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on 5 October 2005
I suppose the sound that Scott is most synonymous with is that big, doomy orchestral style, riddled with existentialist lyrics and a baritone croon. However, devoted Walker fans are well aware of a different Scott - a Scott that has consecutively strived to sound both contemporary and experimental - mixing those bleak, existential lyrics with a bleak and desolate sound. The moment of truth for THIS Scott could be seen as the songs he contributed to the final Walker Brother's album, Nite Flights. The sound there seemed to suggest disco, with nods to certain mid-to-late-seventies post punk acts, which, if nothing else, demonstrated Scott's interest in contemporary music - as well as more classical or experimental acts - a factor that would really go towards the formation of this album.
The songs on Nite Flights would further Scott's bleak world view, building on a decade long depression and a bout of alcoholism following the decline in his celebrity, the failure of his initial masterpiece Scott 4 and those early 70's wilderness years, in which he seemed to blindly record a barrage of ill-advised country covers that did nothing but diminish his reputation as a supposed-perfectionist-genius. The content of the songs would touch on notions of death, depression, madness, internal angst, war atrocities and political torture, all the while retaining a sound that developed a cohesive and, to some extent, wholly cohesive atmosphere that complimented those austere Beckett-like lyrics perfectly. If anything, those factors would become a sort of template for this album and, to a further extent, his follow up masterwork, Tilt.
Climate of Hunter begins ominously, with a moment of silence that is broken by a tolling bell somewhere in the distance. Stray keyboard notes bleed in, stark and piercing, as the bass begins to resonate in the background. The sound is desolate, with everything sounding distant and muted. Then Scott's vocals come in, haunted and leaning towards that alien operatic sound that would become so prevalent on the album yet to come, as he breathes "this is how you disappear, out between midnight". The instrumentation sounds like it's being played in reverse, with the cold and sparse synths adding to the aural desolation as the bass suggests a sound more akin to Joy Division or early Cure (think Faith or Seventeen Seconds... though later tracks suggest Pornography and even elements of Disintegration). This was Scott moving further and further away from orchestral ballads and towards something more formless, with the fusion of words and music suggesting an almost improvised quality (though this was not the case), bringing to mind a robotic re-interpretation of Astral Weeks as written by David Lynch (it could easily be the soundtrack to Eraserhead) whilst pre-empting Talk Talk's vastly superior improvised epic Laughing Stock. Later lyrics seem fragmented and cut up, with lines like "called up under valleys of torches and stars... foot, knee, shaggy belly, face... famous hindlegs" which is both darkly comic and utterly terrifying. As are lines like "freezing in red, bent over, his ice skin... the insomniac gnaws in the on-offs", which could really be about absolutely anything (and this is only the first track).
After Rawhide we get Dealer, which continues the bleak and suffocating sound whilst simultaneously drifting off into the realms of synth pop. This jars with the song's intense 4/4 rhythm and shows Walker (and co-producer Peter Walsh) willing to take bold and dramatic risks with song structure and the like. The lyrics come in, "cooling the hearts, cooling the plasma, keeping ice junkies packed hard on a seam... the other side of a prowler, the dead still search the living", deep stuff from a deep voice, broken by discordant instrumentation which takes in the swirling trumpet of Mark Isham and the spasmodic saxophone of Evan Parker (...more from him later). Track three is simply entitled 'Track Three' (continuing the unassuming nature of the album, as seen with the later tracks Five, Six and Seven), though the official subtitle is Delayed. Here we have more of those droning 80's keyboards, punctuated by Ray Russell's Fender guitar solos and interweaving vocal harmonies from Scott and 80's pop star Billy Ocean ("rock of cast-offs, burry me, hide my soul... sink us free"). This is probably my least favourite track of the album, as it represents everything I dislike about conventional early-80s rock (synthesisers, fretless bass, hollow production) and, as a mid-album turning point, it has dated the overall sound of the record quite badly. Sleepwalkers Woman pulls us back from the brink of MOR synth-noise, with one of Scott's most potent vocal work outs, with a return to that slow, bleak and languid style that bellies a break, mid-song, into a hyperactive instrumental freak out in which Peter van Hooke's drums are punished with an almost religious intensity.
