Box set: Scott Walker - The Collection 1967-1970
Release date: Universal
Label: June 3rd 2013
Together for the first time, Scott Walker’s first five solo albums on vinyl and CD. Cut and mastered from the original tapes and presented with their original artwork,The Collection showcases Scott’s self-written material alongside his much-documented interpretations of composers such as Jacques Brel.
The five albums brought together here, released by Scott Walker between 1967 and 1970 are: Scott, Scott 2, Scott 3, Scott 4 and 'Til The Band Comes In. One of the most unique and intriguing artists to emerge in the 60s, these albums are essential to understanding the compelling and fascinating artistry of Scott Walker.
The CD set comes in a hardback, lift-off lid, box-set, each CD recreating the original album artwork and with new, extensive sleeve notes on each album plus rare photos. The comprehensive 16 page booklet is written by Rob Young who edited last year’s compendium No Regrets: Writings on Scott Walker.
The deluxe 5-LP box set features the original album artwork and includes an 11-inch print replicated fromScott 2, plus a 48-page booklet containing Rob Young’s essay. All five LPs come in 180gm heavyweight vinyl. Scott 3 and Scott 4 are reproduced in the original gatefold jackets. In addition there are four interviews courtesy of Rock's Back Pages: Keith Altham – Scott Walker Hides Away In a Gloom World, NME 1970; Chris Welch – Scott: I’m Going to Japan By Train, Melody Maker, 18 May 1968; Keith Altham – Scott Walker: His Own Worst Enemy, NME, 1969 and Chris Welch – Scott Walker Comes In From The Cold, Melody Maker, 1970.
Scott Walker’s first solo album, simply titled Scott, released in September 1967, appeared before The Walkers Brothers’ final official concert (at least until their subsequent mid-seventies reunion). As with all the albums in this collection, it has to be seen in a context of Walker wanting to escape the pop stardom of The Walker Brothers where his moody reclusiveness was in sharp contradiction to their teen-idol success. The group’s final album, Images (April 1967) had featured three compositions credited to Scott Engel alone, and it was clear his ambitions lay in this direction: as a composer as well as vocalist.
As Rob Young observes in his accompanying notes, Scott “saw him attempting to let go of the schmaltzy ‘big sound’ of The Walkers; Scott would turn out to be a curious, occasionally uncomfortable marriage of three distinct modes: the middle-of-the-road covers made popular by the likes of Tony Bennett, Tim Hardin, Frank Sinatra and Petula Clark; the very different-styled arrangements of Jacques Brel songs; and Walker’s own compositions. It’s the weird chemistry between these approaches that makes Scott – and all four solo albums that followed – such beautifully unsettling experiences.”
On the strength of the Walker Brothers dedicated fan base, Scott charted at number 3, Scott 2 would actually reach number 1 and Scott 3 was another number chart entry. The same eclectic mix of covers and original compositions provided the direction for Scott 2, released March 1968, which opened with Brel’s swaggering Jackie. The song’s reference to ‘opium dens, authentic queers and phoney virgins’ earned Walker a controversial ban from daytime BBC broadcasts, and scheduled TV spots were cancelled. Released as a single, Jackie peaked at 22. He would have two further hits – Joanna and The Lights of Cincinnati, his final chart single in July 1969; neither was included on any album and it was clear Walker preferred to distinguish these more commercial offerings from his more ‘serious’ works.
When discussing the music on Scott 3, released in March 1969, Scott Walker referred critics to grand symphonic works by Beethoven, Brahms and Shostakovich. This was, indeed, serious business from an artist who, in the same month, fronted his own six-part BBC television series, titled simply Scott.
Scott 4, November 1969, did not include the name ‘Scott Walker’ on its sleeve, and the LP label credited the songs to ‘Scott Engel’. It was the only time he used that name professionally, on the first record to be entirely filled with his own compositions (there wouldn’t be another such until 1995). Scott 4’s failure to chart is partly explained by the release just a few months earlier of Sings Songs From His TV Series which reached No. 7 in July 69. The contradictions between Walker the serious artist/songwriter and the more mainstream singer of MOR songs still persisted and continued to haunt him.
Scott Walker’s fifth album, released in 1970, abandoned numerical titling and was named after one of the featured songs, ’Til The Band Comes In. It has since slipped under the critical radar, largely because five of the fifteen tracks are Vegas-friendly, country-tinged covers. The time is now ripe for its reappraisal; Walker’s own writing, the first ten songs on the album, form a kind of Scott 5 in all but name and it’s probably no accident that the covers were held back until the end.
’Til the Band’s uneven mix of originals and covers points directly to what happened next for Scott Walker. As he entered the 1970s, he seemed to lose control of his career direction; two albums of covers followed in the early 70s -The Moviegoer and Any Day Now, then two country-tinged collections in 1974 – Stretch and We Had it All, which saw Walker’s MOR sensibilities come to the fore. This culminated in the unexpected revival of The Walker Brothers, which began with 1975’s No Regrets. The three year reunion did, however, lead to the masterstroke of Scott’s four tracks on the Walker Brothers’ subsequent (and this time final) album, Nite Flights. These tracks effectively ushered in a whole new phase of uncompromising creativity, enhanced by another solo album, Climate of Hunter in 1984. This, in turn, pointed the way forward to the more challenging direction Scott Walker would adopt in the 1990s and continue into the twenty-first century, on records like Tilt, The Drift and Bish Bosch.
Walker remains as fascinating and compelling an artist today as he was in 1967 when this classic cycle of albums was initiated. He has influenced every generation since kick-started in the 80s by Julian Cope (who compiled an album under the title The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker) and Marc Almond. You can hear the influence of Scott Walker’s in present day bands such as the Last Shadow Puppets and Elbow.