This review was originally posted on the first Toorak Times web site where publications ceased on that site in March 2017. The old site will be permanently closed in 2020 and these reviews are being re-published in order to preserve them on the current Toorak Times/Tagg site.
This is album retro-review number 117 in the series of retro-reviews of both vinyl and Cd albums in my collection.
The series is called “Cream of The Crate” and each review represents an album that I believe is of significant musical value, either because of it’s rarity, because it represents the best of a style or styles of music or because there is something unique about the group or the music.
The first fifty reviews were vinyl only, and the second fifty reviews were CD’s only. Links to these reviews can be found at the bottom of this page. From review 101 onward I have mixed vinyl and CD albums and, try and present an Australian album every fifth review!
The album is self titled, where the group has used their name to title the album. It is a vinyl album by The Walker Brothers, and titled The Walker Brothers.
It was released initially in 1966 but this copy is the 1968 release, bought out when the group was really cooking. It’s released on the Phillips label and its code is 6463 058.
The album consists of 12 tracks including three of their major hits. There are no inserted liner notes and the notes on the rear of the cover are pretty rudimentary.
It was released on Phillips “Rock Legends” releases, and the cover is certainly colourful, and just stops short of being garish. What is surprising is the “record weight”, generally most pressings in the 1960’s were around 120 – 125 gm, but this feels like its about 150gms, which does make for better sound reproduction!
- A1 The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore
- A2 Land of 1000 Dances
- A3 There Goes My Baby
- A4 People Get Ready
- A5 Pretty Girls Everywhere
- A6 Stay With Me Baby
- B1 Make It Easy on Yourself
- B2 My Ship Is Coming In
- B3 Dancing in the Street
- B4 Hurting Each Other
- B5 Saturday’s Child
- B6 Love Her
Now just in case you weren’t aware, the Walker Brothers were not brothers!
They were in fact Scott Noel Engel [who became Scott Walker] and, John Maus [who when he met Scott was already using the name John Walker].
The two came together in Los Angeles in 1964, and formed the Walker Brothers as a trio, taking on-board drummer Al Schneider. However, their music relationship started much earlier when Walker and Engel, along with two other musicians, toured around the USA as the Surfaris.
It certainly was a semi-lucrative deal, but, not satisfactorily as musicians as none of them actually played on any of the Surfaris records.
However all around them groups were struggling to “make it” as the overwhelming tide of the British pop scene was taking over, so John and Scott decided to seek a better outcome in the UK and just prior to leaving hooked up with drummer Gary Leeds, who had toured the UK with P.J Proby.
Leeds was convinced their style of music would go down well in the UK and so they left and arrived there unannounced in February 1965.
Within the span of less than three years they had gained considerable popularity and had three excellent hits including the most memorable, The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.
Now interestingly, their success encouraged three young men in Australia, already artists in their own right, to form a similar trio, and they became known as The Virgil Brothers.
After almost three years of successful touring and recording – the Walker Brothers split up. No reason was ever officially given but it was most likely due to the pressures of stardom, internal tensions, and the explanation most widely used by all groups who folded, ‘artistic differences’.
Personally I just think they had run out of steam!
All three members continued on with solo careers with Scott Walker being the most successful.
In 1974 they were encouraged to reform and actually recorded album No Regrets. The title track was released as a single and rose to No. 7 on the UK chart in early 1976.
But the glue holding them together was pretty weak and they barely lasted a year together. Once again what happened is not clearly documented, but Wikipedia says, “They recorded two further albums together, Lines (1976) and Nite Flights (1978), which were less successful, although the experimental style of Scott’s tracks on Nite Flights laid the stylistic groundwork for his later solo career.
The Walker Brothers undertook some cabaret performances, although Engel (by now more usually known as Scott Walker) was reluctant to sing live; the group’s contract with GTO Records ended and, according to John Walker, the group “just drifted apart.“
What this album does capture is the essential sound of the Walker Brothers and has all their main hits up to the point of production.
As I have so on so many occasions in my reviews, the first track usually sets the tone for the album, and in this case it does and it doesn’t.
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Any More is probably their most remembered track, but it wasn’t their biggest selling single, we will come to that later.
This track was still very big and reached #1 in the UK in 1966 and stayed on the top of the charts for an amazing four weeks. It was amazing because they held out such iconic groups as the Hollies, Small Faces, Beachboys, Yardbirds and Kinks.
The track was originally recorded by Frankie Valli but did very little for him, in fact putting it bluntly – it bombed!
So why did the Walker Brothers have such a massive hit?
Well to start with its success was measured across the world and must have hit a sympathetic note. Certainly the Frankie Valli and the Walker Brothers versions had the string backing and coral backing, but, somehow Frankie’s voice just sounds ’empty”, devoid of any real feeling, while the version by the Walker Brothers sees Scott taking the lead role and doing it well.
Now this is quite interesting because up until now John had the predominance of lead parts.
In regards to this track, some might say almost fifty years later, that it is a pedestrian song, but I disagree.
Music is often contextual for a variety of reasons, and this version of this song by this trio hit a sympathetic vibe in the audiences, live as well as in the ears of those at the end of radio’s and record players. It is reasonable to claim that they produced a lasting and well produced piece of music.
