for PG to move on with real new album in his typical manner, to go and attend the induction of Genesis into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame or to do Lamb tour with Genesis. I don't need to be fooled with cover album! 2 stars, but without really bad songs.

Review by chopper
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Those of you familiar with Gabriel's cover of "Strawberry Fields Forever" or the piano version of "Here Comes the Flood" will have some idea of what this CD sounds like. The concept behind the album is that Gabriel records a variety of songs by other artists and the others record one of his songs in return (hence the title). The other artists' songs have yet to appear, so Gabriel's cover versions are the only ones available at the moment.

The songs vary from classics by well-known artists (such as "Heroes" and "The Boy In the Bubble") to songs by lesser known artists such as Bon Iver. All the songs are recorded without guitars and drums and with orchestral backing. In most cases the songs have been slowed down and are sometimes almost unrecognisable - "Heroes" being one example that is barely recognisable apart from the lyrics.

What is recognisable is the quality of Gabriel's voice and it is this quality that sets this album apart. He has chosen a collection of songs which he can apply his emotive vocals to and the outcome is nothing but a triumph - the version of Elbow's "Mirrorball" is one of the most successful. This is an album to sit down and listen to, I would say a "chillout" album but that implies it may be background music, but it is far worthier than that. Highly recommended for fans of the Gabriel voice.

Note that the special edition 2-CD set includes some remixes, a great version of "Waterloo Sunset" and access to 24-bit downloads of the album next month.

Review by lazland
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.

Review by Marty McFly
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Peter Gabriel is maybe old when talking about age, but not when talking about performance. Cover indeed, but done in quite original way (you won't recognize them anymore). String arrangements and only occasionally adventurous singing (most of the times he's quietly speaking/singing). No other instruments makes this even more difficult (from Rock point of view) to approach, but it's decent album.

3(-), not great, not revolutionary, no breakthroughs here, but good anyway. Even from Prog point of view it's nothing special. Album cover is appalling (really), album name is similarly bad for me (and not so connected to album content at all), but even these are covers, they are different. Still covers, but some good is in them.

Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
1 stars Oh dear....Scratch My Back is Gabriels version of cover songs and with the exception of two or maybe three, he manages to totally ruin them. First off he has this tendency to sing in a monotone voice with minimal instrumentation, and some strings ( synthesized strings?). Secondly the monotone dirge and vocal noodling barely changes from one song to the next. It sounds like he is reading to a child but can't wait to get to the end of the chapter so he can close the book and say goodnight! Get me out of here! Whilst some of these artists will be impressed, I am sure others will say thanks but no thanks. The positive spin to this release is that the follow up album " I'll Scratch Yours" will feature the same artists doing Gabriel work. I am sure they will do a much better job.

Don't get me wrong I am a huge Gabriel fan but this offering is largely an insult to most listener's ears. Songs worthy of redemption are the wonderful Bon Iver's " Flume" ( Gabriels best cover) and The Magnetic Fields's " The Book Of Love". In terms of Bowie, Talking Heads, Neil Young, Paul Simon & Elbow etc, do us all a favour and do some real cover songs on the return leg. This is a legitimate one star release and is very poor indeed.

Review by Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars The good thing is that I know nothing at all about all songs listed here before I got this album. So, to me, this album sounded like a new Peter Gabriel album, not a cover. I am a great fan of Peter Gabriel since his tennure with Genesis and also his solo albums. I admired his solo especially when he released his fourth album "Security" whivh I think is an excellent album because he explored his musical boundary to what so called world music, using more percussions in its composition. Peter Gabriel greatest achievement is when he composed 'Signal to Noise' of UP album. I think it's really a brilliant musical composition. It combines great vocal, great string section and great sound effects. Two thumbs up for Peter on that!

