Peter Gabriel & Various Artists, “And I’ll Scratch Yours”
Many veteran artists record cover albums, but credit Peter Gabriel with cooking up a clever concept.
In 2010 he released “Scratch My Back,” which found the former Genesis frontman reinterpreting songs both familiar and obscure by artists he admired. Now comes part two, naturally called “And I’ll Scratch Yours,” in which those artists return the favor by covering songs from Gabriel’s repertoire. (Well, not all of them. Radiohead and David Bowie skipped the reciprocity. Feist and Joseph Arthur pick up the slack.)
The versions vary wildly in style and sound, though most remain true to the melodies at the heart of Gabriel’s songs.
The late Lou Reed goes full grunge and fuzz for his take on “Solsbury Hill,” replacing the original’s sweep with a more noisily claustrophobic vibe. Arthur brings out the menace and dread of “Shock the Monkey” in a spare, slowed-down take. Elbow evokes the misty ambiance of the original “Mercy Street” while putting its own stamp on it. Arcade Fire goes big with “Games Without Frontiers.” And David Byrne gets whimsical and dreamy on “I Don’t Remember.” With other contributions from folks like Bon Iver, Regina Spektor, Randy Newman, and Paul Simon, it’s an interesting, if uneven, experiment but Gabriel fans will likely find versions that scratch their itch. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL David Byrne, “I Don’t Remember”