The orchestration on this track is both tight and emotive and the voices are really, very good.
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine
Dropping the needle onto track number 1 on side 2, will end up playing a Burt Bacharach/Hal David monster hit, Make It Easy On Yourself.
It was the Walkers first UK number 1 single in 1965 (number 16 in the US).
It was also the opening track on their debut album, “Take It Easy With The Walker Brothers“. It was a very full orchestral production, very much in the Bacharach/David style, and I guess it worked so well for the guys, for that same production style was used in the Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine.
The other similarity between the two tracks that should not be lost on us, was that this track featured the voice of Scott Walker, and observed previously, John had traditionally been the lead vocalist.
But with these two hits under their belt John’s days as lead singer were over.
Mind you reading newspaper reports of the day indicate that John installed himself as lead singer and lead guitarist, but that it became abundantly clear that when Scott joined him, it was Scott who had the better voice.
Interestingly it seems as though John then took up the challenge of trying to not just sing good harmonies, but to make them interesting.
Make It Easy On Yourself
This album does contain one other decent sized hit for the Walker’s, and that is track 2 on side 2 – My Ship Is Coming In.
Once again this track features the voice of Scott Walker. It stayed in the charts for twelve weeks reaching number 3 in 1966.
By the time this track reached number 3 their popularity in the UK – particularly that of Scott – reached a new high, especially among teenage girls, and their fan club in that country was said to have been larger than The Beatles.
It was the last of their “big” hits, and by the late 1966 early 1967 music trends had moved on and the Walker Brothers were beginning to sound a bit dated.
When you listen to other tracks on this album, like Hurting Each Other, you can appreciate Scott’s voice and their combined harmonies. At the same time they do all start to sound very much the same on each track and it’s easy to understand why their phenomenal popularity began to dissipate as fast as it had formed.
My Ship Is Coming In
The final track on the album is Love Her.
This track was actually recorded prior to their departure for the UK, and it was the first track that has Scott featured as lead singer.
The track was arranged by Jack Nitzsche who had become the right-hand man for production El-Supremo Phil Spector. Nitzsche also had a hit in his own right in 1963 with a quirky instrumental called The Lonely Surfer.
Having been very involved in the Spector “Wall of Sound” style of production it seems logical that it was he, that introduced this “big” sound that dominated the Walkers hits, and it starts to show itself in this track. Now the track failed to make the Top 10 anywhere but did garner a lot of radio play and in many ways was a perfect “introduction” card for the group when they hit the British shores.
Of the four tracks I have featured in this retro-review this is certainly the weakest, whether that was because it was Scott’s first attempt at singing lead and confidence wasn’t high, or whether it just didn’t ring sit as well as the producers had hoped, it did reach number 20 in the UK.
Take It Easy With The Walker Brothers Philips 1965
Introducing The Walker Brothers Smash Records 1965
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore Smash Records 1966
Portrait Philips 1966
The Walker Brothers * Philips 1966
Images Philips 1967
The Walker Brothers In Japan Philips 1968
No Regrets GTO 1975
Lines GTO 1976
Nite Flights GTO 1978
* The only album not to have multiple releases
This is not a massively strong album!
We need to remember that most albums only had two or three very good (sometimes excellent) tracks, and the rest were “fill”, largely material the group(s) played live. So even on this compilation that formula was followed.
But we need to remember that over the two years of 1956/66 the Walker Brothers became – with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones – one of the most popular groups in the country.
Yet the story didn’t have a happy ending as I alluded to earlier.
After Scott left in 1968, he struck out alone for an incredibly unsuccessful solo career. But when they were bought back together for the reunion in the 1970’s, this “reunion” went absolutely nowhere and again they drifted apart.
None of them ever had any form of music success again, with John walker taking up customising guitars and running a semi-successful recording studio until he died in 2011.
Gary Walker continued to gig around the UK, but mostly in small clubs while Scott continues to record second-rate pieces of music.
In my mind the Walker Brothers were able to ride a short but powerful tide of popularity and did leave a few lasting tracks. Why they were unable to change sufficiently to keep pace with the changes to style and audience needs, is a question that I’ll leave others to ponder.
Mind you there are many who would disagree with my feelings toward Scott in particular, and he has an active fan-base today, but mainly in Germany.
I’m not sure what that says about Scott, or for that matter the Germans.
Ebay has a multitude of Walker Brothers albums from $5.00 up to $30.00, with the album I have reviewed coming in around the middle of the range.
It is not an album, or even a group, that I would tell you to desperately go out and buy. If you are a fan of British music of the 60’s, a Walker Brothers album is still a must, and this is as good as any.
There are a large number of videos featuring The Walker Brothers as at the time television was smitten by pop stars and pop programs ruled. This leaves us with a great legacy from that period.
Make It Easy On Yourself
Land Of A Thousand Dances
The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore
Previous Cream of The Crate Albums:
To view/listen the first 50 vinyl album reviews just click the image below –
To view/listen the first 50 Cd album reviews just click the image below –
Click to open the following Vinyl reviews from 101 onward:
#108: Paul Simon – Graceland