The following tracks stick to a similar course, with both Track Five (It's a Starving) and Track Seven (Stump of a Downer) continuing the bleak, depressing New Wave sound with Scott's intense nonsensical lyrics ("all those arms in the gullies, chewed through at the wrists"), whilst Track Six (Say I) strays back a little towards that dated 80's type sound that, if nothing else, at least points fondly towards the music of the time (in particular, bands like Simple Minds and Avalon-era Roxy Music) and does have another great Parker sax-solo. The biggest surprise of the album though, comes last, with a cover of the song Blanket Role Blues, as written by Kenyon Hopkins and Tennessee Williams and performed acoustically by Scott with accompaniment from Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler.
It's a gentle, warm and reflective climax to a cold, distant and austere record that really demands attention from the listener. For me, the album is less relevant than Scott's later and much greater milestone, Tilt... partly down the dated production and use of instrumentation found here. But this is still a fine, if somewhat difficult and uninviting album, filled with some stirring moments and Walker's always intuitive attention to detail.
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on 6 June 2011
Scott Walker's sole 80's album is notably short, but makes up for this by being of a consistently high standard. With it's gated drum sound and fretless bass it is very much of it's era, although the orchestral arrangements look back to Walker's 60's work, and the prescence on two tracks of free music legend Evan Parker on saxophone hints at his later thornier work on Tilt and The Drift. At the time this sold very poorly; in retrospect it actually sounds as if this may have been intended as an attempt to create a commercial record that could sell in quantity, a strategy flawed by the lack of an obvious single. No more demanding than the contemporary works of Peter Gabriel, this is a disc that repays re-investigation. The major fault, and the reason I have this marked down to 4 rather than 5 stars is that several tracks sound under-developed and even too short (Walker's later work has exactly the opposite problems!). Not a lost masterpiece by any standards but well worth listening to.
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on 5 January 2013
Climate of Hunter appears to be a kind of link between Scott's past and his new approach to music through a dark and sometimes hard to bear lense. One can trace elements of his early songwritting, even if it is buried under tones of strange orchestra manouvres. The steps Scott took in this album are courageous (especially considering the year it was released) and give a glimpse of the direction he wanted to follow. So, it's like a more clean shaved young brother of TILT. Interesting enough though and with some exceptional moments, is something that will make those who loved TILT, The Drift and Bish Bosch happy.
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#1 HALL OF FAMEon 5 February 2006
'Climate of Hunter' was Scott Walker's sole-release in the 1980s, continuing the directions suggested by Scott's contributions to the final Walker Brothers LP 'Nite Flights' (1978). 'Nite Flights' saw Walker compose again for the first time since flop 'Til the Band Comes In' - the interim seeing inept cover versions ('Many Rivers to Cross' anyone???), flop solo albums, and the reformation of the Walker Brothers - who went from truimphic return with 'No Regrets' to off the register with follow-ups 'Lines' and 'Nite Flights'. Walker's writer's block ended with the four songs on 'Nite Flights', which were probably closer to Bowie than Walker of old ; the terrifying composition 'The Electrician' spelt out the future, Walker making avant-pop with sinister themes (the torture apparent in that song is continued to 'Dealer' here, and features on 1995's masterpiece 'Tilt'). A listen to 'Nite Flights' or 'The Electrician' is the ideal preperation for 'Climate of Hunter' - which is an overlooked album that might even make 'Tilt' make sense to those otherwise confounded.
