'Til The Band Comes In' was Scott Walker's sixth record, originally released in 1970 and consisting of two distinct sides: on the first, Walker gives us a bunch of new solo material, while on the flip there are covers on covers. While Walker started as a renowned pop crooner with a baritone and a lot of melodrama, 'Til The Band Comes In' has hints of the artist who would eventually stop all that easy listening and go hard with the avant-garde.
Vinyl LP £26.99 7798474
180g vinyl reissue LP on Mercury.
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8/10 AndyL 7th December 2014
'Til The Band Comes In' has a bad reputation. This is largely to do with Walker attitude towards it, as he tends to throw it in with the cornball schmaltz of his subsequent albums through the mid-seventies. Given that it's remained largely off-catalogue until now, this has meant that most people have taken him at his word, and the odd tedious rock crit throwing in their own reassertions of the status-quo to gain brownie points with their peers hasn't helped matters. But I think it's not too bold a statement to make if I say that 'TTBCI' is Walker's lost masterpiece. Of course, much of his career is filled with lost masterpieces, you can hardly move for the bloody things, but with all of the s*** that has been flung at this particular album, it's more of a surprise to find that, once it's been hosed down, something of a diamond, albeit a flawed one, is left glinting in the light.
The best of the album is found on the first side, which is mostly taken up by what was intended as a concept piece about people living in a block of flats. So you get the lonely, old, dying man (Joe) rubbing shoulders with the introverted, penniless, romantic dreamer ('Time Operator'), whilst an Eastern European stripper ('Jean The Machine') turns out to be a 'commie spy' somewhere else. This leads to some of Walker's most playful lyricism, and the music ranges from the brassy and forceful Brel-isms of the celebrated 'Little Things' to the sober Americana of the slender but brilliant 'Cowbells Shaking'.
Unfortunately, it is a bit of a game of two halves. And whilst his own, excellent compositions stretch a little into the second side, the finally give way to the contractually obliged MOR pap of legend, the proverbial 'Bad Cover Version's of the Pulp song. But, though 'Ruben James' and Stormy' are genuinely dreadful, Michel Legrand's 'What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life' has something of an endearing crooner's charm about it and 'It's Over' is a beautiful burst of light to close the album. Given that their was plenty of cheap balladry on 'Scott' and 'Scott 2', it seems a bit rough to write off the whole album on the basis of a sprinkling of duds, horribly bad though some of them may be. On the contrary, 'Til The Band Comes In' captures Walker as an artist and songwriter at full throttle much of the time and deserves to be ranked alongside his best work.
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