Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Scott Walker - Scott 3


Scott Walker (Noel Scott Engel) sings: "Till a hundred years or so, shame you won't be there to see me, shakin' hands with Charles De Gaulle. Play it cool and Saran-wrap all you can, be a 30 Century Man, you can freeze like a 30 Century Man," on his most loved acoustic track "30 Century Man". Johnny Franz's production, Angela Morley's orchestration and a hoard of fans awaited Walker's follow-up to his last cover heavy sophomore album Scott 2. The success of Walker's Jacques Brel covers including "Jackie" and "The Girls and The Dogs" encouraged Walker to re-work more Brel songs. The Belgian songwriter was a heavy influence on Walker's early works, which passed through Walker to the soon to be great British art rocker David Bowie. It was Walker's third album Scott 3 that established him as an independent artist redefining pop music in the 60s. The innocence of "Copenhagen", where Walker sings: "We're snowdrops falling through the night. We'll melt away before we land." His powerful low baritone capturing the essence of love using the magnificent closing line: "And our love is an antique song, for children's carousels," his aching voice surrounded in violin reverb and a sweet percussion outro.

As the music industry thrived in the late 60s, the artists involved felt first-hand the backend of fame. Walker accepted his rise but never put him in a position of confinement. 1969's pre-release single "Lights of Cincinnati" was recorded and released as a promotion to Scott 3. The lush instrumentation and gospel-like backing vocals were uncharacteristic of Walker, who was in his prime. It's a fantastic song that didn't make it on the original and most copies of Scott 3. "Lights of Cincinnati" appealed to an older audience, whereas the contrasting Scott 3 was for a younger more eccentric audience. Take the 10th track "Two Weeks Since You've Gone", the flipside to pre-release single "Lights of Cincinnati". It shows the complete opposite of what the men in suits at Philips Records wanted. They were searching for the next Frank Sinatra, that position was a shoe-in for the sex symbol who lead The Walker Brothers in the opposite direction of The Beatles. It was Walker's challenging direction choice that put huge pressure on producer Franz, something his superiors were weary of. Franz delivered the goods on Scott 3, as did Morley, album opener "It's Raining Today" was the track with redundant orchestral features. Walker said of the song: “[I was] hitch-hiking over America, meeting a lot of people with whom I had ephemeral relationships. [It's] A song about meeting people, knowing them about a week, falling in love - and moving on." His teenage years certainly opened up a whole world of lyricism, he sings: "No hang-ups for me, 'cause hang-ups need company."

The power of a gong starts "Big Louise", the euphonious fourth track. This classic track is an absolute masterpiece, with Morley's expertise arrangements of caressing strings layers of bliss over Walkers painful voice, he sings: "Didn't time sounds sweet yesterday? In a world filled with friends, you lose your way." It's the sheer audacity of Walker's creativity that pushed Morely and Franz to acceptingly follow the man that was changing the sound of contemporary pop. This is pop on its fringes, bordered with experimental music and classical. Walker's soothing and heart wrenching vocal hits the highs, but more importantly delivers the blow with his low baritone. "Rosemary" takes Walker's song-writing to the next level, he sings: "Dream back last summer. Dream back the lips of that traveling salesman, mr. Jim, He smelled of miracles, with stained glass whispers." His stunning lyricism encases the love shared between Walkers characters in his short stories. And though these songs read happy and lovely, one cannot help noticing the impending sense of doom and sadness. Scott 3 doesn't have the scare factor of its follow-up, but it has all the experimentation and severed emotions: "That's what I want, a new shot at life, but my coat's too thin, my feet won't fly. And I watch the wind and I see another dream blowin' by." 

"We Came Through" is influenced from Brel's lyricism. Walker takes a patriotic view; using military aspects and fast paced instrumentation too enhance the one minute 50 second song in all its glory. Soaring strings and trumpets reminiscent of the great composer Ennio Morricone plague "We Came Through" in a slightly unusual manner. Walker's gloomy vocals and Morely's compositions are somewhat deranged from the passion and pace of "We Came Through". Walker sings: "We came through, like the Gothic monsters perched on Notre Dame. We observe the naked souls of gutters pouring forth mankind, smothered in an avalanche of time. And we're giants as we watch our kings and countries raise their shields, and Guevara dies encased in their ideals, and as Luther King's predictions fade from view; We came through." Walker's imagery in all its glory is surrounded by Tchaikovsky styled "1812 Overture" cannons in an emphatic fashion.

One of Scott 3's short and sweet tracks is "Butterfly", the beautiful dreamy sixth track that evokes the raw inner beauty of women. This is followed by one of Walker's many ballads, "Two Ragged Soldiers". He says it's: "About two tramps who get their fantasies from a bottle," and the lyrics tell that story from an onlooker, presumably Walker. He sings over a softly dimmed melody: "There were nights on park benches, stale bread for the pigeons. Good mornings to faces who just turned away." Walker's extensive lyricism and Morely's fantastic compositions are showcased in these mid album tracks - from the powerfulness of "We Came Through" to the prettiness of "Butterfly", ending up at this heart-breaking tale. It plays an important role on Scott 3, as Walker progresses to play the simplest track on the album, "30 Century Man". It's the track that defines Walker's career, unaware that his lyrics would come back to bite the audience with Walker's sporadic return to music in the late 70s after a substantial absence. He sings: "You can freeze like a 30 Century Man," referring to: "People who advertise that they will put you in deep freeze, suspend life, and bring you back in the future."

Before entering Brel’s territory, Walker drops one last original song, "Winter Night" - one of the most graceful baroque pop songs of all time. It features love longed lyrics such as: "You're like a winter night, your thoughts are frozen." You can almost feel the cool winter breeze and at the same time the sunny side of summer when he sings: "I hum inside, like the meadows in summer," all to be smashed back down to winter with: "But I'll never light them up, again." 

Scott 3 wouldn’t be complete without the three Brel covers, "Sons Of", "Funeral Tango", and "If You Go Away". The first of these, "Sons Of" is an identical cover, with Walker obviously singing in English rather than Brel's native French tongue. These three songs are among the last of brel's discography, and Walker does the English versions justice. He picks the latter "If You Go Away" as the final track on the album. There's a sense of darkness behind the purity of Brel's songs. Walker covers it with ease and uses the romanticism behind Brel's lyrics to create a painful song in the Tom Jones sense. This song has of course been covered by many artists, none so as thoughtfully and emotionally as Walker.

There's no doubt about it, Scott 3 started Walker's creative revolution. Scott 4 and the amazing experimental and avant-garde albums that later followed are somewhat descendants of this album. Walker's been a major influence on an array of artists including Radiohead, their single "Creep" massively lends from Walker's "The Old Man's Back Again". Pulp's Jarvis Cocker makes a personal connection with Walker, he even collaborated with Walker. Damon Albarn, Richard Hawley, Sting, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Walker's music wowed the greats. He lives on today in an eccentric experimental form, still influencing, still making music and still pursuing his creativity. Walker's masked imagery and recluse lifestyle has been one of great ups and downs. Scott 3 captured Walker in his most creative 60s state with the backing of two important figures and an array of session musicians at their exposal. The sounds are beautifully constructed with Walker originals and Brel re-works. Morley certainly plays her part in making Scott 3 a fantastic album. This album is still a regular on my iPod, my Clementine player and my record player. It loves on in the memory of Walker fans above and beyond the pop.
~Eddie

9.6

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