Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Walkermania! Part Three

I will now conclude Walkermania by talking about the Walker Brothers' second and third album released in the UK, Portrait (1966) and Images (1967). These weren't obviously their last albums, as the Walkers returned in the 1970s with three more albums. I might cover them some time later.

Whereas Take It Easy.. was relative cheerful and uptempo, on Portrait and Images the basic concept has been turned upside down. This means that there are now only a couple of uptempo songs per album and the rest is ballads or at least very peaceful and slow songs. Both albums are really good and even though Portrait was more successful back then, I personally prefer Images.

After the debut album and number one hits Make It Easy on Yourself and The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore, the Walkers were household names in the UK. They were on top of their fame even though they never had another number one hit single again. Their music was becoming even bigger and more dramatic than before. There was also an increasing number of songs that were very intimate or jazzy. In my opinion, some of the most quiet numbers weren't able to capture their best qualities. Still, the Walkers obviously didn't lack ambition rendering songs like Just for a Thrill, Old Folks and Once upon a Summertime.

The Walker Brothers were at their most glorious when performing dramatic, grandiose songs that had almost a gothic quality to them. When I say ”The Walker Brothers” it is in fact often more like ”Scott, big choir and big orchestra”. John got more room on these albums and sang really well but he was obviously destined to remain in Scott's shadow all the way. Not only was Scott the most celebrated Walker brother, he was also beginning to show major signs of great songwriting skill. He wrote or co-write and sang on such amazing classics as Archangel, Deadlier Than the Male, Orpheus, and Genevieve. Scott wrote both very dramatic and gentle songs – it can be said that most of his material from this period is, in fact, focused on exploring the opposites. In addition to Orpheus and Genevieve, some of his more gentle songs included I Can See It Now, Experience, and Mrs. Murphy, the latter of which was released as a solo single.

Some of the best ”quiet and intimate” songs on Portrait and Images include No Sad Songs for Me, I Will Wait for You, I Can't Let It Happen to You (written by John, presented with an atypical arrangement including organ and no strings), as well as Where's the Girl, a song that once again captivated the amazing emotional quality of Scott's voice. And of course, there is a stunning version of Summertime, with a great jazz sax solo and all. Curtis Mayfield's gospel People Get Ready is also really fantastic whereas Living Above Your Head almost sounds out of place with a sunshine pop choir singing ”ba bop bop baa”. Still, it is really catchy, just like Walking in the Rain, a song made famous by the Ronettes.

There were indeed so many great songs that I am finding it difficult to mention all of them without sounding like a list. The main reason why I prefer Images is probably that it is a bit more lively as a whole. There is, for example, Everything Under the Sun, a midtempo happyish song that has a lot of kick and the kind of uplifting quality that is present in many of my favorite Walker Brothers songs. It Makes No Difference at All is also one of my most cherished favorites: a hearbreaking ballad with Scott singing in the lowest range of his voice. Just Say Goodbye is a somewhat similar experience, but it has an even more fantastic and subtle soundscape outside the massive chorus.

It goes without saying that the Walker Brothers were definitely not just any ”boy band” of the 60s!

Check out some music:

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