Not one to let convention get in his way Peter Gabriel returns with his ninth solo offering, a covers album featuring only his own songs. On New Blood, Gabriel reinvents a host of earlier recordings in full cinematic, orchestral grandeur. Void of any obvious choices, there's no 'Sledge Hammer' for example, but there is passion and bravado by the bucket-load. On 2010's Scratch My Back Gabriel revisited some of his favourite tracks with a symphonic emphasis and other than showing that Gabriel has a very reassuring taste in contemporary music, containing covers of the likes of Bon Iver and Arcade Fire, it portrayed a delightful blend of audacity and emotion in true operatic style.
The arrangement from John Metcalfe goes together with Gabriel's work superbly and you can tell that he had a clear vision of how he wanted the end product to sound. The two must have had a very clear understanding and respect for each another and this really comes across when listening to the album. The end result is full of character and just about covers every colour on the palette. The contrast between 'Intruder' and album closer 'Solsbury Hill' really brings out the songs true colours and each track is individual. The ominous accompaniment to 'Intruder' with Gabriel's whispering vocals and use of cosmic effects maintains a persistently brooding and portentous feel. Meanwhile on 'Solsbury Hill,' the jangly piano and county fiddle use of the strings evokes the same feeling of eloquence and purity as the lyrics do.
His choice of vocal accompaniments, Melanie Gabriel tackling Elizabeth Fraser's part on 'Downside Up' and Ane Brun replacing Kate Bush on 'Don't Give Up' are as inspired as his use of orchestration. The two Gabriels join together beautiful over the ensemble music on the chorus of 'Downside Up' making the song sound like a lost Rice/Lloyd Webber piece. Having taken the album on tour already, you can imagine the song sounding perfectly at home one stage. The gentle build on 'Don't Give Up' is greeted by Gabriel's husky yet soulful voice, contrasting ideally with Brun's quiet, BjÐrk-like vocals. Her trembling voice becomes more moving with each listen, giving the duet an enduring eminence.
For an artist to rework his music in such a convincing fashion is no simple task and Gabriel's work is a master class in musical reinvention. I will admit I may not be as familiar with a number of the originals; meaning comparisons are sparse in this article, yet this takes nothing away from the fact that this is a vividly colourful example of his work.