album review by Tyler Finigan
After eight quiet years without the “sledgehammer”, ’80s rock legend, Peter Gabriel re-enters the music scene with his latest album Scratch My Back.
Fans of Gabriel’s earlier work may feel cheated, as this album solely consists of orchestral covers fronted by Gabriel’s vocals. As disappointing as this may sound, disappointment is the last thing that crosses the mind when listening to the powerful and soothing sounds of Gabriel and the music.
Scratch My Back is as about as original as a cover CD can get. Unlike most cover albums, Gabriel has taken the original tunes from their creators and completely re-imagined them into musical arrangements making the originals almost unnoticeable. The songs which have originally been recorded with drums and guitars have been replaced by the lulling whispers of string and piano sections. Among these orchestral re-imaginations are some of rocks most underrated/overlooked songs such as “Street Spirit” (RadioHead) and “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon).
Within the first minute of the opening track (“Heroes Made Famous” by David Bowie), you are introduced to Gabriel’s voice by an establishing violin which ever so gently snowballs into an upbeat trance. It lulls you in and then hits you with Gabriel’s iconic singing style near the end of the song. This sets you up for the rest of the album as most songs on the album share the same formula.
The combination between movie worthy scores and Gabriel’s howl that we see in “Apres Moi” and “My Body is a Cage”, makes you think of Peter’s counterpart and former bandmate, Phil Collins and his work with Tarzan. Despite the similarity in their style, Gabriel takes the cake with his overpowering presence in each and every track on the CD. With only a few pitchy exceptions during the album, there’s no reason to doubt Gabriel’s skill as an artist and his former role as Genesis frontman over drummer Phil Collins. As much as this album strays away from anything we know as Peter Gabriel. The tunes aren’t as catchy as “Sledgehammer” or as foot tapping as “Solsbury Hill” but they do leave you wanting more and quenches the thirst that has been plaguing fans of Gabriel for the past eight years. Gabriel fans everywhere with any respect for the man as an artist will enjoy the simplicity and originality of the album and due to its ode to past and present rock groups, the CD will inspire new Gabriel fans.