The only enjoyable thing about this 'Scratch My Back' album is the vocal quality of Peter Gabriel and the string section through orchestral arrangements. Peter has always been performing very well in his charismatic vocal delivery. Unfortunately the music is so empty and not able to create a compelling nuance like 'Signal to Noise'. Basically there is no magic in the album; everything flows flat, no emotional engagement that binds the music and the listener. It's probably because all songs were not originally created by Peter. It's not a good idea for Peter doing cover version like this.

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Review by Negoba
2 stars Weak but not Completely Meritless

I first listened to samples of Peter Gabriel's SCRATCH MY BACK last year when it was released, and felt a passionate "meh." The overall concept of trading covers using an orchestral "no drums no guitars" approach was moderately interesting. However, the execution seemed lacking - too slow and ponderous, little new added to the pieces. It really seemed like Gabriel was showing his age. Over the last few weeks I've been listening more frequently in anticipation of seeing the New Blood tour this summer. During that time, I've gained a greater appreciation for the album, which does indeed show some creative glimmers but is still a deeply flawed piece of work.

A pivotal track for me was Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble." This song's original leaned heavily on an active, bouncy rhythm - it was all about movement, a feeling of dance. The most active image of movement evoked anywhere on SCRATCH MY BACK would be the slow opening of a flower, or perhaps a dingy army on a slow march. As a big fan of GRACELAND, I was peeved at the arrangement and almost shut the album off after 2 tracks. Now, after about 6-8 listens, I must admit that the completely new approach to that song does shed light into a few new corners. The lyrics open up a bit, the sense of wonder which is a core theme gets to breathe. The original is better, but this is an interesting alternate take. In the end, this is the pattern of the entire album.

Of course, there are high and low moments. "My Body is a Cage" is perhaps the best song. Both the arrangement and Gabriel's performance are more intricate and spooky. Though just as slow and dark as the rest of the album, there is more color to this track. A sense of danger and menace finally emerge, and we're reminded, if only briefly, of the deep talent of the man. On the other hand, "Power of the Heart" is so inane that it would make Shania Twain's ugly junior high school sister blush to perform it. My eyes nearly popped out of my head to learn Lou Reed had penned that drek. Gabriel's arrangement is just as lackluster as the lyrics. Similarly, Gabriel adds nothing to Bon Iver's already downer "Flume."

Some of the songs were unfamiliar to me prior to this album. Elbow's "Mirrorball" boasts interesting lyrics and one of the better uses of the orchestra on the album. Regina Spector's "Apres Moi" and the Talking Heads "Listening Wind" are also solid tracks. Occasionally, it feels like the orchestra is going to really pick up steam, but sadly the pace always dies back down all too quickly. So many times, I yearned for a bit more of PG's signature angst and pathos. We get a few teases but never a true "Rhythm of the Heat" scream. Too often we're instead lulled into sleep.

This album was teetering toward toward 1 star at one point for me, but it's actually sniffing at 3 now. Still, there's virtually nothing prog about this album so it remains at two stars. Especially given how much great material you can get from Gabriel, this is simply un- necessary, unless like me, you own everything the man puts out.

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars This is dangerously close to being a very bad album, and I really wish somebody had been able to talk some sense into Peter as he put this together. In the midst of sorting through dozens of unfinished songs, Peter decided he would take a break and do an album of covers. The idea behind Scratch My Back was that he would do covers of songs by various artists he liked, and then they in turn would cover songs Peter had done, and there could be two albums, Scratch My Back and I'll Scratch Yours out in stores at the same time. In trying to bring this idea to fruition, though, Peter made a major strategic error: he failed to account for the possibility that maybe, just maybe, not everybody on his list of artists would have the time or inclination to cover a Peter Gabriel song, at this late a date, just because he wanted them to. If he really wanted to make this happen, he should have gotten twelve artists on board with agreements to do HIS songs first, and then pick songs from those who volunteered for the task. While some of the corresponding artists came through (Magnetic Fields did a rousing "Not One of Us," and the Paul Simon cover of "Biko" is quite lovely), half of them didn't, and the whole process made Peter look a little foolish.

