It’s an art to know when to stop, when to retire. Mr. Gabriel miss that moment. And don’t get me wrong, I love Peter Gabriel from their Genesis debut “From Genesis to Revelation” in 1969 up till “Up” in 2002. “Scratch My Back” in 2010 was an interesting experiment and I was looking for this announced “vice versa” type of album where the covered artists of “Scratch My Back” will re-literate their versions on some Gabriel favorites. Meanwhile we had “New Blood” in 2011, an album consists of orchestral re-recordings of various tracks from throughout Gabriel’s career. An interesting experiment, but honestly, not ground breaking and not so interesting as I expected to be. Originally, Gabriel planned on re-recording the songs with home-made instruments, which sound much more interesting then a classic symphonic re-arrangement, but that idea was dropped because Gabriel didn’t “find the range and tone of expression available in existing instruments”.
“I’ll Scratch Yours” kind of eviscerate totally the life and nerve from the original recordings and serve us some pale, lifeless, diluted, tasteless, “dried up and dead” versions of those magic and unforgettable songs. Imagine that you’re in a completely dark room drinking a quality, strong scotch and someone switch-up your glass and you’re expecting that strong taste of scotch, but instead you got served with lemonade.
The original concept was that “And I’ll Scratch Yours” (originally announced as I’ll Scratch Yours) would serve as a companion piece to Gabriel’s 2010 covers album “Scratch My Back”. The idea was to give the artists whose songs Gabriel covered on “Scratch My Back” a medium to reciprocate – “And I’ll Scratch Yours” would feature those artists covering Gabriel’s songs. However, several of the artists ultimately declined to record covers of Gabriel’s material. I think the great absents here are Radiohead, David Bowie and Neil Young. The artists who decided to cover some of the Gabriel’s most appreciated songs did not live up to expectations. Unfortunately. In fact this is one of the worst cover albums I ever heard.
01 – I Don’t Remember (with David Byrne)
02 – Come Talk to Me (with Bon Iver)
03 – Blood of Eden (with Regina Spektor)
04 – Not One of Us (with Stephin Merritt)
05 – Shock the Monkey (with Joseph Arthur)
06 – Big Time (with Randy Newman)
07 – Games without Frontiers (with Arcade Fire)
08 – Mercy Street (with Elbow)
09 – Mother of Violence (with Brian Eno)
10 – Don’t Give Up (with Feist feat. Timber Timbre)
11 – Solsbury Hill (with Lou Reed)
12 – Biko (with Paul Simon)
Talking Heads’s David Byrne open the record with his take on “I Don’t Remember”. The beat is good and the electronic/minimalist arrangement is halfway between new wave and retro-industrial. Sound alright, but still, the song don’t have the drive and the power of the original, on the other hand it’s one of the best tracks of the album.
Bon Iver bring to life a neo-folk version of “Come Talk to Me”, it’s more Bon Iver then Gabriel and it’s nice, but boring like a lullaby. Perfect for the soundtrack of a good afternoon nap, but only take away from the original rather then gave to it a new dimension.
I had high expectations from Regina Spektor, but her take on “Blood of Eden” lack the vibration and power of the original. It’s too sentimental, don’t really reach the depth of the Gabriel’s original. Once again, it’s only a nice song, nice and fade.
Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields bring to the surface an 80ish type of new version of “Not One of Us”. Fun, but not really impressive or memorable. The synth groove it’s minimalist, monotone and on long term inexpressive, lost its focus.
Joseph Arthur of Fistful of Mercy and RNDM delivered his version of “Shock the Monkey”. The song sound and feel emasculated, lost its original power and guts, it’s a fake artistic statement with its distorted acoustic guitar and white noises.
Pianist Randy Newman proposed a jazzy, cabaret flavored version of “Big Time”, the approach it’s interesting, but lack the energy and explosion of the original. Not bad, but not really outstanding too.
Arcade Fire raped and mocked “Games without Frontiers”. Well, I would not release it. Sound like it was recorded with a mobile phone in an empty cellar or club at the sound check. Eventually from upstairs. Very messy, out of focus and once again, they wanna be more artistic then they really are and that makes them even more fake.
Elbow tried their luck with a version of “Mercy Street”. Very soft, almost naked, minimalist and meditative. Not bad.
Brian Eno had played around with “Mother of Violence” and it’s an interesting trip to the fields of sonic experiments. Probably not Eno’s best moment, but still an intense, contorted trip, at least Eno still feels and sound genuine, don’t try pretend to be someone else.
Feist featuring Timber Timbre covered “Don’t Give Up”. Interesting. Not completely different from the original, but smoothly different. It’s probably a matter of taste and I’m probably too get used to with the original to enjoy this one.
Lou Reed seems stuck at the “Lulu” state of mind – and sound – and “Solsbury Hill” it’s build upon a distorted guitar riff. It’s cool for one or two minutes, but horrible for five. Only Reed’s voice is still the same. Nice singing, terrible guitars.
Paul Simon’s “Biko” closing the album. Pretty boring interpretation, instantly forgettable.
Overall a boring and forgettable release, as I said, the worst cover album I ever heard. And I love covers. Gabriel had a remix site, there Gabriel could find hundreds of exciting, bold, ground breaking tracks and from there would be easy to select a couple of talented artists and producers who could deliver some really interesting tracks and takes instead this fade and mainly quite uninspired versions.
Don’t even borrow it, not worth the effort. Better listen – or do – your own version of “Shock the Monkey” HERE.