Three years in gestation -- which, in Peter Gabriel time, is a mere handful of months -- And I'll Scratch Yours, the companion piece to the 2010 covers album Scratch My Back, finds most (but certainly not all) of the artists who were interpreted on Gabriel's album returning the favor by tackling the progressive singer/songwriter's back catalog. Not every artist chose to scratch Gabriel's back. Radiohead reportedly were irked by his version of "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" and Neil Young followed his own path away from Gabriel, so Joseph Arthur was drafted to contribute an entirely too moody version of "Shock the Monkey" and, better, Brian Eno dug into the dark, unsettling corners of "Mother of Violence." Eno is a contemporary of Gabriel's -- he contributed to Genesis' masterwork The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway -- and, like on Scratch My Back, the veteran artists provide a better, riskier experience than the younger acts. Generally, the newer artists here -- Bon Iver, Regina Spektor, Arcade Fire, Elbow, Feist; Stephin Merritt is a grand exception with his nervy reading of "Not One of Us" -- favor the moody, foreboding side of Gabriel while his peers prefer to play around. Lou Reed turns the celebratory "Solsbury Hill" into a dirge befitting Magic and Loss (and changes the lyrics to read "my friends would think I was a slut" because, you know, sexual danger), David Byrne seizes upon the new wave disco menace of "I Don't Remember," Randy Newman spins "Big Time" into vaudeville, and, best of all, Paul Simon turns "Biko" into the folk protest anthem it always longed to be. And there are moments scattered among the younger acts worth hearing, too: Arcade Fire retain the ominous, dangerous air of "Games Without Frontiers," Spektor lends a gorgeous shimmer to "Blood of Eden," and Feist retains the delicacy of "Don't Give Up." This doesn't amount to a cohesive record -- although it favors the contemplative, there are too many shifts in mood here from track to track -- but it is without question a worthwhile record, as its best moments are strong, substantive reinterpretations that illustrate just how good a songwriter Peter Gabriel is.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine