Scott Walker is an artist like no other. He has seen and explored different heights of commercial success and failure; he’s experienced artistic innovation and has completely missed the mark before. He has been on the forefront of pop stardom with The Walker Brothers; he reinvented himself in the form of an English Chanson; he has been a troubadour of the underworld, and he has also acted as a puppet of the commercial record labels, churning one failed record after another.
Walker became a recluse and hermit for a decade while visiting the dark corners of bars and denounced his fame and musical career. Afterwhich, he turned himself around to approach music as a completely different artform and found himself again as an avant-gardist.
There will be Scott Walker records that you absolutely adore and also quite a few that are as mundane and average as they get. Either way, he has always been an artist that has sought the truth, even though he lost his way a couple of times, and always strove to remain true to himself.
When considering his entire catalogue, there are not many artists who can boast a body of work as diverse as his. The thing about Scott Walker is, if you don’t like one of his records, you are bound to find another that will satisfy your musical desires.
With this list, we strove to outline his catalogue to help you contextualise this entire picture and what his body of work truly amounts to. Here, we ranked his albums from worst to best.
Scott Walker’s albums ranked from worst to best:
16. We Had It All (1974)
Scott Walker’s tenth album and is his final solo record released right before taking a decade long hiatus. Released in 1974, during the period of time I would venture to call his ‘lost years’, he was essentially owned by the record label and was contractually obligated to release material. His excuse at the time was to “return to his roots”.
Unfortunately, the songs on the record are mediocre and middle-of-the-road, not to mention four of the ten songs weren’t even his, they were written by Billy Joe Shaver and had previously appeared on Waylon Jenning’s 1973 Honky Tonk Heroes, who did the whole ‘outlaw country artist’ a little more authentically and more successfully. Long story short, the cowboy country look doesn’t suit Scott Walker.
15. The Moviegoer (1972)
Like the aforementioned, The Moviegoer was a part of what Scott Walker called his ‘wilderness days’. Critics and fans alike have summed up these ‘wilderness records’ as merely a way to pay the bills; unfortunately, Scott Walker, however, was not making music for art anymore.
The record consists of Walker’s renditions of songs found in movies done by other artists. What spurred the wilderness years was the commercial failure of his last two albums of the 1960s and into the ’70s. Essentially, he became the product of commercialism. As a way of compromise, Walker was able to choose the order of the tracklisting. It is no wonder that Walker would later make some far-out avant-garde records, which we will get into later.
14.‘Stretch’ – (1973)
Yet again another ’70s record of Walker’s that failed to chart and, in truth, critics tore the record a new one. Out of all the ‘wilderness’ records, this one might be the king of the middle-of-the-road series, an absolute far cry from what Scott Walker was doing at one point.
The songs found on the record were once again covers of artists that Walker has paid tribute to before. These included Randy Newman and Jimmy Webb. Stretch can be considered one of his ‘country’ records.
13. Any Day Now (1973)
Aptly named as this would be the last album Mr. Walker recorded for Phillips Records, who had essentially held him hostage with this terrible idea of “inoffensive, middle-of-the-road material that could be easily processed, marketed and sold.” This is what happens when one finds a formula within the music industry and is somehow able to coerce people to buy it.
Not everyone in the industry is driven by the pursuit to make really good and authentic music. In fact, even today the majority of people within the music business are not driven by this idea. It is no wonder then Scott Walker would disappear in a self-imposed exile and inadvertently punish himself.
12. Lines – The Walker Brothers (1976)
After Scott Walker was released from Phillips Records, he sought commonality and brotherhood and found some solace in rejoining with his old bandmates with John and Gary Walker. The album followed their 1975 comeback, No Regrets, and is not as good.
It would seem that Scott Walker was still on a dry spell and would not contribute any original material until their ’78 record, Nite Flights. Lines embellishes on the typical stylistic musicality that The Walker Brothers had come to be associated with, during the ’60s, big and beautiful orchestrated arrangements using similar recording techniques to Phil Spector’s ‘Wall of Sound’.
11. No Regrets – The Walker Brothers (1975)
No Regrets was The Walker Brothers comeback record since the ’60s. This one finally put Scott Walker back in the UK charts, with their title-track single, which reached number seven. The single, ‘No Regrets’, was written by folk and blues artist Tom Rush.
Unlike their big-band pop ballads in the ’60s, this album showcased The Walker Brothers in a country-western light. The record is pristinely produced by Scott Walker and Geoff Calver.
