documenting the optical sounds of '60s pop, Acid Punk & Psychedelia

John Walker: A Retrospective 1967-1970

Records released, vintage reviews and photos from John Walker’s solo career

“If You Go Away” LP (Philips BL 7829) December 1967

A few months ago I had the satisfaction of beating John Walker in a stock car race in Essex, so I must admit that I was a little surprised to have been invited to write the sleeve notes for John’s first solo album.

The first time that I heard he was making it was when I met him at ‘Top of The Pops’, and he told me how tired he was feeling owing to the fact that he had been working hard on twelve new titles.

Having just heard this album I can fully understand why he was feeling tired, for to have produced such a beautiful record as this must have taken a lot out of him.

I must say I was surprised at John’s versatility and the way in which he has developed as a singer since the splitting up with The Walker Brothers.

His voice has a rather lovely huskiness about it, and we can somehow hear that he is a very sensitive person who really does feel the words he is singing.

Many of the songs are about trees, water, leaves and nature as a whole – in fact about beautiful things in everyday life which most of us tend not to notice.

One also gets the impression that some of the incidents he is singing about he has at one stage of his life experienced himself, and in his voice there is a strange sense of sadness which I personally find extremely attractive.

This is an album which can be enjoyed when you have time to relax and really listen to it, as every track has something in it which will make you want to play it over and over again; and the arrangements and orchestral direction make this one of the best albums I have ever heard.

Take, for instance, the first track on side one, “The Right To Cry.” This is a beautiful Goffin-King number sung with that husky warmth and feeling that I was talking about earlier, and certainly a song that you’ll be playing a lot.

“Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry” gives John a chance to sing his way through a sweet love song , which will show you just how versatile he is, whilst “Reaching For The Sun” is another beat ballad which John handles in his uniquely different way.

An exception to the rule suddenly shakes us out of all sentimental mood and shows John in a happy-go-lucky vein. “Good Day” tells the story of nature and peace, with John displaying that feeling of slight despair that he seems to feel when singing about life.

“If You Go Away” is a number that captures your heart from the first tender opening bars – and the only good thing about it ending is the thought that there are six more tremendous songs on side two!

“So Goes Love” is a good beat ballad which is quite an appetizer for the goodies to follow. John sings next one of my all-time favourites, “It’s All In The Game”, which has already given Tommy Edwards and Cliff Richard smash hits in the past.

“Nancy” is, for me, one of the outstanding tracks on the album for here, John – without the aid of gimmicks – seems to have given a new breath of life to this beautiful old standard, and I’ll bet that this is one you’ll be playing again.

“It’s A Hang Up Baby” suddenly brings us back to the stark raw world with a hearty crash, and we find John raving it up once again, then bringing the tempo down to a position for the oldie “Pennies From Heaven”.

John’s own number “I Don’t Wanna Know About You” acts as a good lively finish for this first class album.

And now all you’ve got to do is take the record out of its cover, put it on the turntable, and sit back and relax. You’re going to have many happy hours listening to John singing especially for you. (Tony Blackburn)

The superb cover photo is guaranteed to set practically every female heart in Britain fluttering. John sings like never before, putting loads of feeling and quality into the songs, which are mostly night-clubby ballads.

With support from the sensitive Reg Guest backings, John looks all set to enter the realm of high-class semi-jazz singers. Yes, a great leap forward for John. (Intro magazine)

John Walker – ”Annabella” / ”You Don’t Understand Me” (Philips BF 1593) July 1967

It must have been very hard for John Maus late of Walker Brothers fame to decide what sort of song to choose as a first solo single, therefore congratulations all round because this is very nice and I like it.

Which really surprised me in a funny way as people had said ”Oh it needs lots of plays and you won’t like it when you first hear it, but it will grow on you,” which is often what people say when they really mean it’s not a very good record.

