Marc Almond once noted that Scott Walker could sing "Three Blind Mice" and "make it sound like the only song in the world." While it's true that Walker transformed the most prosaic numbers into unique, dramatic experiences, that's not to say he chose material at random or simply allowed his magical voice to work inevitable wonders without having to try. Walker selected his cover material carefully and crafted masterful, knowing renditions. He achieved that rare balance that distinguishes the best interpreters of others' works -- preserving the essence of the original while making the song entirely his own. Nowhere is this clearer than on the nine Jacques Brel compositions that appeared on Walker's first three solo albums. All of those tracks are featured here. It's logical that Walker gravitated to Brel; the Belgian was a singer/songwriter after Walker's own heart who told psychologically incisive stories of unremarkable lives, raising the banal to the level of high drama -- or at least high camp.
Like Brel, Walker brought a measure of romanticism to the mundane and set his poetic lyrics within arrangements that fleshed out the emotional range of his human comedies, much like miniature soundtracks. Working with Mort Shuman's accomplished translations (and one more schmaltzy version by Rod McKuen), Walker captures the spirit and the many moods of Brel's originals, from quiet pathos ("If You Go Away") to dark humor ("Funeral Tango") to exuberant cynicism ("Jackie") to unbridled euphoria ("Mathilde"), in the process infusing the songs with his own personality. Each of the nine tracks is a gem, but three stand out: the grandiose, swirling waltz of "Amsterdam"; the darkly powerful "My Death"; and the sardonic, angst-ridden "Next." Although these cover versions are perhaps best appreciated alongside Walker's own compositions on his original albums, they remain among the most compelling renderings of Brel's work in the English language.
|My Death||Scott Walker||5:00|
|The Girls And The Dogs||Scott Walker||3:11|
|If You Go Away||Scott Walker||5:01|
|Funeral Tango||Scott Walker||2:58|
|Sons Of||Scott Walker||3:42|