Scott Walker

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Scott (1967), 5/10
Scott 2 (1968), 5/10
Scott 3 (1969), 6/10
Scott 4 (1969), 7/10
Til the Band Comes In (1970), 5/10
The Moviegoer (1972), 4/10
Stretch (1973), 4/10
Any Day Now (1973), 4/10
Climate of Hunter (1984), 6.5/10
Tilt (1995), 7/10
Drift (2006), 7/10
Bish Bosch (2012), 6/10
Soused (2014), 4.5/10

Scott Walker (Scott Engel) was one of the many pop stars of the Sixties who delivered radio-friendly refrains for mass consumption, aided by a marketing campaign that emphasized his cute looks over his uninspired songs (rings a bell? yes, those were the days of the teen idols and of the Beatles). However, his solo albums wed that old-fashioned easy-listening sound to philosophical meditations in lugubrious settings, and therefore created a new form of ballad, predating David Bowie, Julian Cope and trip-hop.

California-born and Hollywood-raised singer songwriter Scott "Walker" Engel formed the Walker Brothers with Gary Leeds (the former Standells drummer) and John Maus. Their first hit, Love Her, produced by Jack Nitschze, was released in 1965, when they moved to England, where they had three hits: Make It Easy On Yourself (by Burt Bacharach), My Ship Is Coming, Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (by Bob Crewe). They managed to release ten albums (all them in the top 10) in three years. They broke up in 1967. Walker was the star. He was a "teen idol" identified with lacrimose songs and symphonic arrangements. He became the king of the melancholy, melodramatic ballad but in reality he had become an alcoholic and attempted suicide. Take It Easy Portrait Images

Scott Walker's solo career began with two albums, named Scott (Fontana, 1967) and Scott 2 (Philips, 1968), which were mainly tributes to his idol Jacques Brel. The latter included his first classics, The Girls From The Streets and Plastic Palace People. Scott 3 (Philips, 1969) was mainly his own material, in particular Copenhagen, It's Raining Again, Rosemary, Big Louise and We Came Through.

Scott 4 (Philips, 1969) maintained the Brel influence, but now the material was all Walker's and the arrangements were more Morricone-style than Bacharach or Spector-style (Seventh Seal, Boy Child, The Old Man's Back Again). His songs were set in a decadent milieu of prostitutes, gangsters and misfits, but delivered in an operatic style. Boy Child (Fontana, 1992) is a collection of Walker's self-composed songs of the first four albums.

Til the Band Comes In (1970) had some majestic numbers (the title-track), but overall couldn't compete with its predecessor. The Moviegoer (1972) is a cover album. Stretch (Columbia, 1973) is a country album. Any Day Now (1973) and We Had It All (1974) are as mediocre as the previous ones.

A 1975 Walker Brothers reunion yielded the hit No Regrets (written by Tom Rush).

No Regrets (1992) is an anthology of the hits.

Walker lived in isolation until 1984 when he returned with his bleakest album ever, Climate of Hunter (Virgin, 1984), the work of a consummate artist but also of a tormented soul.

Another late album, Tilt (Fontana, 1995), twists the conventions of the pop song to the point that the "pieces" sound like austere lieder: the pseudo-Gregorian chant with strings of Farmer in the City (a requiem for Pierpaolo Pasolini), the eight-minute Patriot (the other soaring strings-tinged hymn), the noisy and apocalyptic The Cockfighter, the distorted Tilt, the tragic organ toccata of Manhattan (ruined by an inept dance beat). It is a stark program, drenched in sound effects and mostly empty soundscapes. The ultimate manifestation of the album's mood is the nine-minute gothic atmosphere of Bouncer See Bouncer, with the voice alone in a vast empty space with an electronic tremor and a distant banging. His pompous and agonizing tenor is uniquely positioned halfway between classical and pop music. It is not the most beautiful of voices, but what it lacks in elegance, soulfulness, psychology and power it gains in stately intensity. Since most of the songs are devoid of orchestral arrangements, the sound effects play a key role in establishing the atmosphere.

Too bad he became an "auteur" when nobody was paying attention anymore.

Five Easy Pieces (Universal, 2003) is a five-disc anthology (no out-takes, demos, unreleased material, or other assorted junk).

Drift (4AD, 2006), the first album in eleven years, sounded like a less stiff version of Tilt. Walker was now capable of blending the stance of the classical composer, the gloomy atmosphere of the expressionist drama, the psychological aesthetics of the soundsculptor and the literary gravity of the national bard, but still limited himself to sparse arrangements, a sort of contradiction in terms. Furthermore, the cycle was permeated with the paranoid angst of the 2001 terrorist attacks, although diluted in semiotic and existential kammerspielen such as Jesse ("I'm the only one left alive") or metaphorically conveyed via the 13-minute historical drama Clara (a stark recitation in a terrifying soundscape that makes Tilt seem positively uplifting). The absence of music is what makes Cue truly powerful: Walker is never afraid of letting the music die. When they rise from the abyss, the strings simulate screams, adding a human touch to the hellish melodrama. Walker's stubborn preference for "not" arranging his melodies is what makes them so unnerving. In fact the ones that are (relatively) heavily arranged Jolson and Jones, the gothic The Escape) don't fare too well. As usual, Walker's voice was the most vulnerable element of his project (the self-penned lyrics being a close second).

