Scott Walker – Scott 4 – Round 26: Graham’s Choice

It would be far too easy to rise to the comments about my selection in Tom’s review of this round. And therefore I will.

My lucky dip left me with 1969 and 1994. The easy choice for me was Led Zeppelin 1 and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant’s 1994 Unledded. Out of pure compassion for fellow members (never to be shown again!) I ‘parked’ these options and dug down a little deeper.

I used Blur’s To The End, from 1994’s Parklife, to provide fellow members with a stylistic clue to my album choice, linking the artists via Damon’s appearance in 30th Century Man (documentary charting Walker’s career and recording of The Drift) and involvement in Drifting and Tilting (2008 live performance of songs from the 2 albums). After a good deal of wild guessing, we got there.

My introduction to Scott Walker was the Radio 2 song playlist and Jimmy Young and Terry Wogan in the 70’s. Before I started seeking out my own music, I can recall being drawn to the big sound and vocals of the Walker Brothers. Their 60’s hits “Make It Easy on Yourself” and “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine” were etched on my brain at an early age.

After this album Scott Walker (depending on what you read) struggled, toiled, lost himself, found himself etc, etc. until he reunited with the Walker Brothers in the mid 70’s. Originally released as a Scott Engel (his real name) album, Scott 4 had poor sales and was quickly deleted.

Out of his first four albums, this is the highpoint as far as I’m concerned. I enjoy the others, but the manic mix of Jacques Brel and overblown strings wears me down on occasion. This album features all his own work and just seems to get the right balance between his vocals, lyrics and supporting,  but not over dominant, orchestration. Opening with the Seventh Seal (a kind of Ingmar Bergman/Ennio Morricone “mash-up” if you can imagine what that sounds like?) it then moves on to the more melancholy, On Your Own Again.  My own favourites include the Worlds Strongest Man and Old Mans Back Again (with a fantastic bass guitar line). How Get Behind Me is not as well known as his Walker Brothers hits is a mystery to me.

As music journeys go, I guess Scott Walker’s is long and up there with the best of them. Playing this again reminded me to re-familiarise myself with 1984’s Climate of the Hunter. Who knows, I might just bring it to Record Club to annoy Tom!

Tom Listened: Coincidentally, having owned it for a long time now, I’ve been going through a Scott 4 phase recently being as it is one of the few CDs I own that I have in the car and the more I listen to it the better it gets. Scott 4 is one of those DRC albums that we refer to occasionally and (I think) all revere. It’s Scott Walker’s most straightforward well known album (I don’t know his stuff from the 70s) and, to my mind, it stands alone as the one album of his that has a straightforward sound – Scott 1, 2 and 3 are all lush strings and have a Spectorish Wall of Sound thing going on (and are also very European) which can make them seem a little daunting at first listen. From Climate of Hunter onwards, his albums are labyrinthine and ultra-challenging (which almost certainly makes them very daunting on a first listen) but Scott 4 sounds like Scott being…well…a singer songwriter I suppose, and I don’t mean that pejoratively. It’s a brilliant collection, clipped and concise, sweet yet melancholic, alternatively contemplative then dynamic. I know why Graham linked it to Blur’s To the End but Scott 4 is probably the least likely of his 4 60s album for that particular track to end up on, and whist Brit Pop drew very heavily on Walker’s solo albums, there isn’t much on Scott 4 that recalls Pulp, Blur or The Divine Comedy (thankfully). A great listen…and Old Man’s Back Again is just genius (and that is not a subjective statement).

By the way Graham, it’s not me you have to watch out for!

Nick listened: Not much to add, I’m afraid – this is a really good record, I’ve owned it for years, and I really like it! It seems strange now that it bombed when it was first released, but I guess releasing it as Scott Engels explains that. I think of Tilt and The Drift as ‘better’ records but this is easily more listenable. Still haven’t got round to listening to Climate Of Hunter!

Rob listened: ‘Scott’ and ‘Scott 3’ are the two that fell from the Walker tombola when I spun it a few years ago. I know a few of the songs from ‘4’ from compilations but this is the first time i’ve sat through the album in full. It’s great. Amazing to trace the career of an artist who has moved from heartthrob to tortured torch singer to seventies washout to avant garde expressionist. How on earth did he do it, and has anyone taken such a wild road to such a strange and wonderful destination? This remains on my shopping list, and now sits just above ‘2’.

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