Tag Archives: Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel: Songs To Listen To In An Empty Room

Peter Gabriel

Peter Gabriel, the former lead singer of Genesis, is putting out a new album. It happens to be his first in seven years. It also happens to be contain covers (or “song-swaps”) of some of the most varied big-name artists. Here’s the full track list:

01 “Heroes” (David Bowie)
02 “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon)
03 “Mirrorball” (Elbow)
04 “Flume” (Bon Iver)
05 “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads)
06 “The Power of the Heart” (Lou Reed)
07 “My Body Is a Cage” (Arcade Fire)
08 “The Book of Love” (The Magnetic Fields)
09 “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman)
10 “Après moi” (Regina Spektor)
11 “Philadelphia” (Neil Young)
12 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (Radiohead)

Most of those names are familiar, I’m sure, but some may not be. Elbow is a British band – heavily influenced by U2 – that sounds like  a stripped down Coldplay. The Magnetic Fields come out of Boston. As a point of reference, both bands have been about for 20 years.

Album Art for Scratch My Back

Starting his musical career as a drummer, Peter Gabriel was drawn into music by its craftwork. In an interview on his website, Gabriel says that he’s alway had interest in doing “the dreaded covers album”.  But he wasn’t about to go about it in any old fashion. He reflects, “I thought, ‘If I’m going to do that, I’m going to do something different with it.”

Gabriel wanted to create self-imposed rules to rein in the creative process, stating that “giving an artist total freedom is castrating them”. At first he toyed with the idea of using homemade instruments, but finally decided that a strict no guitar, no drums policy would be the way that Scratch My Back would go.

John Metcalfe

And in the absence of guitar and drums, Peter Gabriel has turned to New Zealand composer John Metcalfe, who has written string arrangements for The Cranberries and The Pretenders. But the compositions on this record have strayed far from the beaten pop path into the realm of minimalist and classical music. Gabriel himself says that Metcalfe had Steve Reich and Arvo Part in mind when composing the music.

This has led to the creation of songs that deserve to be listened to with your full attention. These songs create in my mind a white, unadorned and simple room where the empty space is filled in by the beautiful textures of Metcalfe’s compositions.

But enough talking, take a listen and decide for yourself. First up, “Heroes”, originally by David Bowie.

A fantastic string section adds a dramatic edge to the song, especially in the context of Gabriel’s recent contribution of the track in an effort to support Haiti.

His cover of the Bon Iver song, “Flume”, starts with somber piano and then slowly brings out french horns and coronets to back the haunting lyrics, “Sky is womb and she’s the moon”. Take a listen, and if you like it, you can download the song here.

But the pinnacle of the album, or at least the songs I’ve heard so far, is his cover of The Arcade Fire’s “My Body is a Cage” – an incredibly original and dynamic song to begin with.  The song explodes two and a half minutes in, and is the only song on the album to feature a full chorus.

By contrast, his cover of Radiohead’s “Street Spirit” is surprisingly disappointing. Barely choking out the words, or just grumbling at times, it’s simply not pleasurable to listen to.

But in the end, Peter Gabriel really has accomplished a great deal with this album. In his own words, “working with the negative” of the songs allowed him to set his album on a different plane than where the “positives” lie.

To see some footage from the recording, check out  this interview. And get all the info about the upcoming album on his website www.petergabriel.com.

~Josh

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PEAK KEYWORD: GABRIEL

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Raising Awareness Through Music

Bands and musicians supporting Haiti in crisis

To make sure you didn’t miss out on it, this past Thursday I let you know of a few ways that caring souls in the music community were pitching in to help raise awareness and garner donations for the victims of the recent 7.0 earthquake that occurred just outside of Port Au Prince, the capital of Haiti.

Bands and artists are finding unique ways to urge people to chip in to the relief effort. Music for Relief, a non-profit organization founded by the members of Linkin Park that has raised $3 million dollars since its founding, is currently offering a compilation album for free on its website, urging you to donate after the download. The album features unreleased music by artists such as Peter Gabriel, Alanis Morisette, Linkin Park, The Dave Matthews Band and more. You can check out the full track listing and get more information about Music for Relief on their website by clicking here.

Download “Typical Situation (Live)” by The Dave Matthews Band off of Download to Donate for Haiti – courtesy of Music for Relief

Paste Magazine's Songs for haiti

Paste magazine has set up songsforhaiti.org, where hundreds of artists have donated tracks in an effort to entice more people to donate. The funds raised will be split three ways between Doctors Without BordersRed Cross, and Wyclef Jean’s Yele Haiti Earthquake Fund. Artists in the download archive include quite a handful of Peak regulars: Andrew Bird, Ben Folds, Bob Mould, Cowboy Junkies, Indigo Girls, Marc Broussard, Of Montreal, She & Him, The Avett Brothers, Dan Dyer, The Decemberists,  The Jayhawks, The String Cheese Incident, Umphrey’s McGee and many many more.

Paste is aware that this may not be the best way to raise support. In their words:

We don’t think people should donate to the relief efforts in Haiti just to get a reward. But this gives Paste and artists a way to help, using the thing we’re most passionate about—music.

And seeing as they’ve already raised over $100,000 through Songs for Haiti, it has proven to be a smart idea.

Régine Chassange

In the realm of raising awareness, one artist has gone above and beyond normal measures in telling her personal story. Régine Chassange, of The Arcade Fire, wrote a heart-breaking piece for the Guardian the Sunday before last documenting her shock and disbelief as she saw and felt the events of the earthquake unfolded. Régine is one of the founding members of the Montreal band, where she sings vocals and mans the accordion (and the drums and xylophone and piano from time to time). Although she is a citizen in both Canada and the U.S., her family emigrated from Haiti before she was born, and therefore news of the earthquake affected her in ways that those who don’t have relatives there will not be able to understand.

She writes,

I ran downstairs and turned on the television. It was true. Tears came rushing right to my eyes and I let out a cry, as if I had just heard that everybody I love had died. The reality, unfortunately, is much worse. Although everything around me is peaceful, I have been in an internal state of emergency for days. My house is quiet, but I forget to eat (food is tasteless). I forget to sleep. I’m on the phone, on email, non-stop. I’m nearly not moving, but my pulse is still fast. I forget who I talked to and who I told what. I leave the house without my bag, my keys. I cannot rest.

Partners in Health

In her article, she beckons her readers to donate to Partners in Health, saying that PIH is the best relief organization “in terms of thorough medical care, follow-up and combining of parallel necessary services (education, sanitation, training, water, agriculture)”. You can read the full article here.

But for every shining instance of goodwill, there are plenty who pass up opportunities to pitch in. If none of the above relief efforts moved you, here is a list of ways to help support those in need, including a breakdown how each organization uses its resources.

Thank you for doing your part to help those who, at this point in time, can’t help themselves. To quote Régine again we, as humans, are “[i]mpossibly weak, but standing”. And as we look to the horizon in this dark night and broaden our awareness of those in need, we can see the sun begin to spill outward and upward. My thoughts are with Haiti.

~Josh

[PS: If there is a relief organization or effort that you would like to bring to this blog’s attention, please feel free to talk about it in a comment below – thanks!]

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PEAK KEYWORD: HAITI

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