I have been listening to Peter Gabriel for nearly 40 years and to this album for a couple of weeks, and it really grows on you.
I saw Scratch My Back at the O2 and frankly was not impressed with the cover versions, the album is even worse, but the second half of the concert livened up and became a good night out, including a great rendition of Solsbury Hill.
Then this CD came out and I was unsure whether Peter had done the right thing. His vocals strain on some tracks (as usual), so occasionally I actually prefer the instrumental versions. But whichever you are listening to, the orchestrations are beautiful, they bring a new dimension to these songs; this is no musak re-working of old favourites, it's a genuine re-interpretation. I can listen to the album repeatedly all day as I work.
Disappointments? Solsbury Hill is always a triumph live, but this version just fails to capture the sparkle of the song, it falls a bit flat. And 'A Quiet Moment'? If I wanted that I could always switch the CD off and I still haven't worked out why there are 2 versions of 'The Nest That Sailed The Sky', perhaps I'm not listening hard enough. But how often do you buy a double CD where every track is brilliant? I can forgive the occasional lapses for the quality of the whole. Beautiful orchestrations, beautiful playing, crisp recording and superb song writing, what more could you ask for?
Successes? Darkness and Intruder are really atmospheric - the orchestra makes them feel even more threatening; San Jacinto is possibly even better than the original, while Red Rain is just astonishing.
Whatever you do don't buy this and listen once, give it a chance to work into your soul and demonstrate that all those old hit songs can have a secret second life as orchestral pieces. Unlike many albums, this just gets better with every listening.
Now Peter, about an album of new songs .......