Review Summary: The Antithesis of Drift. Still genius though.
Around this time Scott Walker was a Middle of the Road singer. He sang songs about falling in love with a lot of women, most of them reminding him of Paris. After 3 albums with fantastic Jacques Brel covers and 'standards', mixed with his own music, Scott Walker took the plunge and released an album of fully original music. While that sounds like standard fair any other genre of music, M.O.R. did not have albums full of originals. These singers were musicians not composers and without a few famous songs on the album it was hard to get sales. Well Scott 4 didn't sell very well. In fact it didn't chart, at all, when it was released. The record company even had it put out of print. While the cold commercial reaction might make you be weary of listening to this album, or since we are on sputnik make you want to listen to it more, I assure you that the album is wonderful.
The music here to begin with is not Middle of the Road anymore. It is more of a heavily orchestrated something. I can't quite pin it down, it is not pop, and it is not folk or M.O.R. it seems to just sound like music to me. It feels like if we had not had bands formed in the 60s a lot more music would sound this way. Whatever the genre it is though, it works. Well i digress, from the actually review, so lets begin, shall we?
The album's lyrics are top notch, hell it starts with a song that goes through the plot of "Seventh Seal", an existentialist medieval drama directed by Ingmar Bergman, and are full of fantastic metaphors. Scott is still sining about women for a good half of the album but the music isn't shallow. The songs are about mature relationships not the young passion that we accustomed to. The other half run from the topics of self worth to the Neo-Stalinist regime. To add to that Scott Walker as a singer has fantastic diction. You can always understand the words, so there is no reason to sit there with a lyric sheet in order to get the full impact of the music. In fact Scott's voice adds a certain grace to the music as his ringing baritone works very well with a well trained a string section, some percussion, and a few electric instruments now and then behind him.
The actual music isn't bad either. i mean since this is an album full of original compositions the music is kinda the most important part. In this respect Scott Walker does a spectacular job. The album starts off with a acoustic guitar and a trumpet blasting away for atmospheres sake. Atmosphere will not need any assistance after the trumpet and guitar's kind charity because it sets up the album perfectly. The album then runs into 3 ballads, a largo piece with a an odd (Japanese?) string instrument that repeats the theme every now and then, soul music, a country-esque number, a ballad with a soul chorus and a folk track. All this happens while still holding that Scott Walker sound that makes the songs not fit perfectly into their influenced genres. The backing musicians are fantastic and the album is overproduced just how you would imagine vocal music with 20 instruments behind it would be produced in the 60s. Even though the old-timey production is there, the album never feels full. The orchestra is underwhelming despite the bulk of instruments. This works very well with Scott's full voice as it makes each song intimate, he is sining to you instead of at you. The songs are well composed though they might be a bit too mellow for the modern ear. If you ever feel like listening to some nice poetry, sung by a good singer, to some nice music then i suggest that you get this album. Artistically this is probably where you can see Scot Walker begin the journey that took him into avant-garde, this album is the antithesis of Drift, it is happy and calm, at least pertaining to the music, and is calming, but is still on the same level artistically, and that alone would be worth the listen.
I'll leave you with Scott's own words, "Old gets a new life/ Reach out you can touch it's true"