x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back

Fans of the former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel might at first feel a little cheated by the singer's latest album: it's entirely made up of cover versions.

Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back features unique interpretations of some of rock's hidden gems.
Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back features unique interpretations of some of rock's hidden gems.

Fans of the former Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel - who has released only two full-length solo albums in the past 20 years - might at first feel a little cheated by the singer's latest album: it's entirely made up of cover versions. But anyone fearing a bunch of cynically rehashed rock numbers from the 1970s and 1980s will be relieved. Other than the opener (David Bowie's Heroes), most of the songs Gabriel takes on are not huge hits, but hidden gems tucked away in the crevices of your favourite albums. And like many of the best cover albums, the versions contained within offer wildly unique interpretations of the originals. They feature no drums or guitars - apparently the musician now only has ears for the orchestra. Arranged by The Durutti Column's John Metcalfe, the album has several stunningly spooky interpretations, the best of which include Flume (Bon Iver), The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon) and Philadelphia (Neil Young). But as well as powerful strings, the album also shows off the soulfulness of Gabriel's often-overlooked voice. Not all the versions work, however. His take on My Body Is a Cage - hands down, Arcade Fire's worst song - is somehow even stodgier than the original. And while Gabriel purists will believe that his cover of Radiohead Street Spirit (Fade Out) is a solid artistic interpretation, many others will feel that it moves dangerously close to the painfully ambling vocal performances of William Shatner. Despite some dips, the album never gets boring - even in spite of the strict uniformity of its approach. Later this year the project will continue with Scratch Yours, on which the artists featured here will return the favour on their favourite Gabriel tracks.