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Antonio Buono)

Scott Walker (Scott Engel) è stato una delle tante pop star degli anni Sessanta che sfornò ritornelli radio-friendly per il consumo delle masse, lanciato da una campagna di marketing che poneva l’accento più sui suoi graziosi look che sulle sue canzoni prive di ispirazione (niente di nuovo, nel pieno dei teen-idols e dei Beatles). Tuttavia i suoi album solisti sposavano un suono easy listening old-fashioned a meditazioni filosofiche e scenari lugubri, e crearono in questo modo una nuova forma di ballata, anticipando David Bowie, Julian Cope e il trip-hop.

Californiano di nascita, il cantautore Scott "Walker" Engel formò i Walker Brothers con Gary Leeds (ex batterista degli Standells) e John Maus. Il loro primo successo, Love Her, prodotto da Jack Nitschze, uscì nel 1965, poi si trasferirono in Inghilterra, dove ebbero altri tre successi: Make It Easy On Yourself (di Burt Bacharach), My Ship Is Coming, Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (di Bob Crewe).

Riuscirono così a pubblicare dieci album (tutti finiti in top 10) in tre anni, poi si sciolsero nel 1967.

Walzer era la star. Un teen-idol abbinato a canzoni lacrimevoli e ad arrangiamenti sinfonici. Divenne il re della ballata malinconica e melodrammatica, ma nella realtà era alcolizzato e aveva tentato il suicidio.

La carriera solista di Scott Walker cominciò con due album, Scott (Fontana, 1967) e Scott 2 (Philips, 1968), che erano fondamentalmente tributi al suo idolo Jacques Brel. Il secondo include i suoi primi classici, The Girls From The Streets e Plastic Palace People. Scott 3 (Philips, 1969) era soprattutto materiale suo, in particolare Copenhagen, It's Raining Again, Rosemary, Big Louise e We Came Through.

Scott 4 (Philips, 1969) conservava l’influenza di Brel, ma ora le composizioni erano tutte sue e gli arrangiamenti si rifacevano più a Morricone che a Bacharach o Spector (Seventh Seal, Boy Child, The Old Man's Back Again). Le sue canzoni erano ambientate in un decadente milieu di prostitute, gangster e diseredati, ma rese in uno stile operistico. Boy Child (Fontana, 1992) è una collezione di canzoni dei primi quattro album composte da Walker.

Til the Band Comes In (1970) aveva qualche numero magistrale (la title-track), ma nell’insieme non reggeva il confronto coi precedenti album. The Moviegoer (1972) contiene solo cover. Stretch (Columbia, 1973) è un disco country. Any Day Now (1973) and We Had It All (1974) sono mediocri come gli altri.

Una reunion dei Walker Brothers nel 1975 rese l’hit No Regrets (scritto da Tom Rush).

No Regrets (1992) è un’antologia dei successi.

Walker visse in isolamento fino al 1984 quando fece ritorno col suo album più nero di sempre, Climate of Hunter (Virgin, 1984), il lavoro di un artista consumato. Un altro tardo album, Tilt (Fontana, 1995), storce le convenzioni della pop song al punto in cui le "piece" sembrano astratti patterns melodici: il canto gregoriano di Farmer in the City (un requiem per Pierpaolo Pisolini), la fragorosa e apocalittica The Cockfighter, la distorta e ipnotica Tilt, la minacciosa toccata di Manhattan, la funerea Bolivia '95. È una collezione cupa e nuda, fradicia di effetti sonori e paesaggi astratti.

Peccato sia diventato un "autore" quando nessuno più fa caso a lui.

Five Easy Pieces (Universal, 2003) è un’antologia di cinque dischi.

Drift (4AD, 2006), il primo album in undici album, tenta di rispondere ad una semplice domanda: "chi ha ancora bisogno di canzoni da tre minuti, quando ne abbiamo già a milioni?". Walker adotta il piglio del compositore classico, la fredda atmosfera del dramma espressionista, l’estetica psicologica dello scultore del suono e l’austerità letteraria del bardo nazionale, ma limitandosi al formato della canzone pop (e alla dannazione delle sue liriche), una contraddizione in termini. Chiaramente è difficile infrangere delle abitudini. Il ciclo è permeato dall’angoscia paranoica dell’attacco terroristico del 2001, sebbene stemperata in pastiche semiotici ed esistenziali come Jesse ("I'm the only one left alive") o convogliata metaforicamente attraverso il dramma storico (di 12 minuti) Clara.

Bish Bosch (4AD, 2012), with a string orchestra conducted by keyboardist Mark Warman, contains the 22-minute psychodrama SDSS1416+13B, mostly recited in an almost frightened tone amid sparse chamber, percussive and electronic sounds.

Soused (4AD, 2014) was a collaboration with Sunn O))). Basically, the duo was asked to soundpaint Walker's lengthy abstract meditations. The results depend on how easily Walker's songs can be turned into musical entitites. The problem is particularly obvious in the 1999 Lullaby (9.22), for which the duo of instrumentalists cannot quite find music. Where the duo succeeds, the liability is Walker's operatic croon. Brando (8.43) is a terrific and terrifying sci-fi post-apocalypse soundtrack, mixing industrial horror and Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine, but its atmosphere is completely ruined by Walker's silly convoluted babbling. Massive distorted guitar drones and squealing reeds can do little to redeem Herod 2014 (11.59) from its torpor, and in fact in the second half a number of a new artifices are brought in, to no avail. They seem to give up in Bull (9.20) and simply let the guitar drone forever. The best moment comes in the middle of Fetish (9.09) when the "om"-like choir enters the fray and then the beat picks up. Too little too late. The way Stephen O'Malley and Greg Anderson follow and enhance Walker's singing is admirable, Without the vocals, this would have been a great follow-up to their Monoliths & Dimensions.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da xxx)

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