on 4 October 2005
By the time Scott Walker released Scott 4, he'd been both a sixties pop star and then a solo artist who initially managed to retain a portion of his teenage audience as he headed off into new territory. Not many artists have made this transition. Scott, his first solo album mixed his own songs, Brel covers and other covers. Scott 2 was a similar mix, however by the time he released Scott 3 he was combining the Brel material with his own exceptional songwriting talent. Scott 4 was the first record that was made up of his own compositions only. It is regarded as his best work, with good reason. It starts with 'The Seventh Seal' an homage to the film of the same name. Using horns, acoustic guitars, orchestration and a chorus he conjures up an epic scene. Rather different to the other records released at the time! He moves on through some familar Walker territory on 'On Your Own Again' then slips into 'The World's Strongest Man' with it's beautiful soaring chorus. 'The Angels Of Ashes' is beautifully sung, and 'Boy Child' sounds truly amazing. This is a classic album and it doesn't have a bad song on it. It is short and concise too-Scott goes anti-war andpolitical on 'Hero of The War' and the 'Old Man's Back Again' respectively. 'The Old Man's Back Again' features a stunning bass line-did Scott play this bass line? The record is rounded off by the country tinged 'Duchess', a contempory sounding (for him) 'Get Behind Me' and 'The Rhymes of Goodbye'. All in all a great record, beautifully sung- Scott is a truly talented singer. A shame then, that the record was unsuccessful at the time of it's release. However, time has been kind to Scott 4 and it is now well regarded and deservedly so! A truly uncompromising effort-just like 'Tilt' possibly his best (and most recent) work.
on 25 June 2007
I've been plundering all of Scott Walkers albums of late, and I have to say that this one Scott 4, is by far the best album. My favourite track is without doubt 'Angels of Ashes'. There is something timeless about this album where most of the tracks have aged really well. But that voice - how it booms out of the speakers and seems to dominate the music, is simply great.
From what I've read, this album was quickly deleted upon release, and I guess this is a symptom of it being too forward for it's time.
on 22 May 2007
Scott Walker is a new discovery for me, I thought I would check him out after hearing that some of my favourite artists (Radiohead, Rufus Wainwright, Bowie) cite him as a major influence. I learned that this album was one of his worst in terms of sales and got deleted soon after release which I find absurd because this is a classic album! His silky voice croons over lush, string-laden textures and the arrangements are breathtaking, just as good as anything that's around at the moment. The combination of that distinctive voice, quality songwriting and powerful lyrical content makes this timeless music. To top it off, it has been digitally remastered and booms out of the speakers! Trust me, this album is worthy of your pennies.
on 25 October 2000
Very few people seem to have heard of Scott Walker, which is a pity considering just how commercial he could have been. This album may be a cult classic, but is there any reason why it could not have been a smash?
It starts all brass and drums, in the same vein as Love's Forever Changes, on "The Seventh Seal". This high drama soon gives way to the more plaintive "The World's Strongest Man", before reaching "Ashes of Angels", one of the high points of the album. The song is not great in the orthodox sense in that it consists of little more than a refrain which circles "again, and again" in between several keys and modes. But it is this stream-of-consciousness feel which gives it its watery, dreamlike brilliance.
That is soon violently broken by "The Old Man's Back Again", which Scott ironically dedicated to the Neo-Stalinist regime (Walker's real name may be Engels, but the similarity ends there!) An almost funky bassline gives way to choirs of ghostly voices and plenty of catchy-as-hell minor chord sequences. The finished result sounds like a cross between Frank Sinatra, the Stone Roses and Thomas Tallis and is quite breath-taking.
The country twang of "Duchess" could scarcely be more different, but it is quick to show its gorgeously melodic credentials, before perhaps the last great track on the album, the soulful "Get Behind Me" turns into the last lap.
