Thursday, October 27, 2011


Gabriel's Scratch My Back project has exploded into a whole career phase for the veteran experimenter.  As always, when he tackles something, he knows how to make it big and interesting, plus highly artistic.  The background is that last year, Gabriel released an album of him covering other songwriters.  Those folks (Paul Simon, Regina Spektor, Lou Reed, etc.) are supposed to be sending him back covers of his songs.  So far, only some of the songs have been completed in the And I'll Scratch Yours project.  That left Gabriel with some time.

Oh, and the larger premise was that it wasn't supposed to be standard rock group instrumentation in these covers.  With time in front of him, Gabriel decided to make another disc while waiting, and he decided to try on the concept himself, to see how it would work.  So for New Blood, he went back into his own catalog, and chose songs which could be re-imagined into something non-rock.  He assembled a 40-piece orchestra, and dumped the guitar-bass-drums format the songs were first recorded with.  Some of the tunes were his hits (In Your Eyes, Don't Give Up, Solsbury Hill), while others were somewhat obscure.

You get two versions of the experiment here.  The CD is a studio disc with orchestra, while the DVD is a two-hour plus concert recording back in March, before the album was even finished.  Gosh, the guy really knows how to put together a project.  Here we have the live experience coming out the very same time as the new album, that is fresh-thinking and solid new marketing.  It's also because Gabriel really knows how to do live concerts well these days.

While both of these are worthy, because it's orchestra-based, some of the CD plods a bit, in slower sections.  That's why I prefer the DVD, which also includes twice as many songs.  Several of them are the covers he did on the Scratch My Back disc, including a dark take on Simon's Boy In The Bubble, and the excellent Magnetic Fields tune The Book Of Love, a highlight of that CD, and here.  You also get more Gabriel songs with orchestra, including Biko, Blood Of Eden and Signal To Noise.  Watching an orchestra is more exciting in this situation as well, seeing them build in intensity, especially since this concert was so well-recorded.  Although I just have the DVD, you can also buy it in Blu-Ray and 3D, and a lot of care and a lot of cameras went into the shoot.

The other thing going for the video is that Gabriel always tries to make his concerts different for the audience, at home and in the seats.  Visually, there's lots going on, with screen work and animation.  At home, you see him messing with the on-stage mini-cams and you get cool edit tricks. This is the fifth Gabriel concert DVD set I have, and every one is a treat, the rare discs you can watch a few times.  So, recapping, it's a good idea, the orchestrated versions are a lot more powerful and different than you'd imagine, it's fun to watch, and it's a new concept.  It's all good.

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