Various Artists

Scott Walker: 30 Century Man [Music Inspired by the Film]

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Rather than issue a soundtrack to his deservedly acclaimed documentary Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, director Stephen Kijak and Lakeshore Records president Brian McNellis came up with an alternative strategy to highlight the film. While a soundtrack with Noel Scott Engel’s (Walker) greatest hits -- and misses -- would have made for a delightful issue, cross-label licensing of his music would have been prohibitively costly for a relatively small-budget film, not to mention a legal nightmare. Instead, they agreed upon a tribute record, but even here, one with a twist. Kijak reached out to many artists he knew who wanted to record Walker’s music yet whose performances were not included in the film. Rather that assemble one of those “tribute to the film” or "music inspired by the film” disasters, they assembled a tribute to Walker’s music itself. They also moved the typical tribute album traps aside. They concentrated on (but did not exclusively record) female artists interpreting these songs, partially because of Walker's enormously masculine tenor voice. The only exceptions were Peter Broderick’s soft a cappella reading of “Duchess,” Damon & Naomi with "The World's Strongest Man," Ulrich Schnauss' instrumental take on “It’s Raining Today,” and Little Annie and Paul Wallfisch’s moody, gutter love song “Such a Small World.” The artist who reaches closest to -- but goes in another direction with -- Walker’s music is Jarboe on “A Lover Loves.” The droning acoustic guitars and slippery reverb and her sense of the croon is both foreboding and infectious. Her extensive range is tempered here but her extensive expressionism is employed to the hilt, creating an obsessive, passionate rendering of the tune. Laurie Anderson's reading of “The Electrician” is as inventive and expansive as Walker’s but in very different ways -- its percussive approach is softer, yet Anderson’s voice moves through the electronics aggressively (and uncharacteristically) to get to the sense of awe and dread in the song. These takes are contrasted with Damon & Naomi's elegant, vulnerable reading of “The World’s Strongest Man” and Saint Etienne's gorgeously sophisticated indie pop take on “Manhattan.” Ultimately, this set works wonderfully as a tribute, if an offbeat one. It’s wildly creative and yet displays the respect for the sheer originality of Walker’s music in virtually every cut.

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