After a few weeks off to adjust to the ways of London (and to spend a week in the hospital) I have returned to you: my children of music.I have always enjoyed listening to albums in the places that inspired them. When I go to Minneapolis, I always put on The Replacements; when I’m in Georgia, R.E.M. always comes on my CD player. And upon arriving in London I listened to The Cure and The Smiths, and the man that I will now spend my article praising: Scott Walker.
California-born Walker moved to London in 1965 to start his music career. But this does not mean he sounds Californian; his vocals are more London than Morrissey’s or Robert Smith’s. His songs roll along like the winding roads around London and the countryside outside the city.
His sound is larger than music itself. He utilizes orchestras and brass sections to create vast landscapes of sound that puts other ’60s chamber pop to shame. Neil Diamond has a large sound, but compared to Walker, Diamond is a puff piece.
I waited until I got to London to buy Walker’s definitive box set “5 Easy Pieces.” The main reason is that shipping and handling on this U.K.-only release would have killed me; nevertheless, it was very expensive here, too.
With the first track of the set (“Prologue / Little Things”) the listener is transported to a land full of grand sweeps and theatrical sounds that seem lost on the minimalist garage bands of the present.
Scott had two sounds: the grand tour de force of his early days and the experimental flops of his later days. I hate his later work (which makes up about a disc’s worth of material on this release); it sounds tired and haphazard compared to his early perfection.
But with perfect songs like “Jackie,” “Mrs. Murphy,” and “Thanks for Chicago Mr. James” you can’t help but love him. His sound is something that is lost on people now. No one sounds like him now. No one is as theatrical as he was, nor is humor like his used.
If you can find his work, pick it up. Just make sure it’s from the ’60s. If you want to dive in with your dollars first pick up “5 Easy Pieces,” but don’t say I didn’t warn you about the price. Since most of his work is out of print and hard to find, it might be worth your while to pick it up, especially since it combines all his work for film soundtracks. Cheerio till next time.