10. Take It Easy With The Walker Brothers – The Walker Brothers (1965)
This is the debut of the American-turned-British original boy band. As we begin venturing into Scott Walker’s 1960s territory, we broach the magnificent musical genre that is baroque pop. The good tracks are ‘My Ship Is Coming In’, their rendition of ‘Dancing in The Street’, ‘I Need You’, and ‘Make It Easy On Yourself’.
The wonderful thing about The Walker Brothers is that they all sung (of course, Scott Walker had the most unique voice) and their beautiful wall of sound harmonies truly was one of the best of the time.
9. Bish Bosch (2012)
Entering into Scott Walker’s avant-garde realism, Bish Bosch was the second to last record of his. All in all, it is hard to really rate which of his later solo records are better; one can only make a subjective decision, and which one doesn’t make you cringe sooner. Having said that, it is definitely an acquired taste.
In order to approach an album like Bish Bosch, one must realise that Walker was trying to make extremely minimalist music with unconventional forms (sometimes even replacing instruments altogether). In other words, on this record, he used a pneumatic drill.
8. Tilt (1995)
Considered part of a trilogy, of which this is the first one. Scott Walker throughout the years became increasingly sparse with his music. This record, unlike some of his other avant-garde records, features orchestration and overall very morose melodies.
Over the years, Scott Walker truly found his voice, which has always stood out as the most defining aspect of his music. He has gone where very few have. The lyrics are very cryptic; imagine the musical version of T.S Eliot’s groundbreaking The Waste Land.
7. Soused feat. Sun O))) (2014)
This is a collaboration between Scott Walker and experimental avant-garde band, Sun O))). This was Scott Walker’s last record besides recording a soundtrack. When the baritone singer was developing material for his next record after Bish Bosh, he reached out to Sun O))) about doing a collaboration, as they had previously contacted Walker, but couldn’t because of prior engagements.
“I could get those gaps, you see, between phrases. Which I usually fill with silence, but now I had the drones,” Walker commented about the band’s involvement and to what extent this would entail.
6. The Drift (2006)
Especially during his later years, Scott Walker took his time with writing material; he wrote The Drift over just about a decade. What seems like it should be a record amount, the album took 17 months to record and produced by both Walker himself and Peter Walsh.
The singer stated once that he wanted to create an alien’s interpretation of human music, as they listened from outer space. The further one goes away from planet Earth, the fewer instruments we hear, and the more they start to become mere noise and confusing sounds. In this regard, Scott Walker is very much a deconstructionist or postmodernist. He is creating an entirely new way of thinking about music.
5. Nite Flights – The Walker Brothers (1978)
This was their sixth and final album and is overall, one of the best Scott Walker records. Unlike their previous two records, this one consisted completely of original tracks.
The album was split into three parts, where each of the three members wrote one section and sang those songs. The first four songs are Scott Walkers and show him at an extremely mature level in his songwriting. The album fuses progressive rock, a little jazz and blues-rock.
4. Scott 3 (1969)
As the name of the album suggests, this was his third solo record, and it was released during his absolute prime and notoriety. Even as early as this record, audiences began struggling to keep up with his experimental side that had always existed; this one didn’t sell as well as his first two.
Scott 3 was also his first record to almost be entirely made up of his originals, with the exception of a couple of Jacques Brel songs. Some highlights from this record are ‘It’s Raining Today’, ’30 Century Man’, and ‘Big Louise’.
3. Scott 4 – Scott Engels (1969)
The first album to consist entirely of Scott Walker songs and the first to be released under his given name, this one is a diehard fan favourite. Musically speaking, there was less orchestration on this one compared to his other records, and more focus on the rhythm and within more skeletal instrumentation.
The opening track, ‘The Seventh Seal’ is about Ingmar Bergman’s film of the same name. ‘The Old Man’s Back Again’ is on the Stalinist Regime. Written on the back of the record is the Albert Camus quote, “a man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”
2. Scott 2 (1968)
This is Scott Walker’s second solo album released by Phillips Records. ‘Jackie’ proved to be another hit for Scott Walker who was at the height of his commercial success at this time.
This record also included the same formula that Walker had used on his first record: three-four songs by the Belgian Chason, Jacques Brel, whose songs he began recording soon after discovering him.
1. Scott 1 (1967)
This is the debut album from Scott Walker and deserves the number one spot on the list. Perhaps not a Scott Walker hipster favourite, however, what the album did for Scott Walker and for his sound and image was tremendous and laid the groundwork for the next few years of his successful career.
In addition to some great interpretations of Jacques Brel songs, such as ‘Mathilde’, ‘My Death’, and ‘Amsterdam’, he penned a couple of originals for the album, including ‘Montague Terrace (In Blue)’, a beautifully hypnotic ballad which truly demonstrates everything that Scott Walker is about as an artist.