REVIEW: PETER GABRIEL – AND I’LL SCRATCH YOURS…

Peter gabriel - Ill-Scratch-Yours

At long last this second half of a a project started a few years ago sees a U.S. release. Originally Peter recorded an excellent album of cover songs called Scratch My Back that was released in early 2010. The second part of the project was to have those artists covered do covers of Peter’s songs. After many delays, Peter gave up on getting Radiohead, David Bowie or Neil Young to reciprocate and found replacements to get the ball rolling. Since tribute albums can be a mixed bag, I have broken down each cover version separately:

“I Don’t Remember” by David Byrne (of Talking Heads)
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “Listening Wind”
The collection leads off with one of my favorites of the batch. David Byrne has always at the very least been an intriguing musical mind both in Talking Heads and solo. He gives the song a treatment all his own that still retains the spirit of the original while making it something new. It’s got a funky, rhythmic and sort of joyfully naive feel that reminds me why I love Byrne’s own work.

“Come Talk to Me” by Bon Iver
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “Flume”
This is an indie-folk treatment of the song. Very gentle and fairly true to the original, just more indie-sounding. Great backing vocals also.

“Blood of Eden” by Regina Spektor
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “Après moi”
This is a very relaxing piano driven version of the song. Not too many twists to this one. Just imagine her playing the song in piano singer-songwriter pop style and there you go.

“Not One of Us” by Stephen Merritt (of The Magnetic Fields)
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “The Book of Love”
Very quirky rendition with lots of audio trickery that sounds like a mix of early Gary Numan and Hawkwind in their late 70s keyboard era.

“Shock the Monkey” by Joseph Arthur
-substitution since Radiohead and Neil Young failed to reciprocate
I didn’t know who Joseph Arthur is. Apparently he signed to Peter Gabriel’s Real World imprint back in the 90s and is a one-man show. This particular reading of the song is mainly vocals, one electric guitar, and a wall of distortion. It’s spooky and it fits the song to present it this way.

“Big Time” by Randy Newman
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “I Think It’s Going To Rain Today”
Randy Newman is best know for his semi-jazzy piano and voice scores to many mainstream movies including almost anything by Pixar. His voice is definitely an acquired taste. However I was really not able to acquire it, and the version of “Big Time” here is a sort of loosely jumbled around piano version, as though he’s reading the words from paper and trying to remember where they go.

“Games Without Frontiers” by Arcade Fire
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “My Body Is a Cage”
Another absolute winner here. Arcade Fire finds itself much in a similar world as Peter Gabriel when it comes to sonic exploration. This could have just as easily come from their newest album Reflektor. They have a lot of fun with the song but keep it within the mood of the original while making this version their own.

“Mercy Street” by Elbow
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “Mirrorball”
Elbow really could have covered any of Peter’s songs. Lead singer Guy Garvey could almost be a vocal doppelganger at times. Elbow kept the music side of this simple but lush like their own songs, while the vocal delivery is like a big warm blanket.

“Mother of Violence” by Brian Eno
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of David Bowie/Brian Eno’s “Heroes”
What would you expect from Brian Eno? The man is a legend for his experimentation in sound and what he has lent to the likes of David Bowie and Talking Heads alone. He takes a little known early piano and voice tune and turns it into something a bit nightmarish and dystopian sounding. Thumbs up!

“Don’t Give Up” by Feist feat. Timber Timbre
-substitution since Radiohead and Neil Young failed to reciprocate
While Feist has beautiful vocals, this version reads more like a lullaby. Leslie Feist and the lead vocalist of Timber Timbre trade off genders from the original. But it is kept pretty and never really soars to the emotional highs of the original. I realize that is a harsh comparison, considering that the original may very well be my favorite song Gabriel ever recorded. It is good, it just didn’t move me like the original.

“Solsbury Hill” by Lou Reed
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “The Power of the Heart”
How can I say this? I can’t really listen to Lou Reed’s voice. I realize the man was an extraordinary songwriter. I realize he has legions of fans that may chase me down for giving a bad review. But this version is just so messy and all over the place, with the lyrics being warbled all out of place over a lot of distorted guitar. It doesn’t fit the song. Definitely my least favorite in the bunch.

“Biko” by Paul Simon
-in reciprocation for Peter’s cover of “The Boy in the Bubble”
This one works. I don’t listen to Paul Simon much but I have an appreciation for him and what he does. The song is obviously on topic with songs of his own, and he strips the song down to a simple acoustic rendering to bring focus to the lyrics. I really enjoyed this one.

A large part of how much you will like this collection is based on how big of a fan you are of the artists covering Peter. It is definitely one of the more interesting covers collections I’ve heard in a while. It works more often than it doesn’t. But let’s face it, you’ll probably pick this up because you have everything else by Peter Gabriel. Guilty!

Pick up “And I’ll Scratch Yours” HERE:

CD | MP3 | Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours 2CD SET | Scratch My Back And I’ll Scratch Yours (MP3 SET) | Scratch My Back & I’ll Scratch Yours (VINYL SET)

And check out some related videos:

And I’ll Scratch Yours – Album Sampler:

Elbow – “Mercy Street” & “Mirrorball” – album talk:

David Byrne – “Listening Wind” – album talk:

Bon Iver – “Come Talk to Me” – album talk:

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: