New Blood CD
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New Blood is a continuum of Peter’s previous Scratch My Back album - the song-swap project where he covered the songs of others, all to an orchestral backing. Thanks to the precise arrangements by John Metcalf and Peter, the treatment was so successful that Peter very quickly knew where he wanted to take it next, and work began to apply the same principals to his own songs.
Great care has been taken, and much discussion shared, in deciding what songs were included on New Blood. It wasn’t simply a case of giving the big numbers an orchestral re-rub. Indeed, some of the big hits are missing in favour of lesser-known material. But the intention wasn’t a deliberate obliqueness; it was more a case of finding the songs that would be enhanced by the massed strings, brass, woodwind and percussion.
“The orchestra provides different dimensions to the music that weren’t there initially,” confirms Peter. “Rock artists work slowly in studios, building up layer by layer, and one of the great, powerful advantages of an orchestra is all these musicians playing at one moment with all sorts of colours and personalities.”
And in front of orchestra, taking centre stage when necessary, retreating into the shadows when not, is Peter’s rich voice. Retaining its trademark emotive power, it returns to lyrics written 20 or 30 years ago, reinvesting them with new meaning and heightened poignancy.
Last year's Scratch My Back saw Peter Gabriel reimagining his favourite songs by other artists - from Bowie to Bon Iver, Elbow to Paul Simon - via orchestral arrangements. No drums, no bass, no guitars. Taking that exquisite, elegiac work on tour - with the gigantic New Blood orchestra - necessitated adding some of his own material, similarly refashioned. So this time he's covering, if you will, his own stuff - radically reshaping it into forms both grander and sparser. Like its predecessor, New Blood is sonically minimalist but emotionally huge. The songs' raw nerves are laid bare, their emphases subtly altered and re-lit.
He doesn't simply revamp the obvious calling-card numbers: there's no Sledge Hammer or Games Without Frontiers, for example, and Biko isn't included despite a stirring rendition in the sibling 3D concert movie. Don't Give Up is here, with Ane Brun tackling the Kate Bush parts with a Björk-like tremble that seems jarring on first listen but increasingly moving with each return visit. More often than not, Gabriel appears intent on shifting the surface and context of the songs as much as possible. The Rhythm of the Heat without percussion is an insane idea on paper, but the 46-piece orchestra work their fingers to the bone finding equally valid ways to drive it forward. San Jacinto is completely unaffected and profoundly affecting, Gabriel's sandy, soulful voice somehow both understated and magniloquent.
There's a groundswell of opinion among fans and critics that his third solo album, usually known as Melt, was his finest, and its intense, twitchy, paranoid opening track Intruder is here lean and streamlined, its breathy presence even more accentuated. Arranger John Metcalfe realises Gabriel's ambitions throughout, whether it's on the comparatively jaunty Solsbury Hill or the sweeping power of Red Rain. And they can shuffle In Your Eyes all they like, but its chorus remains stoically hooky and uplifting.
Ever curious, Gabriel inserts five minutes of 'ambient noise' - in truth, near-silence - recorded on, where else, Solsbury Hill, by the name of A Quiet Moment. This album's a string-driven thing swinging between bravado and bleakness, and always beautiful.
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Top Customer Reviews
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 .......
New Blood sounds a similar project, an album of orchestral versions, but this time of Gabriel's own songs. I like it, and some songs are brilliantly done. But there is much less of a sense of reinterpretation. Why keep the bass-line from Don't Give Up? Or the tinkling from Mercy Street? Or the twinkling spashy opening to Red Rain? Sometimes it feels like the score has just been handed round, but with the parts changed from electric to acoustic instruments. So the strings are taking the hi-hat rhythm, the bass is doing the drums, the wind the synth section. If you listen online to his version of Secret World on the New Blood tour, you can see this evidently. If it had been someone else's song, and he'd covered it on Scratch My Back, you can be sure they rhythm would have been jettisoned in favour of a more simple bash at the melody. Instead, a whimsical piano and percussion riff runs through the whole thing, in exactly the same way as the synth and drum riff did in the original.
Perversely then, I feel like some of the versions make unnecessary changes to the fabric of the originals. Why cut the last minutes, the climax of Downside Up, when you have a minute-and-a-half long instrumental opening? Why change and simplify the slow chorus of Digging in the Dirt? Why does Ane Brun not pronounce the 'p's in Don't Give Up? Or Don't Give U' as it might now be titled. On the tour, Solsbury Hill had rather a fun ending, interpolating Beethoven's 9th and other classical tunes - not here.Read more ›
I've seen most of the tours including a trek to Bochum in Germany to watch him mainly because my recently separated wife had grown a pointy nose, started cackling and riding a broomstick and would be taking her cuckolding partner with her to the UK shows.
I've lived 'So' first hand through a traumatic time.... but
Of late the man has seemed to have lost his muse..
So I waited and waited and finally got the CD in the sales for 4.99 Great British Pounds that I knew it would soon sink to after a couple of months only to see it fall to 2.99 a week later.
I bought the CD after seeing the man on Jools Holland's show where he was brilliant.
I did not want to enjoy this music simple because I loved the original so much.
BUT I have to say this is an enjoyable collection.
I am enjoying it much much better than I ever thought.
I came to conclusion that I loved the originals BUT in the past have paid to see and hear them be sung live in Peter's concerts in variety of styles with a variety of different guest backing or joint vocalist.
(I'm thinking of Youssou N'Dour's soaring vocals on In your Eyes to name just one here.)
So this is just another extension of that.
But this has a slightly bitter twist.
Peter has aged.. So have we all and at the same rate.
I believe he has reached a point in his life and career where he can look back.
Relive his triumphs and failures and how each has tempered and forged his music and songs over these decades. He is coasting but he has every right to.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Everything about this album is just unbelievably great. PG is a genius.Published 5 months ago by Ms. D. G. Winer
I loved it but I am a Peter Gabriel fan. Not sure about the female singer which I think is his daughter. She is no Kate Bush. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Mr. David Brown