Scratch My Back - Peter Gabriel
If your watch says Rolex, unless you bought it out of the trunk of a car, chances are you own a finely crafted timepiece. If your next CD purchase is Scratch My Back by Peter Gabriel, produced by Bob Ezrin, you’re at least assured that sonically, it’s going to be a sound investment (forgive the pun). It’s no wonder these two icons of modern music have chosen to combine talents; they have fewer contemporaries left as time passes and each has the God-given right by now to follow his inspiration to the ultimate conclusion. For Gabriel’s part, Scratch My Back is like a theatre sports experiment; for this installment, he records songs he’s passionate about, written by other artists, and on the next installment, they reciprocate by each tackling a classic Gabriel tune. Since he has chosen the challenge, he also gets to choose the medium. Together with Bob Ezrin and the Hungarian Orchestra and The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford, he has reimagined twelve songs in grand fashion, including four remixes. The orchestral arrangements, while sweeping tend to limit the diversity and the dynamics between tracks. This is chamber chill to be sure. But, through his signature whispers and wails Master Gabriel digs deep to wring out convincing performances. Some of the material works better than others in this context. Peter Gabriel links the collection through his personal enthusiasm and admiration for the song craft of each tune, but newer and less familiar tracks like The Book Of Love by The Magnetic Fields and Regina Spector’s Après Moi suffer from the lack of a firmly ingrained comparative to the original. Conversely, David Bowie’s Heroes, especially the remix version is a triumph of symphonic splendor. That’s the thing about a back scratch. It’s just nails on skin until you hit the sweet spot, and then it’s heaven on earth.