John Walker

If You Go Away

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It's sometimes forgotten that all three of the Walker Brothers began solo careers after the group broke up in the late 1960s, although only Scott Walker's solo work generated substantial hits and critical respect. If You Go Away was John Walker's 1967 solo album, and while John was never the most talented writer and singer in the Walker Brothers (Scott was), even at the time it must have been a disappointment to Walker Brothers' fans. There are inevitable comparisons to Scott Walker's early solo records due to the vaguely similar path this album followed of orchestrated ballads, with one foot in middle-of-the-road non-rock and the other in more contemporary pop/rock. The big difference, however, is that while Scott Walker was the very best at doing that sort of thing, when John Walker did it, it just sounded bland and boring. His voice wasn't nearly as strong as Scott's as a lead instrument -- in fact, at times it's pretty thin and shaky. More crucially, though, the songs were gloppily arranged, and the several pre-rock standards along the lines of "It's All in the Game" and "Pennies from Heaven" were not just totally out of step with 1967 trends, but pretty poorly done. Not even a couple of songs co-written by Graham Nash escape the uncomfortable mediocrity of this colorless set, with John's one original composition (under his real name John Maus), "I Don't Wanna Know About You," being an unmemorable soul-pop effort. He also begged another unfavorable comparison to Scott Walker with a subpar interpretation of "If You Go Away," the kind of Jacques Brel composition at which Scott excelled in covering. As a final indictment of the album, the best track, the haunting little-known Gerry Goffin-Carole King composition "So Goes Love," had already been done better by British pop singer Dave Berry. While If You Go Away is only needed by Walker Brothers collectors, the 2004 CD reissue of the album on Repertoire does at least enhance its value considerably with the addition of no less than a dozen tracks from 1967-69 of John Walker solo singles. Unfortunately, these aren't much better on the whole than the album, but do at least show a greater range of material and a far greater presence of self-penned songs. Among these bonus cuts is John's sole (albeit low-charting) hit British solo single, "Annabella" -- another number co-written by Graham Nash, and one that rather resembles Bobby Hebb's hit "Sunny" in parts. There are also a couple of pretty dreary Bob Dylan covers, including one from the then-unavailable The Basement Tapes, "Open the Door Homer," that may have been the first version of that song to find commercial release. (The only other contender, as a trivial note, was the Danish group the Floor, who also covered the song on a 1968 single.) While some of his original material on these singles is lousy or inconsequential, at least some more personality comes through on some of them, like the melodramatic "I Cried All the Way Home" (which, again, sounds a little like a slight Scott Walker) and a few gentle, moody ballads ("I See Love in You," "Woman," and "A Dream") that indicate he was capable of better work than he generally delivered.

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