After reportedly turning down offers to work with Bowie, Eno and David Sylvian (there is a rumour that Walker began to record with Eno, but halted proceedings over Daniel Lanois' hair!!!!) Walker recorded his sole album for Virgin. As 'Tilt' it is produced by Peter Walsh (previously known for Simple Minds' pop-classic 'New Gold Dream, 81, 82, 83, 84') and features a collaboration with Brian Gascoigne who would contribute heavily towards 'Tilt.'
'Climate of Hunter' itself fitted right in with a lot of great music in the 1980s, its sound not far from the Blue Nile, Roxy Music's 'Avalon', Peter Gabriel's '4',Magazine's 'The Correct Use of Soap' & David Sylvian (both Mark Isham and Phil Palmer would work with the latter). Opener 'Rawhide' finds Walker in oblique mode, the song bursting into life with the suitably odd, "Cro-magnon herders will stand in the wind..." which makes as much sense as "The insomniac gnaws in the On-Offs..." - lyrically comparisons to the meticulous nonsense practiced by late period Joyce work (though the feeling of Walker's work here and subsequently seems closer to Samuel Beckett). 'Dealer' is gorgeous, creepy stuff which was once memorably described as "like David Sylvian after being hit by lightning", with lyrics that appear to be related to 'The Electrician': "The windows are ringing...move a circuit on the white and he can't feel a thing..."
Four of the tracks here show that Walker wasn't in the mood for playing the game, plumping for titles such as 'Track Three', 'Track Five', 'Track Six' & 'Track Seven' - Three, Five, and Seven even resemble each other. Walker appears to have come to the end of any pop-formula - 'Track Three (Delayed)' is a catchy chant with a harmony vocal from Billy Ocean (????), while 'Track Five (It's a Starving)' opens with an ambient-guitar piece before the band come in. 'Track Seven (Stump of a Drowner)' like 'Five' opens with a guitar-sequence worthy of 'Gone to Earth' before a similar rhythm comes in - the feeling of these tracks are that Walker is essentially rewriting and exhausting the style of the song 'Nite Flights.'
'Climate of Hunter' is varied in part - 'Sleepwalkers Woman' would fit on one of the Scott-albums with Walker accompanied by strings (...though his voice is beginning to change to a more operatic style apparent on 'Tilt')in territory not that far from solo-classic 'Boy Child.' 'Track Six (Say It)' is much odder, avant fretless bass from John Giblin (Kate Bush, Simple Minds)set to a gothic metronome before the sounds of horses braying and sinister 'Psycho'-strings are employed - the kind of thing Bowie tried on '1.Outside' and that Radiohead faked a lot on 'Kid A/Amnesiac' (it can also be argued that the atmosphere of 'Climate of Hunter' found its way onto U2's 'The Joshua Tree' on such tracks as 'With or Without You' & 'Mothers of the Disappeared'). The most surprising track is the closing cover of Tennessee Williams' 'Blanket Roll Blues' - which was originally sung by Marlon Brando in 'The Fugitive Kind.' This finds Walker accompanied by Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler on his trademark guitar that strikes horror into people like me who thought 'Love Over Gold' & 'Brothers in Arms' were the work of Satan. Instead it's a gorgeously minimal piece that reminds me of David Sylvian's acoustic collaborations with Bill Frissell & the late Derek Bailey. The album concludes with Walker's wonderful delivery of Williams' lyrics, "When I crossed the river/with a heavy blanket roll/I took nobody with me/Not a soul/I took a few provisions/Some for comfort, some for cold/But I took nobody with me/Not a soul."
Great stuff...and even better now it's been remastered. The time is right to rediscover this lost classic from the decade many wrote off - though the better news is that Scott's new album 'The Drift' is to be released by 4AD later this year. Ah, the Godlike Genius of Scott Walker...
