I was hoping for something more, uh, upbeat when I heard about this. Then again, I should have expected that Peter Gabriel would never do a straight album of cover songs. Scratch My Back was born as an idea that Peter would cover some artists he was intrigued by, and these same artists would cover him. Supposedly there were no rules, at first, but eventually a few fell into place. The album of other artists covering Gabriel isn't done yet.
What I like about this is that it is so different... basically it's PG and the "London Scratch Orchestra," and the one rule that did make it, "no drums or guitars." There's piano, quartet or orchestra (depending on the arrangement), and Gabriel interpreting Coldplay, Radiohead, Paul Simon, Bowie, Talking Heads, Neil Young, etc. He doesn't pick the obvious songs to do, either, but goes for the ones that speak to him (according to his notes). "Heroes," for instance, is a stark version that comes off quite melancholy. In fact, the whole album has a very melancholy feel—just in time for spring! So, though there's no "Sledgehammer" or "Games Without Frontiers" here, there is some very moody, epic, beautiful music on Scratch My Back. Whether you like it is pretty much going to depend on how much you like the string quartet/modern classical music vibe that permeates the affair. I mean, I don't know if you've noticed, but Peter Gabriel and Philip Glass have the same initials. I'm just sayin'...
My friend loaned me his copy because he got the "Special Edition" through Gabriel's website, and it has a second disc with four more songs on it: three remixes of songs on the regular version, and a real nice cover of Ray Davies of The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset." I'm not surprised it was relegated to the deluxe version; it's almost the only song that doesn't exactly get ya down!
Well, whatever, I like this but I know it's one of those albums that I will rarely play because, overall, it's not exactly my cuppa.