Peter Gabriel - New Blood
When Scratch My Back (last year's rather fine album of covers) was released, Peter Gabriel was anticipating that the artists he paid tribute to would reciprocate. Sadly, that did not work out as Gabriel had envisaged. Perhaps, as is almost the certainly the case with Radiohead, the artists in question were not over keen on the interpretation of their babies. Undettered, Gabriel decided to take the task upon himself and retired to the studio with an orchestra in tow. New Blood is the result and is an album that, while showcasing Gabriel’s supreme songwriting skills, is occasionally let down by overly long and fussy arrangements.
Opener ‘Rhythm Of The Heat’ provides the perfect example, as the ferocious power of the original is harnessed to great effect before an overbearing and annoying orchestral coda ruins what has come before. Compare that with ‘Downside Up’, with its gently lilting and understated arrangement that lifts the original into a different realm, and you realise that less is sometimes more. This mix is repeated throughout so while you get gems like the genuinely spine-tingling ‘San Jacinto’ or the laid back beauty of ‘Wallflower’ you also have to wade through the likes of the unnecessarily bombastic 'Intruder' or rather pointless run through of ‘Mercy Street’ that just makes you want to revisit the original. The final uplifting take on ‘Solsbury Hill’ is as joyous a way of ending an album as could be imagined and shows just how well this collaboration of voice and orchestra can work - it’s just a shame you have to suffer through five minutes of ambient noise to get to it.
New Blood is an interesting, if not wholly successful, attempt at reinventing his back catalogue but I’m sure I’m not the only one wishing that Gabriel had spent the time producing a new album of original tunes. Maybe he has been sneaky like former collaborator Kate Bush and a new album will hit the shelves early next year. One can only hope.