Peter Gabriel is releasing an orchestral covers album, his first LP in seven years. Scratch My Back is a "song swap," according to one of Gabriel's collaborators, where the singer and a host of "extremely legendary artists" will cover each other's material.
Gabriel recorded the album at George Martin's Air Lyndhurst studios in London, working with Bob Ezrin, producer of Lou Reed's Berlin, Pink Floyd's The Wall and Gabriel's self-titled 1977 record. "The songs are not simply covers," composer John Metcalfe told BBC 6 Music. "They are major reinterpretations of some famous stuff. It's quite radical."
Metcalfe describes his role as "reinterpreting the music of the songs [Gabriel] has chosen to cover". "[It's] quite onerous, as some of the songs are among the best known in the last 40 years," he said. "The album will be acoustic, using only orchestral instruments (no guitars, drums or world instruments), and range in size from sparse chamber music to a much fuller orchestral sound."
Though Scratch My Back won't be released until spring 2010, fans had their first taste of the project at this summer's Womad festival, when Gabriel performed Paul Simon's "The Boy In The Bubble" with a string section. "There [is material from] some all-time great singer-songwriters and bands," Metcalfe said, "and then there are some bands that are very, very well known from the last 10 years, and one or two more recent bands and singers as well."
Scratch My Back has been described as a tit-for-tat affair, with Gabriel covering artists like Paul Simon and then, presumably, Paul Simon covering a Peter Gabriel song. But the logistics of this have not been confirmed, and it's not clear whether this means it will be a double album.
Fans on Peter Gabriel message boards have pounced upon a Scratch My Back track listing posted by a Japanese distributor. While the page offers few details – and gives a bizarre release date of November 18 – it does list 13 track titles. Among these are songs by Radiohead, Arcade Fire, Lou Reed, Bon Iver, David Bowie, Neil Young and Elbow.
It seems a plausible list, at least for the project's first volley, but as to whether or not it's legitimate? John Metcalfe isn't saying. "I'm not allowed to say who [is included], just yet, but there are some very, very famous singers and bands involved," he said. "There should be something in there for everybody."
Alleged songs on Scratch My Back:
1. Heroes (David Bowie)
2. Street Spirit (Radiohead)
3. The Book of Love (Magnetic Fields)
4. Flume (Bon Iver)
5. My Body Is a Cage (Arcade Fire)
6. Listening Wind (Talking Heads)
7. I Think It's Going to Rain Today (Randy Newman)
8. Après Moi (Regina Spektor or Eartha Kitt)
9. Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks)
10. The Boy in the Bubble (Paul Simon)
11. The Power of the Heart (Lou Reed)
12. Philadelphia (Neil Young)
13. Mirrorball (Elbow)