Since 1986's smash hit "So", Peter Gabriel has become notorious for taking a long time between releases. With the exception of two soundtracks, he has only released two proper all new studio albums since "So", with the last one, "Up", coming in 2002. So on the surface, it would seem exciting that Gabriel has now released two new albums in the last two years. I doubt I am alone though in wishing he'd released something more than back-to-back albums of cover songs.
Last year's "Scratch My Back" was a collection of covers of other artists, ranging from Bon Iver and Radiohead to David Bowie. Every song was recorded with just Gabriel on vocals and the London Scratch Orchestra providing the music. It was an interesting enough concept, but the execution was not always there and it too often was a rather drab listening experience.
Now Gabriel has done much the same thing, another cover album working with arranger John Metcalfe, except this time it is his own material being re-recorded. "New Blood" features orchestral versions of 13 Gabriel songs, including classics like "Red Rain", "In Your Eyes" and "Digging In The Dirt", and some lesser known, fan favorites.
My problem with "New Blood" is none of these songs take on any new meaning or reveal anything different about them. The reaction to every song is basically 'hey look, it's an orchestral version of another song, this time it's "Don't Give Up"'. And Ane Brun's vocal performance here is so lifeless, it ruins the message of the song and sense of hope Kate Bush's brilliant work brought to the original. You could rename this one "Give Up Or Don't, I Really Can't Be Bothered". The evil, demonic voice Gabriel uses during parts of "Darkness" elicited chuckles from this listener, and the power of a song like "Digging In The Dirt" is taken away when there are lovely strings serving as the arrangement.
The concept works best on quieter tracks such as "Mercy Street" and "San Jacinto", but all I can think when listening to an album like this is, what's the point? The original versions of these songs were perfect, so if I want to hear them, I'll go to the original source material. "New Blood" gives me no compelling argument to ever pull this out again for a listen. I really loved "Up", it was proof that Gabriel still can produce an excellent studio album and stay relevant. I just hope he has another one in him and he has gotten these orchestral cover albums out of his system.
"New Blood" was released in the U.S. October 11, 2011 on the Real World label.