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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover

ROCK BOTTOM

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 546 ratings

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Trotsky
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Your madness fits in neatly with my own" sings the great (and for that moment, truly demented) Robert Wyatt towards the end of Sea Song, this album's opening track. He then launches into a free-form wordless vocal (accompanying himself brilliantly on keyboards) that will chill you to the bone, particularly if you're aware of the circumstances under which Wyatt made this album ... and how many of us who pick this one up aren't?

With his quirky compositions, high-pitched vocals, avant-jazz tendancies and Marxist sympathies, Robert Wyatt is someone you either love or hate. But surely only the most hard-hearted of people can fail to be moved by Rock Bottom, a soul-searching prog album made shortly after Wyatt found himself paralysed from the neck down for life. Rock Bottom is, unsurprisingly, an album that is significantly darker than the Soft Machine and Matching Mole works that Wyatt had helmed in the past.

The guest musicians include Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper, Fred Frith and Mike Oldfield and it's no surprise that the trademark Canterbury sound is all over this album, from the brooding, Last Straw (with its lovely dreamy piano outro) to the fiercely brassy jazz of Little Red Riding Hood Hits The Road and it's far more melodic counterpart Little Red Robin Hood Hits The Road. But whenever you hear even the tiniest snatch of Wyatt's voice, you know that something heavy is going down.

Why, oh why, do we have to hear Robert struggle to breathe in Alifib, when there's some great spine-tingling melodies going on in the background (electric piano and bass, methinks)? The dense air of melancholy surpasses even some of the depths that Peter Hammill's VDGG can lead us through, and when Robert starts off with a tragic melody ... "I can't forsake you, I can't forsqueak you" I believe ... it's really heartbreaking, even if he does appear to be singing to a mouse. Alifie is more of the same with Robert reworking the arrangements to create a different dark place from the same raw material.

He's rarely easy-listening at the best of times, but this one by ol' Robert is in some ways, an unmatched document in prog. Whether the emotion that the powers the music is real or imagined, this album is like a sad story that you keep re-reading in the hope that the ending will change. ... 78% on the MPV scale

Trotsky | 4/5 |

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