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Following the release of Scratch My Back (2009), where Gabriel covered numerous artists such as David Bowie, Paul Simon (Simon and Garfunkel), Elbow, Bon Iver, David Byrne (Talking Heads), Arcade Fire, Randy Newman, Neil Young and Radiohead with the Blood Orchestra on a charity project produced by Real World Records, the second chapter And I’ll Scratch Yours was released this year on the 23rd September 2013.
It was an on-going work in progress as Peter Gabriel searched high and low for collaborative partners, having personally followed this through every turning point. As it transgressed forward, not only did new volunteers tear out of the woodwork, but those who were moved by his own interpretation wanted to return the favour, hence the title of the albums. Returning were Lou Reed of Velvet Underground (1942 – 2013), Bon Iver, Elbow, David Byrne, Paul Simon, Joseph Arthur (Fists of Mercy, RNDM), Randy Newman and Stephin Merritt (The Magnetic Fields).
New comers Regina Spektor, Leslie Feist (Feist, Broken Social Scene), Brian Eno (Talking Heads) and Timber Timbre came in to replace David Bowie, Neil Young and Tom Yorke of Radiohead who were unavailable to contribute.
Being a cover album, no one was able to anticipate the musical directions each individual would take; and upon listening, my head began to inflate and explode outward from the outstanding magnitude of styles and sounds. It was if my ear drums were leaking musical notes through steam. You literally travel back in time in the eras the artists so hold dear.
Psychotic drones of punk, and 80s New Wave ripped out at you as Lou Reed, Byrne, Arcade Fire, Stephin Merritt and Brian Eno took the stage; Solisbury Hill (Reed) saddened and worn, Mother of Violence (Eno) disturbed, while Not One of Us (Merritt) and Byrne’s I Don’t Remember are eerily positive interpretations of psychotic and social states of being, as if they both knew knowledge of an exit. Arcade Fire strangely manages to keep to the true intentions of Games of Frontiers, except from the fresher eyes of the new generation, as we foresee the outcomes of newer wars.
Not unexpected of Randy Newman, famed for his involvement with film scores for Pixar’s Toy Story (1995), Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc (2001) and Monsters University (2013), with a career expanding fifty-five years in Roots rock; his soft, tailored voice brought a soulful introduction from the album So (1986).
Then, like a newly turned page, a lighter atmosphere faded out the darker concepts. Out popped the sweet tunes of independent material. There was a pluckiness to Come Talk to Me, from Gabriel’s Us by Bon Iver, followed by Regina’s optimistic outlook to Blood of Eden, like an outsider looking into societies problems and finding the solution. Feist ft. Timber Timbre, like a dual reality vocally illustrates social struggle from the insider’s point of view with Don’t Give Up, giving us both sides of the story.
Another page has turned, this time as power ballads, in a similar style to Michael Andrew and Gary Jule’s cover of Mad World, originally released by synth pop duo Tears for Fears, Joseph Arthur sings Shock the Monkey sorrowfully with the classic piano in the background, intermingled with a rumble, not dissimilar to a heartbeat, as if he had personally experienced the aftermath of the events, and was in mourning. Elbow followed suit and with Guy Garvey you can hear the emotion, and how closely he tries to slip into the character’s shoes, a similar trait Gabriel withholds, allowing both vocalists to tell the story they need and want the listeners to hear.
With Paul Simon, there is a sense of reminiscence, like the singer pulling away at the strings of his acoustic guitar is greeting Steven Biko, of Biko (Security, 1982) like an old friend. He is looking back at the events of 1977 as if he were there, but not with bitterness or hate, but with bittersweet hope, because he knows Biko has assisted in opening the world’s eyes to the devastation he lived and wanted to change, and it is changing.
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