In February of last year, Peter Gabriel released "Scratch My Back", a series of orchestral covers of hits by various artists. To put it sensitively, the album was poorly done, flat and overall uninteresting.
One would then assume that Gabriel would step away from said orchestral arrangements and return to world music, or better yet the progressive rock stance that made him famous.
Instead, he's gone and done it again.
"New Blood", released Oct. 10, is a 14-track set of orchestral covers. But here's the catch: this time Gabriel isn't covering other artists' work – he's reinventing his own discography.
I'm not sure where this fascination with self-created tribute albums began, but only a few months prior, Ray Davies also tried (and subsequently failed) to score some hits using this formula. It's egocentricity at its finest. The results are always impersonal, empty and generally awkward.
Gabriel now can be added to the ever-growing roster of artists following the trend. He claims he shelved new material he was creating in order to recreate.
The album opens with "The Rhythm of the Heat", a piece with far too sparse an arrangement, leaving the lyrics to stand on their own. Unfortunately, they can't handle the pressure and the song folds into a tense, calculated mess.
"Red Rain" rubs off as far too clichéd with the violin kick and out-of-place Bruce Springsteen wail that forces its way into the chorus. "Don't Give Up" makes me miss Kate Bush.
But worst of all is the closer, "Solsbury Hill". The jaunty Paul Simon-esque charm is exchanged for a theatrical piano churn mixed with a distracting violin line. The cross-armed tough guy on the cover of the 1977 45 sleeve with a leather jacket and contemplative look on his face is long gone. And this new character? He takes away from the original Gabriel's authenticity.
When Alex Chilton was still alive he couldn't find it in him to touch upon his old songs. They no longer resonated with him. He fought to mature in his writing and playing, and he exemplified a true, honest artist. Simon is the exact opposite. He's singing songs he wrote over 30 years ago, and he doesn't emote because he's not emotive. These pieces no longer affect him the way they did when they were written, and that's easy to hear. It all sounds disconnected.
With "New Blood", it's not a matter of measuring these songs against the originals. They pale in comparison. What's troubling is the fact that Peter Gabriel, a visionary artist, had the opportunity to create something new, fresh and beautiful, and instead he toyed with his previous work. He cheapened his own catalog.
Sure, the LP beats "Scratch My Back". But that isn't much of an accomplishment.
© The Daily Campus, by Julie Bartoli