Well, this is all breathless and the tune is very much like ”Sunny.” An odd little song about how he loves her and she mustn’t take any notice of the boy who’s after her, it all ends suspended in mid-air. I like listening to it and John’s voice has an uncertain charm which endears me to the record more.
(Penny Valentine review – Disc & Music Echo – July, 1967)
UK Chart Position: 24

Disc 18/03/67

John Walker – ”If I Promise” / ”I See Love In You” (Philips BF 1612) October 1967

A sparkling disc from John Walker, which personally I prefer to his previous hit ”Annabella”. It’s a real blues-chaser, with a bouncy Latin-flecked rhythm, emphasised by a delicious rippling guitar figure, flute and tambourine. And there’s a fat, fruity brass section adding depth to the accompaniment.

A rip roaring slap happy song it receives a lively personality treatment from John, who goes up still further in my estimation as a result of this effort. Don’t think the song has got what it takes to make the No.1 spot or even 2 or 3.

But it’s zest, polish and uninhibited gaiety are enough to make it a comfortable hit.

FLIP: A bluesy approach to this beat-ballad, enhanced by organ, pizzicato strings and solo guitar. Sung with sincerity and deep emotion. Appealing!
(NME review – 21/10/67)

It’s not often that I hear a song once and really flip over it, but that’s what happened to me with ”If I Promise”. Tom Jones was going to do this as a single a few months ago, but he was on his ballad kick at the time, and this is not a ballad. It was once recorded in the States by Jerry Reed, but I’ve given it a smoother kind of arrangement. Hope everyone likes it.
(RAVE magazine – November 1967)

Another disappointment this week is John’s follow-up to ”Annabella” which I thought was pretty and liked. I don’t really think his voice is terribly suited to this light, fast material. He sounds vaguely uncomfortable throughout the record.

It has a lovely opening with warm guitar and a shuffling South American rhythm, and it does start off well, especially that very American trick of soft double tracking and gentle brass. But the chorus lets it down a bit. Maybe it’s one of those records that insinuates itself with you.
(Disc & Music Weekly review – 14/10/67)

Guitar intro and John sings rather subtly most of the way…nice sprightly tempo and a good song, featuring parts of duetting with himself. Every bit as strong as his original solo item and a cert for the charts. Nice arrangement too and backing.

FLIP: Self-penned and moody old love song. Very well performed.
(Record Mirror review – 21/10/67)

The name alone should be good for selling a few thousand copies of this, which is a reasonably pleasant, fast-moving ballad. John’s voice doesn’t exactly grate, but compared with his ex-brother Scott, he’s a bit watery.

He doesn’t get much feeling into this single. I’m sure he can do better than this. Let’s hope his next one has a bit more guts and bite. (Intro magazine)

John Walker – “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” / “Open The Door Homer” (Philips BF 1655) April 1968

This is a Bob Dylan song, of course. John works it with a small group backing, featuring Hawaiian guitar (I think) and the mood of the number seems to suit his relaxed and casual style.

But there are times when I felt sort of I hovered around without getting anywhere. You try it – the choice is yours.

Flip: In some ways, I prefer it. (Record Mirror – 30/03/68)

John Walker – “Kentucky Woman” / “I Cried All The Way Home” (Philips BF 1676) July 1968

A sudden splurge of interests in this Neil diamond song and John does a suitably urgently romantic job on it, whipping up near-frenzy in the upper register.

The sheet repetition of the back-beat will help it make progress. It really is a very good song and I feel this treatment does it full justice.

Flip: A bigger sort of ballad and I have this feeling that John’s voice actually HAS got higher. (Record Mirror – 29/06/68)

Record Mirror – 07/12/68

Singles Discography:

Sunny / Come Rain Or Come Shine (Philips BE 12597) 12/66
Annabella / You Don’t Understand Me (Philips BF 1593) 06/67
If I Promise / I See Love In You (Philips BF 1612) 10/67
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / Open The Door Homer (Philips BF 1655) 04/68
Kentucky Woman / I Cried All The Way Home (Philips BF 1676) 07/68
Woman / A Dream (Philips BF 1724) 11/68
Yesterday’s Sunshine / Little One (Philips BF 1758) 03/69
Everywhere Under The Sun / Traces Of Tomorrow (Carnaby CNS 4004) 10/69
True Grit / Sun Comes Up (Carnaby CNS 4009) 01/70
Cottonfields / Jamie (Carnaby CNS 4012) 05/70
Over And Over Again / Sun Comes Up (Carnaby CNS 4012) 10/70

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