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The Walker Brothers - Take It Easy With the Walker Brothers

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Artist: The Walker Brothers

Album: Take It Easy With the Walker Brothers

Label: Water

Review date: Jun. 23, 2008

This reissue includes everything from the Walker Brothers' 1965 Philips LP, and that’s it. There is an import version with eight bonus tracks, not included here. If you’re a Scott Walker completist, you could spend more money and nerd out harder. So that’s out of the way.

Let’s look at this thing on its own merits. But how does that even work? Can we imagine what it would’ve sounded like before Scott discovered existentialism and Jacques Brel and became the psychedelic crooner god? At the time? It probably sounded like a Righteous Brothers record, with a bit less polish and bit more vulnerability. A pop record, with safe taste in material (Bacharach, Pomus, “Land of 1,000 Dances”), a so-so killer-to-filler ratio, and only the subtlest vulnerabilities distinguishing it from a dozen other Spector-fied pop records that came out the same year. Of the early Walker Brothers full-lengths, this was the most radio-friendly, and is now the least interesting, by and large, despite its humble, dated pleasures. At the time, it probably didn’t sound like the sort of record that would endure – it was stuck between rat-pack slickness and ‘60s pop urgency, without particularly strong stock in either. It probably didn’t sound like appropriate fodder for obsession.

Taken in context with Scott’s later work (which, in a Borgesian nothing-exists-in-a-vacuum sense, is the only way to take it now, just as Scott’s later work can’t be fully divorced from his teen-idol past), some gentle eccentricities emerge. His take on David Gates’ “The Girl I Lost In the Rain” is an easy highlight, hinting at his ability to pull the smoothest melodies into the eerie, complex mod dystopia he would explore thoroughly with the Scott series. “I Don’t Want to Hear It Anymore” (best remembered from Dusty In Memphis, and evidence of how brilliantly acerbic Randy Newman could be as a songwriter) suggests that darkness more directly. “You’re All Around Me” (his only original here, penned in collaboration with session singer Lesley Duncan) is another high mark – “Plastic Palace People,” it ain’t, but it’s got every bit of the obsession and paranoia that a great love song needs. It leads nicely into an endearingly wobbly cover of Dylan’s “Love Minus Zero,” the album’s most curious throwaway, a cut that could have only existed before rock’s obsession with album continuity.

Faux-brother John never emerges as a natural leader of anything, but he’s a confidently sleazy pop-rock singer (see “Dancing In the Street”). And his exhilarating harmonies give the best of these songs their timeless anchorage (see “Make It Easy On Yourself”) that would have made this a worthwhile find in ’08, whether or not faux-brother Scott had floated off into Scott Land.

By Emerson Dameron

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