While Phil Collins went on to bring Genesis to mainstream fame, I always found Peter Gabriel to be the more interesting and talented of the two.
Of course, Gabriel’s bizarre theatrics and strange lyrical content was always going to clash with the audience Collins’ succeeded at securing. But let’s be frank, Gabriel is the lyrical master behind Genesis’ Foxtrot, one of the greatest progressive rock albums of all time, and that alone makes his solo work worth looking at closely.
And his latest project is no more of a strange endeavor and concept than we’re used to getting from the brains behind such masterpieces as the 23 minute progressive rock piece “Supper’s Ready.”
Scratch My Back features the theatrical Gabriel covering tunes from well-known artists both young and old. But instead of being the typical cover album, Gabriel does his recreations with the help of only an orchestra and no guitars, basses or drums.
The finely seasoned and honestly veteran voice of Gabriel still holds up while belting out his version of David Bowie’s “Heroes” or Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is a Cage,” the latter of which turns out to be one of the most powerful tracks on the album.
While I wasn’t familiar with the original style and sound of every cover on the album, there were a few I had already been accustomed to and a fan of. His cover of Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind” is vocally brilliant and his version of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” is an eerily worthwhile listen.
The backing concept of Gabriel’s Scratch My Back is that in turn, the artists he covered will scratch his back, covering a song of his in return. Now as much as I would love to see the legendary Talking Heads reform and cover a Gabriel tune, it’d be nice to see even David Byrne do a Gabriel rendition. Not to mention Lou Reed and Neil Young.
This album is strong enough to appeal to fans of Gabriel, the artists covered and music as general. It doesn’t get nearly as weird as the costumes Gabriel used to wear when he was the front man of Genesis.
On the other hand, unless you really enjoy orchestral music, the album won’t last in terms of replay. Its luster wears off as a one and done, go back for your favorite track type release. Still, Scratch My Back is a worthwhile recording from a legendary vocalist.