Emerging from the accolades of a beloved album is no easy feat. Walker’s previous album Primrose Green nailed the stylistic marks of the wave that crested out of the ’60’s folk boom and into the jazz inflections and more experimental lengths that would fleck landmarks like Astral Weeks, Goodbye and Hello or Roy Harper’s Flat, Baroque and Berserk. So where do you go from there? Walker follows his Tim Buckley muse down the line and reaches for the more sprawling and ambling shores of Blue Afternoon. He pines for the expansive reach of Gene Clark’s No Other. One would think maybe he was pushing for Harper’s Stormcock too, with talks of the suited record he originally envisioned. In that regard, he pushes the track lengths here past the scope of typical pop.
Occasionally this works and Walker winds up untethered and spinning into a kind of poetic grace. Other times he’s letting himself stretch a bit longer than the song calls for, allowing some live instincts to drape onto the studio for a track that feels like the session was likely fun that day, with precision players feeling their way to a resolution, but at the expense of the listener’s attention (see: “Sullen Mind”). But when he’s on, he’s on and that’s more often than not. Walker allows his indulgences, as did plenty of those tumbling out of the ’60s and into a more progressive ’70s, but his troubadour’s soul saves him from an experimenter’s curiosity.
It’s taken me a little while to let this one settle because its been too damn hot to even let it into my consciousness. Golden Sings That Have Been Sung is an autumnal record for sure. Its the kind of record that’s comfortable with its collar braced against the wind. Some records are, quite frankly, whiskey records and this is one of them. Its not an all night bender, mind you, its the kind of record that finds the sweet harmony between the joy of day drinking in good company and that warm ball of contended sadness that forms about four or five drinks in. Maybe that’s why it meanders a bit, in that state everything seems like a better story and there’s a tendency to become a bit maudlin; to ponder mistakes and religion and fate. The record stretches out and wraps its arms around the listener like a bar buddy it’s never known sober and one whom it hopes will listen to its woes a little while and nod sympathetically. There’s a charm to that kind of person and in turn that kind of record. Walker’s an accomplished musician and Golden Sings showcases his ambition, even when it gets the better of him.
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