Friday, October 12, 2012

Walkermania! Part Two

Take It Easy with the Walker Brothers came out in December 1965. However, I now intend to talk about the Walkers' music from that period in general, based on CD 1 of the box set Everything Under the Sun (which I felt compelled to buy).

Given that the Walker Brothers were mostly famous for big ballads, the music on their first album is not very much dominated by ballads. There are actually only a couple of songs that are clearly ballads. Mostly it is comprised of midtempo songs that aren't even particularly gloomy despite Scott Walker singing lead almost all the time. The Walker Brothers' music comes across as very classy, aurally massive, a bit melancholic but definitely more uplifting rather than dark.

The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore was originally performed by Frankie Valli without any huge success. The Walkers version could have suffered the same fate if Scott hadn't demanded it to be recorded once again after the first attempt. The end result was a huge classic, a track to cherish from now to eternity. Despite being rather dark in the lyric section, the overall feel you get from it is something completely different. It is a great song, great arrangement and performance by both Scott and the studio band.

Randy Newman's I Don't Want to Hear It Anymore is one of Scott's most fantastic vocal performances. It seems almost unbelievable that with this kind of power, style, emotion and flawless phrasing he is still pretty much a self-learned singer. And even though Scott is just as great as he is, he also sounds fantastic when singing together with John Walker. John's background vocals appear in many songs, and the lovely female choir also plays an important role. Therefore, don't forget to check out the Walkers' take on the Everly Brothers song the Seventh Dawn which was the b-side of the Love Her single. There we have probably the most heavenly, uniquely beautiful harmony ever recorded by Scott and John. And speaking of great harmonies, also check out their version of Bob Dylan's Love Minus Zero!

Even though Scott sang lead on almost anything, John got one lead vocal on the debut album. His performance on Dancing in the Street may sound even a bit too cool but is in fact very good. John's talents were at this point largely overshadowed by Scott's amazing performances on songs like The Girl I Lost in the Rain (chilling!), There Goes My Baby (probably Scott's best uptempo number here) and, obviously, Make It Easy on Yourself. One Engel composition is even included on the debut album, You're All Around Me. More of his compositions appeared on b-sides.

An interesting thing is that at times the Walkers seemed to be very much drawn towards soul and funk music. However, when it comes to the funk part, the results rarely were very commendable. Songs like Tell The Truth and Everything's Gonna Be Alright were great live numbers but not really Scott's strongest area. Land of 1000 Dances was included on the debut album and was also a very popular song but I think it just sounds bizarre when Scott Walker sings it – especially when you think about what was to come.

Take It Easy with... was certainly a worthy debut but if you're interested in hearing the singles and b-sides, which are all very, very good and not included on the album, I recommend checking out the extended version as a whole. You don't want to miss the uplifting beauty of songs like I Need You, After The Lights Go Out, and Young Man Cried. One of my personal favorites is My Ship Is Coming in, which will probably always amaze me. Scott and John make quite a theatrical opera duo!

Here are some samples:
The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore (promo video - now that's what I call Marketing! And by the way, can you imagine they also performed it live)

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