For this Flashback Friday, I’m combining the “One Song, X number of ways” post with the titular series.
Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s “Walk On By” is a standard of pop, with dozens of covers in all kinds of genres. For the purposes of this blog, I will focus on only four of them: Dionne Warwick’s original, Isaac Hayes’ epic transformation of the song, The Decoders’ recent mixing of both versions with a twist, and a version that was popular during my high school years.
Warwick’s version is straight sixties, New York pop. A piece of perfection in just under three minutes. Dionne flashes the vocals that made her one of the 1960s best singers, on what would be her biggest R&B hit.
Hayes takes the song in a darker, epic and expansive direction, taking what was originally a short pop song into something else entirely. From his classic album Hot Buttered Soul, his twelve (twelve?) minute take has become a standard all its own.
The greatness of The Decoders cover of “Walk On By” lies not in the outstanding vocal of Noelle Scaggs, nor the looking forward while looking back arrangement. It’s all of that and then some; it’s the recognizable bits and pieces of Dionne Warwick’s version that meet the chunks taken from Isaac Hayes’ stretched out take, put in a blender with a reggae beat, horns and strings and those vocals (those vocals!) riding on top.
A special shout-out to D-Train, whose version of the song gets an honorable mention here. It definitely screams 1980s, and I loved it when I was in school. But it just doesn’t measure up to the three versions above.
No matter how it is performed, the real greatness starts with the song itself.
Enjoy your Friday, everyone!