Thursday, March 17, 2016

Peter Gabriel: Scratch My Back / And I'll Scratch Yours (2013)

I can hear the distant thunder of a million unheard souls

- Blood of Eden, Peter Gabriel

This is a double LP containing the previously-released Scratch My Back from 2010 and And I'll Scratch Yours from 2013. This LP came with bonus CDs containing all of the songs from the record. It's well known that some of the artists that Gabriel covered on Scratch My Back did not reciprocate, so other artists had to be recruited to fill in the gaps on And I'll Scratch Yours. If you have heard New Blood, then Gabriel's arrangements of the tracks he covers will not surprise you at all. They are very similar, using orchestra and vocals. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I do like his versions, for the most part.

But, before I get to that, I have to say that I am miffed. Now, this record normally sells for $30+. I have seen new copies for $45, or so. I was lucky enough to find a new sealed copy for $9.99, a deal that I could not refuse. I am willing to let the folded inner sleeve go without too much of a complaint. That happens. But, one of the labels on one of the records was adhered incorrectly in an off-centre position. This means that one has to lift the stylus at the end of the side before it careens across the paper label. I have found "Inspected by" labels in records in days gone by. What ever happened to quality control?

I should also mention that I do have some vintage records with the same issue, but they could easily be replaced for a few dollars. My copy was a final sale, so I couldn't take it back. I suppose this is a good enough reason to always open your records after you buy them. Some people have what they consider to be expensive records and they leave them sealed, but you never know if the record inside is in good shape or even the right record.

Another double LP in my collection has an irritating error. Record one and record two have the same inner sleeve. Fortunately, the set contains the correct records, but the proper inner sleeve for record two is missing, and so are the lyrics and any notes. That was also irritating, and I lost the receipt. This also reminds me of a John Cale CD that I own. When I bought Seducing Down the Door, it had two copies of disc one and no copy of disc two. I was able to get that replaced.

Anyway, back to this double LP. The worst track on this record is Randy Newman's take on Big Time. This song is a massive disaster. It sucks so badly, it's genuinely impossible to listen to it. It's a clinic of how not to sing a song. Hell, I am no singer, but I could seriously do a better job. I was unable to find this song on Youtube, so maybe he came to his senses and is trying to purge it from the internets.

On the other hand, Lou Reed's version of Solsbury Hill is a triumph. However, some of the cover versions are so faithful, I wondered why they bothered. We really don't need Paul Simon phoning in a boring version of Biko. Feist's version of Don't Give Up is almost good. There are a few surprises, like Joseph Arthur's version of Shock the Monkey and Stephin Merritt's Not One of Us. I have to say that Arcade Fire's interpretation of Games Without Frontiers is pedestrian.

On the Peter Gabriel side, I think he did a good job overall, but I didn't hear anything that was mind bending. Still, this is something every Gabriel fan should own.

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