Not as foolish as the contents of the album, though. Peter decided to impose a restriction on himself - no guitars of any kind, and no drums - and while this could have led to interesting synth layerings intertwined with orchestral elements, Peter uses orchestration almost the entire time (with a very small amount of piano here and there). So that makes this into an orchestral covers album, which doesn't really seem all that impressive when I remember the pleasant-but-mediocre Justin Hayward solo album, Classic Blue, from 20 years earlier. Of course, there is a significant difference between this album and that one; Peter deconstructs a lot of the material into sombre, dirge-like interpretations of the originals, with the melodies stripped down so far they start to lose their melodic core. The worst offender, and the one that I unfortunately heard first, is the closing "Street Spirit" (originally from Radiohead), where Peter almost enters William Shatner territory. It's AWFUL, and makes a higher grade totally out of the question.

There are, I admit, some tracks where I find myself enjoying things a bit. The opening ""Heroes"," where Peter starts on the, "I, I wish you could swim ..." verse, makes this sound like a promising experience, and the cover of Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love" turns a moderately silly song into a moderately melancholy song, to surprisingly good effect. The cover of Talking Heads' "Listening Wind" nails the atmosphere of the original dead on despite having (obviously) a totally different arrangement, and ... uh ..."Mirrorball" (by a band called Elbow) sounds pretty. On the other hand, the rest of the album ranges from fairly unremarkable to really tacky (the bombastic parts of "My Body is a Cage" by Arcade Fire, though the softer parts are kinda nice, or all of "Apres moi" by Regina Spektor).

On the whole, pretty much the only consistent positive is that, even when he's doing an ill- conceived project, Peter's voice is still as addictive as ever, and a large part of me feels happy to have one more medium in which to hear him. But even his voice can't save this: this may have been a project Peter totally believed in and poured his heart into, but when I hear this, I think of David St. Hubbins and his desire to record a few of his acoustic songs with the London Symphony Orchestra. After 40 years, Peter finally made a mediocre album.

Review by Matti
2 stars It's sad that Peter Gabriel, one of my biggest long-time favourites of male singer-songwriters, hasn't released a single proper studio album with new material since Up (2002). Instead there have been various projects based on recycling old material. When this covers album came out -- what, already ten years ago! -- I borrowed the CD from the library, but it was hardly more than a curiosity to me. Years later I listened to, and even reviewed here, the latter half of the project, And I'll Scratch Yours (2013), in which the covered artists cover Peter Gabriel's songs. Although I didn't have a permanent interest for that one either, it was clearly the more interesting one of the two releases. Let's see how I respond to this music now on return.

The crucial reason for my initial disappointment on this release was (and is also now) the determined, unified style of performances, ie. the orchestral but rather introvert arrangements lacking rock instruments. In small doses that approach functions very well. To picture this, I have always preferred the ripped-down versions of 'Here Comes the Flood' over the overproduced 1977 album original. In the beginning of this album, DAVID BOWIE's 'Heroes' and PAUL SIMON's 'The Boy in the Bubble' have nice, calm versions.

The other reason for disappointment was (and is) that those songs I wasn't already familiar with, leave me mostly cold here. And they are a big majority. On the ELBOW song 'Mirrorball' the orchestra gets disturbingly noisy. I have never listened to BON IVER, but PG's version of 'Flume', as pretty as it might be, is just another slow-tempo performance for Peter Gabriel's voice, piano and orchestra. I wasn't familiar with the TALKING HEADS song 'Listening Wind', but its violin-centred version is nevertheless among the few highlights. LOU REED's 'The Power of the Heart': again, on small doses fairly enjoyable orchestral PG delicacy, but not on the long run. ARCADE FIRE and THE MAGNETIC FIELDS, other totally unfamiliar bands to me, other "so what" interpretetations in the exactly same manner. Boooooring.

PG's liner notes reveal that his original choice from RANDY NEWMAN was 'Baltimore' which I would have preferred over the much covered 'I Think It's Going to Rain Today'. The REGINA SPEKTOR song 'Aprés Moi' (in English, despite the French title) has another edgy arrangement which I'm not fond of. Especially the sharp brass instruments sound nasty to me, preventing me to concentrate on the song's essence. 'Philadelphia' sadly isn't among the bunch of NEIL YOUNG songs I know, but in any case I'm fed up with the brass-heavy arrangements at this point. The closing number, RADIOHEAD's 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)' is a good one in its moody delicacy that slightly reminds me of 'The Drop' from the Up album. But the whole is sonically too singular and monotonous to keep the listener interested.

Now that I think of it: can I name a single covers-only album recorded by an artist that I like, that has made a notable impression on me? Bowie's Pin-Ups? Songs from the Mirror by Fish? Tori Amos' Strange Little Girls? No, none of them much stirred me. Among covers albums, I just might have had the most positive feelings for the Finnish troubadour Matti Johannes Koivu's acoustic interpretations of songs by the bygone schlager singer Irwin Goodman -- for whom as the original performer I have no interest whatsoever! Also my namesake himself was a new acquaintance for me at the time. That may seem strange indeed that my long-time favourite artist loses to a black horse like that, but in the end it's all about expectations: on the Peter Gabriel scale, Scratch My Back is a massive disappointment.

Latest members reviews

1 stars Seriously, I'm a fan of Peter Gabriel, but do not throw money. The CD starts with a tremendous great version of "Heroes", but from there do not listen with the lights off because you run the serious risk of sleep. The orchestra sounds without soul, the arrangements are bland and linear, the sel ... (read more)

Report this review (#367563) | Posted by David Saez | Wednesday, December 29, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I agree with previous reviews that the first hearing of this album can be quite difficult, as it gives a first impression that all the items pass a somewhat monotonous rhythms away from the sound that Mr. Gabriel has accustomed us. Since I had the great fortune to enjoy New Blood Tour, my positio ... (read more)

Report this review (#302449) | Posted by el rey carmesí | Wednesday, October 6, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I must say i really love this album. I didn't think much of it when it came out, but as i listen to it more and more, i get a sense of what Peter wants to give us. Much like most of his work, this will be appreciated more and more as time passes. I'll just describe the highlights for me. M ... (read more)

Report this review (#277872) | Posted by juanvalverde | Wednesday, April 14, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars You would think that 40+ years into his career that Peter Gabriel would have nothing new to say. Given that this, his latest release, is also a set of cover tunes, surely retirement to a sedate country life beacons. These assumptions though, are proven to be very much unjust and just pla ... (read more)

Report this review (#269437) | Posted by Progfan1958 | Wednesday, March 3, 2010 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I've been observing the reaction to this recent output by Peter Gabriel, and I've noticed that it has polarized the critics and fans alike. It seems to be one of those "love it or you hate it" works by old Peter. But when you actually sit back and listen, this is a very in depth piece that sim ... (read more)

Report this review (#269111) | Posted by Degree7 | Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Review Permanlink

1 stars WHAT IS THIS?! I believe it was Tolstoy who said art should make you feel like the creator of it when the art was being created (I think). If this is the case, Peter Gabriel must be getting very old. The dirge like vacant arrangements on this album succeed in making a die hard Progressive ... (read more)

Report this review (#267520) | Posted by cemego | Monday, February 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

5 stars A VERY wonderful album indeed. There is an excellent cover of "Philadelphia" by Neil Young from the "Philadelphia" soundtrack, which Peter contributed to, so if the proposed "response" album, tentatively called "I'll Scratch Yours" does materialize, hopefully Neil will cover "Love Street". I was ... (read more)

Report this review (#264062) | Posted by boe_a | Tuesday, February 2, 2010 | Review Permanlink

Post a review of PETER GABRIEL "Scratch My Back"

You must be a forum member to post a review, please register here if you are not.


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.