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Scratch My Back
Peter Gabriel

Scratch My Back

Scratch My Back is the eighth studio and fourteenth album overall by the English musician Peter Gabriel, his first in eight years. It was released on 12 February 2010 in Australia and Germany, on 15 February in the UK and on 2 March in the U.S. The album, recorded at Air Lyndhurst and Real World Studios during 2009, consists of cover versions of twelve songs by various artists, using only orchestra and voice. It is produced by Gabriel himself with Bob Ezrin.As one reviewer described it, "covers albums don’t get any more idiosyncratic or high concept than Scratch My Back."

Scratch My Back is released on compact disc and digital download; a vinyl edition was subsequently released in late March 2010.

The album performs well on the album charts around the world. Since its release it has peaked at #1 in Belgium, #2 in Germany and Canada, and #3 in the Czech Republic, Italy and Switzerland.It also reached the top 5 in France and Sweden. In Gabriel's native U.K. it peaked at #12 on the UK Albums Chart on 21 February 2010.

The idea behind the Scratch My Back project is a song exchange where each artist would cover one of Gabriel's songs in return for his covering one of theirs; the other artists' renditions of Gabriel's songs will appear on a later album entitled I'll Scratch Yours.

“ If you’re going to reinterpret something, then really do something. Nail your colors to the mast and say, ‘This is different, and it isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. ”
—Peter Gabriel, on Scratch My Back.

According to Gabriel, although he and arranger John Metcalfe had talked about Arvo Pärt and Steve Reich as inspiration, it was the work that Metcalfe did on "Heroes" that "gave us the confidence to be bold in the way in which we were going to approach the record." "Heroes" became the opening track because "without any of the drive of guitar and drums…it builds an enormous tension that bursts open."

Cover art
The cryptic image on the album cover is actually a micrograph of two red blood cells folding over each other, or, depending on your point of view, colliding with each other.The image was shot by photographers David Hiscock and Nadav Kander. Not coincidentally, the name of Gabriel's supporting tour for the album is "The New Blood Tour".

Track listing
# Title Original artist Length
1. "Heroes" David Bowie 4:10
2. "The Boy in the Bubble" Paul Simon 4:28
3. "Mirrorball" Elbow 4:48
4. "Flume" Bon Iver 3:01
5. "Listening Wind" Talking Heads 4:23
6. "The Power of the Heart" Lou Reed 5:52
7. "My Body Is a Cage" Arcade Fire 6:13
8. "The Book of Love" The Magnetic Fields 3:53
9. "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" Randy Newman 2:34
10. "Après moi" Regina Spektor 5:13
11. "Philadelphia" Neil Young 3:46
12. "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" Radiohead 5:06

Special Edition bonus disc
# Title Original artist Length
1. "The Book of Love" (Remix) The Magnetic Fields 3:40
2. "My Body Is a Cage" (Oxford London Temple version) Arcade Fire 6:03
3. "Waterloo Sunset" (Oxford London Temple version) The Kinks 3:49
4. "Heroes" (Wildebeest mix) David Bowie 4:06

The first split single from the album is "The Book of Love" — Gabriel's cover of a Magnetic Fields song, backed with "Not One of Us" — Stephin Merritt's (The Magnetic Fields' frontman) cover of a Peter Gabriel song. It was released digitally on 30 January 2010. Gabriel's version of "The Boy in the Bubble" backed with Paul Simon's version of "Biko" is expected to be the second release on 28 March 2010 available for download. Next singles are going to be released each following full moon.

Peter Gabriel – vocals, piano on "Flume"
John Metcalfe – arranger
The London Scratch Orchestra – violins, violas, cellos, double basses, flute, bassoon, trumpets, horns, trombones, bass trombones, piano
Melanie Gabriel – vocals on "The Book of Love"
Jason Rebello – piano on "The Power of the Heart"
The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – choir on "My Body Is a Cage"
Professional ratings
Source Rating
BBC (favourable)
The Daily Telegraph
Drowned in Sound
The Guardian
The Observer
Pitchfork Media (4.5/10)
Slant Magazine
The Times
This section needs to be expanded using prose. See the guideline for more information. (February 2010)

Scratch My Back received generally positive reviews from most music critics. At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, it received an average score of 69 based on 8 reviews.

According to Pitchfork, "every song on Scratch My Back, regardless of its original tone or meaning, is flattened out and turned into this one melodramatic and depressing thing"; although the album "sounds earnest professional", it consists of "ponderous, dull, and ultimately pointless versions of songs that sound much better elsewhere."

In Metro, Arwa Haider awarded the album 3 stars out of 5 and commented: "Its most impressive quality is sensitivity; these are elegant orchestral arrangements … It’s sporadically successful; Gabriel saps the life from Paul Simon’s The Boy in the Bubble and somehow over-eggs Arcade Fire’s My Body Is a Cage" and concluded "this is exceptionally classy karaoke."

Stephin Merritt, who wrote “The Book of Love”, commented on Gabriel's cover of his song in a March 2010 review:

At first I thought, ‘How hilarious, he’s got a completely different take on the song. But after a few listens I find it quite sweet. My version of the song focuses on the humor, and his focuses on the pathos. Of course, if I could sing like him I wouldn’t have to be a humorist.

Chart performance
Chart (2010) Peak
Austrian Albums Chart 11
Belgian (Flanders) Albums Chart 13
Belgian (Wallonia) Albums Chart1
Canadian Albums Chart 2
Czech Republic Albums Chart 3
Danish Albums Chart 15
Dutch Albums Chart10
Finnish Albums Chart 41
French Albums Chart 4
German Albums Chart 2
Irish Albums Chart 22
Italian Albums Chart 3
Mexican Albums Chart 80
Norwegian Albums Chart11
New Zealand Albums Chart 15
Portuguese Albums Chart 13
Spanish Albums Chart11
Swedish Albums Chart 5
Swiss Albums Chart 3
UK Albums Chart[12

Release schedule
Region Date Record label
Australia 12 February 2010Real World Records/Virgin Records
United Kingdom 15 February 2010
Mainland Europe
Canada 16 February 2010 Universal Music
United States 2 March 2010 Real World Records
Brazil 15 March 2010 EMI

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