Yesterday in the foot notes I alluded to a Theme Week. I posted The Stranglers and in the main body of the text I admitted to not knowing even their most famous album until relatively recently (The Black and White tour I saw them on was 5 years ago, the album is over 30 years old) But I do know their song book. I am also pretty familiar with their choice of covers. For a band seen as a bit austere and cold and goth, in places they had a lot of soul. They also had a lot of Soul Covers in their ‘pub rock’ (we’ll get into that later in the week) back ground.
Walk On By is a hardy perennial of a tune. Originally written by Bacharach and David for the divine Dionne Warwick it has been covered and covered and covered over the years. Not just by soul singers copying Her Majesty’s majestic original. It’s been elongated, freaked out on, given hammers for teeth and slipped a little something in it’s drink; depending on who is doing the covering. When I think of Walk On By there are three versions that matter on my own Rock and Roll skyline.
Dionne is the tallest tree in the forest. Of course she is. The smoothest, creamiest, warmest voice effortlessly cooing her way into the central cortex of 20th Century culture with trumpet parps, silky strings and sounding like a choir all on her own. By the time she’s joined with the backing vocalists and the pip pip pip metronome has dug into your ears it is an unforgettable experience. Bert is credited with having discovered Dionne and her sister Dee Dee (not the Ramone). It was his partner Hal David who described her voice as full of tremendous strength and a soft delicacy that he likened to “a ship in a bottle”. That is a perfect description for me. Restraint is often lost on modern R&B and soul singers. Funnily enough I think the Stranglers got this right on their cover of Walk On By.
Others who have taken a stroll with the tune include Gabrielle, Seal, Sybil, Average White Band, Gloria Gaynor, Melissa, Cyndi Lauper, that band of accountants and bartenders who get up and jam at the pub on Thursday nights and the legends that are D-Train.
You know who didn’t show any restraint on his cover of Walk On By? Isaac Hayes, that’s who. His spiraling epic jam is a fresh take on a classic tune that does things the original composers could only have dreamed of. The excessive groove and Hot Buttered Soul sliding around the studio that day is a thing to behold. A magnificent recording from a mini album I have come to hold very dear over the years.
So that’s it. That’s my three tall firs of Walk On By I gaze up at when walking through the forest of cover versions. A song for singers everywhere but it really only has one owner.
Standard Punk Delivery will be resumed tomorrow. For now, look up and breathe it in.