Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Scottmania, Part One

A few months ago I experienced strange times. I was wondering how I was ever going to move on from Scott Walker's solo albums 1–4. The reason to this was that I believed finding music that is at least equally good would be really, really difficult. Since then I have moved on, for the most part, but I still haven't found the music that I would need to really break this habit of listening to Scott Walker – and only Scott Walker... I am very much open to any kind of recommendations.

Now I will write some kind of small review-presentations of all these Scott Walker albums. They were released in 1967–1969 and show Scott's fantastic development as a songwriter, poet, and why not as a singer. The first solo album, Scott, was released in 1967 while the Walker Brothers were still around.

It is clear as day that Scott truly spread his wings on the solo albums, right from the start. However, at this point Scott was still mostly singing other people's songs. There are contemporary songs (for example a gorgeous version of Angelica), film music (You're Gonna Hear from Me – showing Scott's crooner side), original compositions, and Jacques Brel songs.

The original material is of course among the most interesting material here. Montague Terrace (In Blue) is a fantastically uplifting composition with a sensational arrangement. Everything on Scott's albums 1–4 is, in fact, incredibly well arranged, thanks to Wally Stott (a.k.a. Angela Morley) who arranged quite a few of these songs. Other original Engel (Walker) compositions include Such a Small Love, a song that features a very typical eerie mood that Scott likes, and Always Coming Back to You, a dreamy song with a hint of desperation.

Looking at the Jacques Brel songs Scott eagerly chose to record in English, the songs actually reveal surprisingly lot of Scott's dark inner world. I think it says a lot that the first song on his first solo album is about a sadomasochistic relationship (Mathilde). Later, there is another Brel song about his own death (My Death)... And it doesn't get much lighter with Amsterdam at the end of the album.

It seems that Scott selected the cover songs carefully to fit the mood he wanted to pursue. That mood could be described to be generally melancholic, or perhaps it is a question of balance between the beautifully melancholic and the almost scaringly dark songs... Still, it confuses me to hear him obviously being on top of the world singing all of this music – even happy?

You see, Scott Walker doesn't seem to be too fond of his own voice. Or maybe he is, but according to what he has said in interviews, he never listens to his own music again after it is finished. On his more recent albums he uses a higher vocal register in order to prevent the listener from getting too comfortable while listening to his singing. All of this sounds strange, but serves some kind of purpose to Scott.

That is enough for now. We will soon return to the mystery of Scott Walker and listen to some Scott 2...

As usual, some song picks for you (YouTube):

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