It is difficult to categorise this album - Matt Monroe sings Leonard Cohen with a soul band, anyone?
on 4 August 2007
You have to appreciate an album like this in the context of the times in which it was made. In my humble opinion, Scott had already made his rare and beautiful masterpiece - Scott 3 - but he was unhappy that too much of that album had been conceived in 3/4 time and therefore there wasn't much differentiation between tracks. Such are the hang-ups with minutiae that great artists have, and who am I to argue that Scott was WRONG WRONG WRONG! Any album containing songs of the calibre of Big Louise, It's Raining Today, We Came Through, 30 Century Man, Two Ragged Soldiers, plus his inimitable take on Brel's Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away), deserves a place in any serious record collection. What you get on Scott 3 is pure unadulterated Scott to tug away at the heartstrings, but here's the rub: that was an album that charted, just like the previous two, though not as high up. Maybe it was too much of Scott for most tastes, but more likely that it was a finer distillation of his two previous outings (let's not forget the fine original classics both of those albums contain: Montague Terrace, Plastic Palace People, Such A Small Love, etc.) and what most people were looking for was The Walker Bros. mk II.
Without a trace of irony, then, Scott 4 was conceived in order to win back some of that audience that had drifted away. That it was intended for popular consumption at all seems almost astonishing to me. Songs like Seventh Seal, i.e., almost a transliteral commentary on the Bergman film of the same name (watch it, then listen to the song, and be amazed at its accuracy), the Mahler-like strings and spaciness of the classic Boychild, the Bo Diddley skank of Hero Of The War, the Dylanesque simplicity of Rhymes Of Goodbye, and the almost progressive rock-out of Get Behind Me. Something for everyone, you'll agree, but had it been made today, i.e., most people would never get to hear of it unless it was nominated for the Mercury awards or by chance surfing the net. There are certainly few media outlets for music of such quality today. Great as Scott 4 undoubtedly is, it's one of those adorable children who just can't find a place in the big world, destined to fade into obscurity, much like Scott's subsequent output: both paradox and enigma, that such craft and beauty and, above all, such a great voice must needs be buried under the weight of past expectations. The ultimate failure of this album was a real kick in the teeth for Scott (who never recovered). There are subsequent highs: No Regrets, Lines, Nite Flights, Sleepwalker's Woman, The Electrician, Farmer In The City, and at least Scott's content to plough his own random and sporadic furrow, but you cannot invest as much as he did in those late sixties records to reap such scant reward without it affecting your whole outlook, I'm certain. Still, had Scott not gone out on such a limb, or had he not tried to ensnare the reflection of the moon on the surface of the lake of popular song, we wouldn't have half of what we have today. Scott was and always will be that rarest of pop creatures: a true visionary. Long may he be content to drift.
on 28 October 2012
The debate about which of Scott Walker's 60s albums is the superior usually swings between Scott 3 and this. I don't really understand that argument, personally. Scott 4 is in a different league, both musically and sonically. Listening to one after the other, it's hard to believe they were released in the same year.
Scott 4 is one of those rare albums you can listen to from start to finish without encountering a weak moment, only to then make you want to start immediately at the beginning again. Listening to the album loud on a good pair of headphones, preferably with the lights off, you are taken on a cinematic journey of evocative strings, sparse moments and delicate instrumentation bound together by Scott's incredible voice and lyrical imagery. There is not a weak track but by the time you reach the stunning and haunting Boy Child, things hit another level. The Old Man's Back Again has that incredible bass line and choral arrangement, Duchess is simply achingly beautiful, as is Rhymes of Goodbye but throughout the entire album the listener is presented with spine-tingling moments, exquisite chord progressions and melodies.
Unfathomably, the album failed to chart and was deleted shortly after its release in 1969. With Scott 3 being released earlier that same year, maybe people weren't ready for what they assumed would be more of the same? This is a huge shame as Scott 4 is leaps ahead of the previous album in terms of songwriting (for the first time, every song was written by Walker) and production. Scott Walker retreated from music altogether for many years following the album's apparent failure so who knows what might have been had Scott 4 received the commercial success it so clearly deserved at the time? At least now, the album appears to be rightly revered very highly. Indeed, the years have been very kind to it. Yes, it's clearly a product of its time but very few albums from the era manage to still sound every bit as relevant now rather than merely nostalgic. The majority of The Beatles' output fits into this category but Scott 4 is as much of a classic as Rubber Soul or Abbey Road and deserves to be held in as high regard as those legendary recordings.
This is one of those classic, peerless albums that should be in everyone's collection and it goes without saying that if you only own one Scott Walker album it should be Scott 4.
on 22 April 2006
Scott Walker had been on my list of artists to check out for many years, but for some reason it took me a long time to get round to it. How I regret it now!
