In 2010, Peter Gabriel released an album of covers called "Scratch My Back," featuring his take on songs by Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Lou Reed and others, and intended to follow it with an album of those artists covering his songs. Well, it took nearly four years to gather what he needed to keep his promise, but much of "And I'll Scratch Yours" (Real World) is certainly worth the wait.
Paul Simon's version of "Biko" is more tender than Gabriel's original, lamenting the death of anti-apartheid activist Stephen Biko with acoustic guitars and sweet string sections. Where Gabriel is defiant, Simon is more fragile and emotional.
Joseph Arthur's reworking of "Shock the Monkey" is haunting and desperate, removing the telltale synth riffs and dramatic rhythms and replacing them with a layer of rumbling guitar that puts all the focus on the lyrics and Arthur's yearning delivery. Reed turns the wistful
"Solsbury Hill" into a stomping, snarling piece, filled with guitar roar.
It's that combination of a new artist's work and Gabriel's original ideas that makes "And I'll Scratch Yours" so interesting, though some of the compilation's artists do well by simply moving the songs to the artistic ground they normally mine.
Arcade Fire's take on "Games Without Frontiers" places the Gabriel song in the same
retro-dance vibe of their album "Reflektor," while Bon Iver's "Come Talk to Me" could have come from "Bon Iver, Bon Iver."
Though some of the inventions don't quite match the originals, most of "And I'll Scratch Yours" keeps Gabriel's experimental spirit.
"And I'll Scratch Yours"
THE GRADE B
BOTTOM LINE An interesting, but uneven, reimagining of Gabriel's work.