The Caprells: Walk On By
From 7″ (Bano, 196?)
Jo Ann Garrett: Walk On By
From Just a Taste (Chess, 1969)
El Michaels Affair: Walk On By
From Rewind 5 (Ubiquity, 2006)
It’s funny, I had been planning on doing a Burt Bacharach covers post sooner or later, decided to just focus on “Walk On By” (maybe I’ll do a “Look of Love” post later) but then realized: damn, he wrote “Baby, It’s You” too. Just goes to show you: Bacharach is one of the greatest living American songwriters, hands down.
“Walk On By” is arguably the biggest of his hits – it’s been covered many different times and most of them (as you can hear here) are great, a testament to him and Hal Davis’ exceptional talents. Dionne Warwick made the song a hit to begin with but what I like about the tune is how different groups are able to bring something new to the table when they mess with it.
For example, I love this Caprells cover – the sweet soul/falsetto approach works very well and the song opens almost drug-like with the echoing vocals and the brass section is just so chill. They definitely put their own spin on the song.
However, no one transformed the song more than Isaac Hayes when he recorded an epic version in 1969. You’ve all heard it, you know what it sounds like, you know that it is, flat out, one of the most amazing remakes of a song ever. That intro alone pretty much slays most artists’ entire catalogs. It would become such a definitive cover that later artists would cover Hayes! Case in point: Jo Ann Garrett’s version of “Walk On By” is clearly a riff on Hayes – the arrangements are almost identical. Her band can’t attain the same kind of symphonic energy that Hayes achieved but I like hearing how female vocals sound over what amounts to a very similar track.
Lastly, this El Michaels Affair cover of “Walk On By” is another riff on the Hayes version. It appears on the just released compilation, Rewind 5, the latest in an excellent series put out by Ubiquity (if you don’t have Rewind 4 yet, you are Rip Van Winkling it). This is an instrumental version and surprisingly, I thought I’d miss the vocals but didn’t. A very nice, smooth and slick cover that clearly nods to the versions that have come prior but lets the band put their stamp on it. Like I said, Bacharach = genius.