I came to Scott Walker via The Drift over a decade ago. In that time, I’ve not find the time to listen to his earlier work but I’ve read a lot about about it and I saw that documentary (which I didn’t love). From reading about him, I had some idea of what I was getting into, but coming at someone like this backwards means that the listener is in for a rude awakening no matter how much they read.
Because, of course, this record is far, far more conventional than the music Walker has become newly famous for. There was a fair amount of similar music being made in the late ’60s – Walker may have been among the earlier, more idiosyncratic voices on that wave, but he was far from the only one. The things that distinguish Walker include his distinct voice, his own creative control over the music (not something a lot of singers had at the time), his song selection (including being among the first, if not the first, to record English versions of Jacques Brel songs) and his own songs.
The arrangements are fairly over the top, as you would expect, but they are less quirky than I was imagining reading about him. Maybe that quirkiness comes later.
The whole thing is rather immaculately made and does feel like it reveals more character of the singer than many, if not most, of his contemporaries making similar music.
But I think that much of the positive acclaim this record receives comes from people knowing what happened later. There’s a lot of retrospective interpretation here, I think.
Good for what it is, certainly.
- “Mathilde” Jacques Brel, Gérard Jouannest, Mort Shuman 2:39
- “Montague Terrace (In Blue)” Noel Scott Engel 3:31
- “Angelica” Cynthia Weil, Barry Mann 4:02
- “The Lady Came from Baltimore” Tim Hardin 1:59
- “When Joanna Loved Me” Robert Wells, Jack Segal 3:08
- “My Death” Brel, Shuman 4:57
- “The Big Hurt” Wayne Shanklin 2:26
- “Such a Small Love” Engel 4:55
- “You’re Gonna Hear From Me” André Previn, Dory Previn 2:53
- “Through a Long and Sleepless Night” Mack Gordon, Alfred Newman 4:12
- “Always Coming Back to You” Engel 2:41
- “Amsterdam” Brel, Shuman 3:04