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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover

ROCK BOTTOM

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 568 ratings

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VOTOMS
5 stars Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom (1974) was an incredible effort, and this is much more than a simple influential, this is a life lesson. It's his second solo album. Wyatt said taht the music began to emerge in Venice, during the winter of 1972, on the tiny islaond of Giudecca in a huge old house overlooking the laggon. Robert was uneasy about doing nothing all day for a couple of months while Alfie, his future wife, was working on a film with his friends, called Don't Look Now, centred round a series of unforseen disasters in the life of a couple. So Alfie bought him a keyboard with a particular vibrato. "That shimmered like the water that surrounded us", said Wyatt, "the basic structure of the music was written there, in between watching lizards on the walls of the house and visiting local bar to listen to out-of-work gondoliers practising 'O Sole Mio'". Back in London, during the spring of 1973, RObert Wyatt began to organise a new group to perform his new music. While he kept working his own songs, he wrote words for Alife, Sea Song and A Last Straw. But...

"On June 1st 1973, the night before the new group to have its first rehearsal, I fell from a fourth floor window and broke my spine. I was sent to Stoke Mandeville Hospital for eight months, where tey saved my life and taught me how to live in a wheelchair. I spent three months lying flat on my back, gazing at the ceiling of a surreal public dormitory amongst twenty others whose lives had also radically changed in a split second; victims of bad driving, industrial accidents, a misjudged somersault on a trampoline, a wrong-footed escape during burglary. We all had to think about our future".

Wyatt accepted the fact that he was no longer a drummer, and that going on the road would be very problematic. Now, he doesn't need to prepare music for a permanent group, concentrating on recording and singing more. He would be able to choose different musicians for different songs, and didn't need to have the same instruments on every song. "The loss of my legs might give me a new kind of freedom." After three months, Wyatt received his wheelchair, discovering an old piano in the visitors room. "I played truant as often as I could from the activities that newly paralysed people are given as therapy (archery, and glueing mosaics on bottles to make weird lamps), and escaped to the piano, whenever the room was free, to develop the songs I'd begun with the lizards by the Venice lagoon."

Leaving the hospital, he was ready to record. But Wyatt and Alfie had nowhere to live at that moment. They were helped by Delfina, a kind friend that lent them a wheelchair-friendly cottage in Wiltshire. Wyatt start recording at the beggining of 74 with Virgin Records. In the spring, Alfie and Robert found a home in London, and on July 26th 1974, Rock Bottom was released and Robert married Alfie. If you have the booklet from this album, you can see the line up for each track and some bizarre instruments. A Last Straw features Delfina's wineglass. Little Red Riding Hood features Delfina's tray and a small battery.

A Side. First, all the songs of the album has very catchy vocal melodies. The first track of the album, Seasong, is dark and beautiful at the same time. The synth rock band Tears For Fears made a song called I Believe, dedicated to Robert Wyatt, and a Seasong cover was used as the single b-side. The experimentalism and dissonance is there, as any other track of the album, and the smooth way of these weird arrangements together with Robert Wyatt's voice here, demonstrate fear. But the end of the song has a hope vibe. A Last Straw, the second track, start as a smooth noisy whisper, and Richard Sinclair bass lines are very... Richard Sinclair. I like the way Richard plays the bass. The song really makes me feel under water. The atmoshpere reverbs the deep sea life. Seems strange, but it's just intelligent. The guitar (???) solo (?????) at 3:55 is awesome! But the best part of the song is Robert Wyatt's vocal solo (sounds like a "wah wah" guitar). Calm and avantgardesque, Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road is another great piece of this masterpiece. Following the strange and unique Robert Wyatt songwriting style, this song, vocals and lyrics shows agony to the listener. But in a comedy way, featuring reverse vocals and jokes at the end of the song. The dissonant wind instruments increases the mood. I like the progressive way of the album tracklist. The songs are slowly gettin stronger with smoothy madness.

B side. Alifib and Alife (probably playing with "Alfie") are twin tracks. Alifib intro is long and relaxing, including an experimental solo. Wyatt's voice is full of feeling here. Experimental lyrics too. So the peak is reached with Alife. Robert start just "reading" the previous lyrics, but the anxiety present in his voice is very clear and the ugly sax screaming in the background just drive me into Wyatt's feeling together with the darkness of the piano behind the song at this point. Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road, the last track of the album, features Mike Oldfield at guitars, and god knows, this is perfect. This is the only track featuring (amazing) drums. The song is slowly fading out with Robert Wyatt asking "Can't you see them? Can't you see them?..." and Oldfield kicking asses with an awesome riff adaptation from the middle of TUbular Bells. So, you are at the middle of the last track, the rest is another joke, just like the last song from the A Side.

This will never be dated.

VOTOMS | 5/5 |

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