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Peter Gabriel - (Don't) Scratch My Deluxe Box


Scratch My Back as a Collector's Edition box set for almost $300 - is it worth it? We have taken a look and tell you what is in it.


Like the large box of a board game the big Scratch My Back box is sitting on my table. The colours – a glossy black top, the cardboard box itself is an equally glossy red – and the workmanship point at a high-quality product. The pattern of blood plates from the back of the CD is repeated on the bottom side, too.


The first thing you will see upon opening the box is an anthracite rubber foam layer about an inch thick into which the positions of the blood vessels in the human body are engraved. This, too, shows  good workmanship. Had it been less carefully produced there might have been flaws like torn-out bits or so, but this is absolutely flawless. Right in the middle, where the heart would sit in the human body, there is a cavity in the shape of a plus sign. The upper arm is a bit longer so that you can take out a bloodred plus sign with the embossed text „peter gabriel / scratch my back“. That is the USB stick.


Beneath the foam layer there is a grey sheet the size of the box with Peter Gabriel's introduction to his Scratch My Back project (as in the CD booklet) on the front and the credits for all the songs – all sixteen that are on the Special Edition. The next thing is a sheet of soft tissue to protect the art print of the hand-signed and numbered Scratch My Back cover (31x31cm, the actual print covers 24x24cm).


Beneath the art print is the LP. It has all new cover art that looks like slats with a weld point, but it is certainly something organic that has been magnified. The back cover is plain black and provides information on how the twelve songs from the regular version are distributed across the LP sides. The labels on the record itself repeat the artwork from the back of the CD booklet. The record is blood red and – an excellent idea – clear. It will grace every record player.


Beneath the LP there is a book. Hang on, did the product description say anything about a book? No, there was nothing about that, and when you open the book you realize it is the 24x24cm cover for the two Scratch My Back special edition CDs. The artwork for this CD set uses the images the reviewer rather dislikes: The CD labels show the circular, vaguely mould-like motive you can see in the special edition when you take out the CDs, the title of the book itself has the blue-green „Peter Gabriel as a zombie with toothache“ photo. There is nothing in the book except the two disks. On the bottom of the box there is one final item, the Certificate Of Authenticity.



So far, so good. The box has a clear design, it is well-produced and it all looks and feels like high-quality material. Unfortunately, the CDs are difficult to take out of their book. But that is only a small detail in a box set that is a visual and haptic pleasure.

And the content of the media? Offers, we must say, less variety. Let us go through them by size. There is, first and largest of all, the vinyl record. It contains the twelve songs of the simple album version in the familiar order, six songs on side A and six on side B. The 2CD set in the book thingy have all the tracks of the special edition in the same order. Up to this point there are two different versions of the album here. On the USB stick there is a 96kHz / 24 bit version of the album (in WAV format) – that is the original resolution in which the songs were recorded before they were reduced to 48kHz/24bit that is normal in audio CDs. If that is not yet enough for you, a second folder on the USB stick brings you the 96kHz/24bit „super“ version on which the trebles are slightly raised. All in all we have no less than four different versions of the same album in this box set – here comes the format flood. 


boxIt is a bit surprising that the four bonus pieces were not included in all four versions of the album. Of course, they would not have fit on the LP, but a small red vinyl single with the bonus tracks would have been really neat. And the additional data would have fit on the USB stick as well (and the box would not have become uneconomical if they had had to switch to an 8GB stick). Speaking of which, the reviewer felt slightly disappointed that the USB stick did not contain any exclusive video content, contrary to the description of the box at the time when he ordered it. Apart from that there are only minor issues: The USB stick looks great, but is is not easy to handle. If you have a laptop computer with vertical USB slots you will have to lay a book under your computer so that you can insert the stick. The CDs are hard to take out of their holder, but since they only contain the Special Edition that everybody who bought this box doubtlessly already owns anyway that is not a big problem.

The Scratch My Back Collector's Edition box set stands out for three reasons: Tasteful design, excellent workmanship and its exclusivity (only 500 copies worldwide). As far as the music is concerned we would like to refer you to the album review. Downsides? Some items in the box are difficult to handle, and then there is the hefty price of US$299. But the box definitely is a collector's item. Whether it is worth getting is up to you.

You can order the boxset directly from the WOMAD shop (click here)

by Martin Klinkhardt
"unboxing" photos by Volker Warncke

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