Sunday, May 30, 2010


When Peter Gabriel first announced his Scratch My Back album of orchestral covers, he also mentioned that he'd be curating a collection called I'll Scratch Yours, with those same artists covering Peter's songs. But he's actually taking a more modern approach: releasing one digital "split-single" each month, with a song from Scratch My Back, backed by a reciprocal cover by the artist he is covering. The problem is, iTunes hasn't promoted these singles at all, so you have to know to look for them.  That's why I'm here.  I have them all (so far), let me tell you what I think.

Also, I have to say that when I discussed this album on SIRIUS XM OutQ's The Morning Jolt With Larry Flick, I was kind of not into the album, which is odd for me, as I have enjoyed every Peter Gabriel album up until this point. Taken as a whole, it can be kind of slow and pretentious. But taken as singles, I like it better. I've warmed up to it a bit.

Anyway, the first split single featured Magnetic Fields' frontman Stephin Merritt covering "Not One Of Us" from Peter's third album. It's probably the best of the covers so far.  It has some added emotional context because it was recorded right after California voted against gay marraige. I am not a Magnetic Fields fan, but I was impressed by the song. Plus, Peter's cover of their "The Book Of Love" is maybe my favorite song on the album, and that inspired me to get the original, which I like. I prefer Peter's version, actually.

The second was Paul Simon's cover of the classic "Biko."  I actually love this one also.  I think it is the best thing Paul Simon has done in ages. He's singing and playing a moving song on acoustic guitar.  It sounds like it could have been his song.  (In contrast, I did not like Peter's cover of Paul's "The Boy In The Bubble," one of my favorite Paul Simon songs).

Next was Bon Iver's version of "Come Talk To Me," a song that originally featured Sinead O'Connor from the excellent Us album. Bon Iver one of the indie rock bands that I've heard in the past few years that I've kind of enjoyed. "Come Talk To Me" is one of my favorite Peter Gabriel songs, and Bon Iver really take it somewhere else, but I like this new interpretation. Peter's version of Bon Iver's "Flume"?  I think it would work well in an indie film, but I don't love it on its own.

Lou Reed covered Peter's "Solisbury Hill."  Supposedly, Peter wrote this after leaving Genesis to start his solo career, so I figured Lou Reed would identify with it.  I am a fan of Lou's, but I didn't dig his version of this classic. Meanwhile, Peter's verison of a relatively recent Lou Reed song, "The Power Of The Heart," was positively moving.  It's a side of Lou Reed most people aren't familiar with.

The latest release is Elbow's "Mercy Street," an under-appreciated song from So. The singer sounds  bit like Peter Gabriel in parts, I think the version is pretty good. I don't love Peter's verison of their "Mirrorball." This is my least favorite split single so far.

Peter's website reports that next month we'll get David Byrne's cover of "I Don't Remember." It's one of his more rocking songs (it's from the classic third album), I'm interested to hear what Byrne does with it.

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