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 May 2016
Scott Walker's sole utterance of the 1980's, Climate Of Hunter is both frozen in time yet timeless. Featuring fretless bass and gated drums (the reverb effect you can hear on Phil Collin's 'In The Air Tonight' when the real drums kick in) anchors the album in the early 80's. And yet.... this is so ahead of its time it contrarily doesn't feel like it's dated at all. Walker pointed the way to the style of this album on his four self-penned tracks on the final Walker Brothers album 'Nite Flights', and in particular on 'The Electrician'. Cut-up lyrics William Burroughs style mean the subject matter is impenetrable but fascinating as you struggle to find meaning. Sometimes atonal arrangements are hugely atmospheric, and the whole of this short album is sequenced perfectly. Layered over the top are Walker's peerless vocals, that rich baritone supplemented on 'Track 3' bizarrely by Billy Ocean. Indeed half of the tracks here have no proper title, with contributing musicians also given no hint of a melody line to remove any chance of preconception of what to play. The nearest atmospherically I could compare this album to is side 2 of David Bowie's 'Low'. It's experimental, it's a world away from those giant albums 'Scott'-'Scott 4'.... and yet it's accessible. It's a towering work. Each track deserves it's place as much as the next and at just 31 minutes leaves you wanting more. This album cements the mystic surrounding Walker and is core listening for anyone looking to investigate this enigmatic artist.
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VINE VOICEon 6 November 2009
There is some gloriously atmospheric music on here. You can see where he's heading pre 'Tilt' but at this stage the songs have traditional form and tunes! There is even an odd guitar break or two. What is particularly interesting is the imagery and backgrounds being adopted. It's obvious he wants to evolve futher than he thinks he can get away with at this stage. Probably much more influential than thought at the time given the projects in deconstruction that followed from the likes of Talk Talk and David Sylvian..
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on 21 February 2006
No really, where on earth did this guy come from. It's amazing, bizzare, but amazing. This album is filled with music that sounds like it should have been released around the 70s at the earliest. There is such a variety of sound in here, from Scott's voice, that at times sounds like something out of Phantom of the Opera, to bass lines and synth that could have been taken from a David Bowie record. You cannot put this in a genre. That makes the fact that it was released mid way through the 20th century even more incredible.
I first heard Sleepwalkers Woman and instantly thought that i had walked into an Anotny and the Johnson's cover. Apparently not. The sound and acoustics of this album aswell are utterly surreal with a hollow echoing sound that implies the whole thing could have been recorded in a cavern. Scott's voice just echoes and reverberates from your speakers filling your ears and not allowing you to switch off.
I simply cannot get my mind round this as it twists and turns your perception of musical possibilities so much, and though short it leaves you with a feeling of utter bewilderment.
I love it. That might say something about me, but this record is utterly incredible, and deserves a listen by any discerning music fan as it will literally blow your mind. Though i dont recomend listening to it in a dark room as you may be . . . well . . . disturbed. But it has an echoing beauty that cannot be faulted.
Buy this album NOW! or regret it for the rest of your life.
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on 13 November 2006
I have read the reviews on this album with great interest, obviously the writers know more about Scott than the average Walker Brothers music. Just want to say I endorse all that has been said. A Scott fan since year dot in my very early teens, I have stayed in touch off and on throughout the years, just coming back to him again (Always Coming Back to You) - firt time since Tilt and re-establishing my interest and updating my Scott collection.

I just want to say in answer to 'Where did this guy come from?' query of last reviewer - he has been around for ages - just taken a while to really find himself - and I, for one, am really glad he managed to do it!

No true record collection should be without him and his unique genius!
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on 9 October 2013
I'm a big fan, but had never looked beyond the hokey country stuff. Thought I should have a listen and it's a perfect companion for my lengthy commute. Challenging, definitely, but rewarding in it's twisted synth-drenched way. Recommended. Tilt is a natural evolution though and a more satisfying album.
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on 22 April 2016
This is what genius does when it enters the studio , fantastic album that should be heard by more people. He is always pushing himself , taking the listener on beautiful , interesting trips. A true innovator in every sense of the word.Gods tonsils , if only he had made more records around this period.
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