His first 3 albums (imaginatively titled Scott, Scott II and Scott III - at least it's easy to remember the order in which they were released) all have great moments, but sometimes drift into MOR or Brel bombast.
Scott IV is perfect. Since I bought it a couple of years ago hardly a week passes without me playing it. It has great songs (touching love songs, political songs), great arrangements and Scott's fantastic voice.
If you think you've got the 60s sewn up and you don't own this album, think again. This is one of the finest records ever recorded, worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as Revolver and Pet Sounds.
It's that good.
Scott Walker's four numbered albums are akin to a magazine series, standing apart from the entertaining, but often fluffy, Walker Brothers' music and Walker's mid-1970s bland aberrations. All four are worth buying, but this one is the crowning glory. Entirely self-penned, it benefits, like its predecessors, from Johnny Franz's inspired arrangements, Walker's sense of adventure and, of course, that voice.
The arrangements vary greatly, but are never incongruous. 'The Seventh Seal' is a dramatic opening track, containing a similar intensity to 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore', but with a typically deep and dark lyric. 'On Your Own Again' swings to the other extreme, being a simple acoustic number. The music sometimes has that syrupy quality you'd expect from, say, Glen Campbell, but Walker's voice changes it all. His lyrics at their best are beautiful and poetic, but he does get carried away. On 'Angels Of Ashes', for instance, he gives us 'and the fullness that fills up the pulse of durations is gone'. If you're going to go over the top, I guess you might as well go for broke.
The best tracks are probably the spine-tingling 'Boy Child', 'The Seventh Seal', 'The Old Man's Back Again' (great bass guitar and an earthy vocal delivery) and the soft, soulful pop of 'Duchess'. The truth is, though, that your favourites can change with each listen. This is a rare treat that repays repeated playing.
Quite why this 1969 album from Scott Walker was deleted from the catalogue shortly after its release is (to me) inexplicable - I mean, just because the album was released under the moniker Noel Scott Engel, surely the cover photo was a bit of a giveaway that this was none other than the famous Mr Walker. More likely (maybe), someone at the record company actually read Noel's lyrics (this being the first album on which he had penned all the songs) only to discover a definite thread of pessimism (fatalism, even) running through them. Obviously, any commercial potential was deemed out of reach with subjects such as chess games with death on the beach (The Seventh Seal), solitary existence (On Your Own Again), the futility of war (Hero Of The War), the influence of Joseph Stalin (The Old Man's Back Again) and (perhaps) the casting out of the devil (Get Behind Me). Indeed, even where the song subject is less obvious Walker's hauntingly poetic lyrics are all 'darkness', 'death', 'nakedness', 'emptiness', 'cold', 'desire', 'chains', 'madness' - this is not top 10 material at all!
Well, maybe they were right, but all I do know is that there is not a duff song here, and the album features some of my all-time favourite Walker songs. Perhaps my least favourite song here is Get Behind Me, which despite its (relative) failings does have the novelty value (for a Walker song of this period) to feature a fuzzed electric guitar ('so electric, so proud'). Pedal steel was (I guess) more of the Walker forte (of this era) and it is used to sublime effect behind Walker's heavenly tones on Duchess and Rhymes Of Goodbye. The same dulcet tones are in (even more effective) evidence on the brief (but perfectly formed) On Your Own Again and again on Angels Of Ashes and Boy Child.
However, it is the remaining four songs which (for me) elevate this album to its status as my favourite amongst Walker's 1960s works. The relatively concise apology that Walker encapsulates in claiming not to be The World's Strongest Man is tender and heartfelt, whilst the anti-war Hero Of The War is brilliantly constructed and an altogether more cynical take on life (or, more accurately, death, 'It's too bad he can't shake hands and move his feet'). On the other hand (and as has been mentioned elsewhere), album opener The Seventh Seal could easily have been a Morricone spaghetti western theme - superb trumpet opening, echoing tubular bells and soaring male voice choir to boot. Indeed, this choral male vocal effect is equally effective on (for me) the album's highpoint, and one of my all-time favourite Walker songs, The Old Man's Back Again. This is probably the least conventional song here, with a nice rhythmic bass and Walker doing a (near) semi-spoken vocal (almost Sinatra-esque) and making a mighty fine job of it.