Peter Gabriel’s new album New Blood just arrived – yes, I do still buy CD’s and no, I don’t want to download compressed mp3 files for the same price – but for the last week or so he’s been trailing the album on his site and as well as lapping up the new versions and the interviews about the songs there was a strange graphic and it was only with the arrival of the CD that I could find out what it was. I’m sure it would have made an impressive LP cover back in the day….

Well, it turns out to be a photograph, of an embryonic stem cell on the tip of a needle, and was taken by retired scientific photographer Steve Gschmeissner from Bedford using a scanning electron microscope which magnifies subjects by up to a million times. Not much about him online though, apart from a stock library and his spiders and other insects.

[Update] Steve has contacted me to say he now has a web site at theworldcloseup.com.

[Update] What do I think of the album? OK, I’m a big fan (since c 1974!) and you may well wish to discount my views on that basis alone, but I don’t always like what he does and I’m not generally a fan of older rock stars kowtowing to classical music. Too often his great songs and vocal performances seem let down by overwhelming backing music – “Here comes the flood” from his first solo album was much better in its pared-back versions with Robert Fripp, on the greatest hits album, or here. “Red rain” is another example, and while it does work on “So” it’s much better when he just sings it with a piano. It is on New Blood too, and for me it came close to being lost in the wall of sound produced by a 45 piece orchestra, but it just about works. The same with “Intruder”, although in this case the music seems to echo a thriller soundtrack and suits the subject. On the other hand, when the orchestra is held back it’s really successful. There’s also an adventurous re-engineering of some of the songs, with hints of Steve Reich on “San Jacinto” and the full orchestra only comes in at the inspiring climax of “Wallflower”, my favourite track on the album where you really hear the character in Gabriel’s increasingly-coarse voice. Conclusion – one of the more immediately enjoyable of Gabried’s later albums.