Album Review: Peter Gabriel – New Blood

Peter Gabriel’s gorgeous Scratch My Back, a 2010 orchestra-backed homage to artists past and present, has reignited the iconic artist’s creative side. While no song on that record or his latest effort can technically be called new, this is the shortest amount of time between Gabriel albums in over three decades. We’re hoping we’ll see a brand spankin’ new record sooner, rather than later…but maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

New Blood serves as a semi-sequel to Scratch My Back. The “orchestra with no guitars” rule is still in effect, but instead of covering other artists’ tracks, Gabriel has reached back into his own catalogue.

This isn’t a greatest hits dressed up in pretty instrumentation. Instead, Gabriel goes with tracks that were worthy of updated treatment, such as album opener “The Rhythm of the Heat”, which is even more menacing here than its original appearance on Security (or Peter Gabriel’s untitled fourth album for the purists). The tune gets amped up by light trumpet and strings. “Wallflower” features the same beautiful piano, but the additional strings and Gabriel’s aged voice add a new dimension to the work. His cry to “hold on” has never sounded so desperate.

New voices are equally important to New Blood. Gabriel’s duet with his daughter, Melanie, throughout the uplifting, string-swelling “Downside Up”, counters that song’s original incarnation of processed pop sounds. Ane Brun provides another duet for the gentle strings of “Don’t Give Up” but pales in comparison to Gabriel’s original partner on that one, Kate Bush (though to be fair, anyone would). The voices are interesting enough, but it’s the lush instrumentation, arranged by Scratch Your Back’s John Metcalfe, that is the key to New Blood’s success.

The altered instrumentation never interferes with the tracks but instead enhances. Rather than putting out money-grabbing greatest hits albums every five years, other artists should aspire to do what Gabriel has done here on New Blood.  And now we can look forward to that new album. Right, Mr. Gabriel?

Essential Tracks: “Wallflower”, “Downside Up”, “The Nest That Sailed The Sky”


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