Music Review: Peter Gabriel's "Scratch My Back"

3/04/2010 Posted by Admin

Music Review: Peter Gabriel's "Scratch My Back"

By our guest blogger, Sanela Djokovic

Peter Gabriel always has danced beyond the boundaries of mainstream rock ‘n’ roll music. From pushing Genesis into the progressive forefront to delving into innovation with his memorable music videos, Gabriel has never strayed from his own standards of success, even when the 60-year-old’s music has been extremely commercially successful. “Scratch My Back,” Gabriel’s eighth studio album, will sell plenty of albums because of Gabriel’s name alone, but more than anything, it is a clear labor of love and appreciation.

“Scratch My Back” seems as if it's a highly experimental endeavor, but the experiment is conducted by someone at the head of his field, a musician and songwriter who has been in the game for a long time, and who still has the kind of appreciation and zeal for music that leads to great ideas, like the one for his latest album.

Two of the many instruments Gabriel plays include the drums and the guitar, both of which were omitted from the arrangement of this project. Gabriel decided to use only his voice and an orchestra to create symphonic renditions of rock songs from other artists, ranging from Gabriel’s contemporaries to contemporary artists. Most of them, regardless of their era, are ambitious, interesting and talented musicians who have garnered critical acclaim and respect in the industry, but without a lot of the attention, publicity or record sales. Among the more popular songs covered on the album are Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble,” Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” and David Bowie’s “Heroes.” Contemporary artists covered include Radiohead, Regina Spektor, Bon Iver and Arcade Fire.

The orchestration throughout the album does a couple of very special things. First, it is arranged in a way as to not drown out Gabriel’s poignant voice, allowing us to listen to and feel the impact of the lyrics, which are slightly more hidden under the sounds of the original songs. Another special effect is that it brings an epic, cinematic quality to the music and storytelling, enhancing the listener’s connection to the song. Two wonderful examples of this are “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads), whose storytelling is brought to life by the simple elation of the orchestra, and Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage,” whose passionate lyrics are brought to another level.

The album’s first single is Gabriel’s familiar version of “The Book of Love,” from the Magnetic Fields. “Scratch My Back,” will be followed by “I Scratch Yours,” where the featured artists takes on Peter Gabriel songs. It’s sure to be a delightful compliment, but hoping it’s as good as the first part is a tall order.

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