Oh dear Lord. Peter Gabriel's coming out of the musical woodwork to release an album of covers that is musically nothing more than the man's voice, a piano, and a full orchestra? Sounds to me that Mr. Gabriel is doubling down, going all out to try and seduce my heart to the point that it will be wanting to pull on its own heartstrings for mercy.
When It Works:
Even though Gabriel completely misses the cheekiness in the lyrics with his delivery, his rendition of the Magnetic Fields' "The Book of Love" is Scratch My Back's highlight. Of course, he uses the aforementioned strategy to try to get my heart's guard down, but, in this case, the swelling strings surrounding his subdued verses can bring premeditated tears to my eyes. If all of Scratch My Back was made up of songs like that, then there was a pretty good chance my heart would have put out.
When It Doesn't:
Woah, there, Peter. You're coming on a bit strong. I mean the whole point of Scratch My Back is to conjure the sappiest of the sap, but either your cologne is far too pungent, or that final orchestral stab at the end of your cover of "My Body Is a Cage" is a shameless ploy to make one more pass at my heart on an already failed endeavor. Honestly, you had a better chance if you showed my heart your stamp collection on the first date, and everyone knows that stuff's reserved for at least the third.
With the inclusion of those opposing ends of the quality spectrum, Scratch My Back throws almost a perfect game in supplying hit after dud; flirty come-on after slap in the face. I mean did you really think that you needed to throw your hat in the ring by recording the billionth and a third cover of "Heroes"? It's the same cheap thrills that my heart's seen countless times before, and you're going to need to try harder to get in its pants. Then again, that cover of "Apres Moi"? Oh I do declare I can feel my heart getting hot just thinking about it.
So the ultimate question is: Does Pete succeed? By Scratch My Back's end, is Mr. Gabriel sitting at the edge of a proverbial bed smoking a cigarette while my heart recuperates from a night of intense lovemaking? The short answer is no, but Scratch My Back does such a decent job of pulling those heart strings in the right places, my heart might just let Pete get a ground rule double. Key word: MIGHT. My heart is no whore, Pete.