Peter Gabriel, "Scratch My Back"
Peter Gabriel apparently, doesn't want to be your "Sledgehammer" anymore. The incoming Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's first studio album in eight years, "Scratch My Back," hits softly, with mostly lush orchestrations rather than typical rock'n'roll trappings. As the title suggests, the set is a collaboration with other artists in which Gabriel covers one of their songs and they, in turn, plan to do the same for one of his on a subsequent album, "I'll Scratch Yours." He treats David Bowie's "Heroes" with shimmering strings and Paul Simon's "Boy in the Bubble" as a mellow piano ballad. The dark ebb and flow of "My Body Is a Cage" gives the Arcade Fire song a proggy veneer, while subtly deployed strings lend an even more romantic tinge to Lou Reed's "The Power of the Heart." It may take listeners a while to wrap their heads (and ears) around "Scratch My Back," but it will undoubtedly polarize an audience that has long awaited something new from Gabriel.-Gary Graff