This compilation originally surfaced in 1990, replete with Marc Almond liner notes- which still alude to 'Always Coming Back to You'- not included. This version comes remastered- though 'Angels of Ashes' (from 'Scott 4') replaces the camp-spaghetti western theme 'The Rope & The Colt'. This is a great introduction to solo Scott- though it uses Julian Cope's wonderful 'Fire Escape in the Sky- The Godlike Genius of Scott Walker' (on Zoo Records) as its template.
It opens with b-side 'The Plague'- which alludes to Camus's 'La Peste' and was covered by Marc Almond on 'A Woman's Story'. The soulful backing vocals and the almost funky guitar add to the drama!. Next we have a couple of selections from 'Scott': the timeless 'Montague Terrace (in Blue)' & 'Such a Small Love'...'Scott 2' progressed further (sad to see no ref. to the Jacques Brel album- then again this does focus on Engel's songwriting)- 'The Amorous Humphrey Plugg' begins with sweeping strings & John Barry 'Ipcress File'-jazz stylings. It captures the misery of suburban existence- while 'The Girls from the Streets' is a Brel-styled number that is as lyrically fantastic as The Pogues 'The Old Main Drag' or Tom Waits 'Shore Leave'. 'Plastic Palace People' has more in common with Led Zep's 'In the Light' than Bacharach/David- its arrangement is all over the place- the rhyme "Plastic Palace ALICE" is rather great. 'The Bridge' is a minimal number with "wine & piss & death's desire"- nice to see a teenybop star go all existential- something you couldn't imagine now. Of course it's highly pretentious- though David Sylvian is close to these heights of sensibility!...'It's Raining Today' & 'Copenhagen' are subdued tracks from 'Scott 3'- 'Big Louise' is one of Walker's finest- this track alone makes Suede's 'Dog Man Star' superfluous. 'We Came Through' is rather silly- as is 'The Seventh Seal'- which Julian Cope alludes to in 'Repossessed'. Better stick with the film & Ennio Morricone soundtracks; just not at the same time...I think 'Scott 4' is one of his finest works- though 'Tilt' is his best album. 'On Your Own Again' is a short classic- used in Radiohead's 'Meeting People is Easy'. 'Boy Child' is one of his finest vocals- up there with 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' & 'If You Go Away'. 'The Old Man's Back Again' smacks of too many Pasternak novels & Tarkovsky films. Good. The guitar is funky as The Impressions- which is at odds with the lyrics dedicated to 'The Neo Stalinist Regime'. Finally we get four tracks from the mediocre 'Til the Band Comes In' album: the excellent 'Prologue'/'Little Things', the lounge-experimentation of 'Time Operator' & the overblown 'The War is Over'. This is about as much of the album as I can take-though Fatima Mansions did a fine cover of 'Long About Now' on 'Bertie's Brochures'.
So, this is a great intro to Scott- though you will need those early Walker classics ('Sun', 'My Ship is Comin In', 'Orpheus', 'Deadlier Than the Male') and later tracks like 'Lines', 'Nite Flights', 'The Electrician' & 'Man from Reno'. Here are twenty reasons why Scott Walker is regarded as a godlike genius.
What distinguishes Scott Walker from other ballad singers is not so much his voice as his material. The music has the feel of Jacques Brel, a certain European sensibility and an old-worldly style in both the imagery and the singing. Perhaps it could be described as elegant and intelligent pop.
These are thoughtful songs with a cinematic quality, often with impressive orchestral arrangements. They veer from grand ballads like Montague Terrace and Such A Small Love to more experimental and heavier songs like The Plague and the swirling Girls From The Streets, which is very reminiscent of Brel.
With its impressive arrangement and dreamlike structure, Plastic Palace People reminds me a bit of Jimmy Webb's grand compositions like Macarthur Park or The Yard Went On Forever. It's Raining Today and Copenhagen are similar opaque, descriptive songs. Big Louise provides beautiful melancholy whilst We Came Through and Seventh Seal are powerful up-tempo ballads.
My favourites include Angels Of Angel with its lovely melody and moving lyric, the catchy pop song Little Things That Keep Us Together with its meaningful words and the soulful masterpiece Time Operator with its wonderful trumpet and jazzy piano. This song reminds me of both Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen, somehow, with its bluesy arrangement and resigned vocals.
Interestingly enough I think this album will appeal to admirers of the big pop ballad of the sixties and seventies as well as lovers of the softer side of later experimental music. Walker is probably an acquired taste and whilst I appreciate his genius, this music doesn't strongly affect me on any emotional level. It is something I admire from a distance.
on 24 February 2000
If you've never heard the solo work of Scott Walker this is the place to start. Walker possesses one of the most evocative male voices of all-time, aching with emotions and power. The lyrics are a far cry from the pop songs of his Walker Brothers recordings drawing the listener into a dark poetic wonderland in the tradition of Jacques Brel. Highly recommended to anyone who likes beautiful lyrics sung in a passionate voice. This sits well in my collection among the Tom Waits and Bowie albums.