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Various Artists (Tributes) - Orchestre National de Jazz: Around Robert Wyatt CD (album) cover


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4 stars This album is not going to convert the "Wyatt doubters" but it will sure-as-hell delight all true believers.

A number of Robert Wyatt-related classics are paraded before our, erm, eyes, and the first bit of good news is that the fresh-sounding orchestral arrangements are excellent: all those French 'horns' sound very subtle, never overpowering; and in all the right places you find brief (but first-rate) solos on guitar, sax, electronic keyboards etc.

The second piece of good news is that Wyatt himself contributes lead vocals to six of the tracks (out of a total of 15) and this he does with his customary sensitivity. Wyatt's singing is an acquired taste, I know, and if you've not liked him before you're not going to like him now, but if you ARE a fan, let me assure you he's here at his best. At least two of those tunes ("Te Recuerdo Amanda" and "Gegenstand") are among the most moving material he's ever appeared on. (I don't think I've come across them before; perhaps they feature on certain solo albums of his which I've not yet discovered.)

Thirdly, and finally (in the good news department): some of the guest vocalists are astonishing, particularly Rokia Traore (who gives a highly original and totally delightful interpretation of "Alifib"), Yael Naim (who appears on "Shipbuilding" and "Just as You Are") and Irene Jacob (who sings "Del Mondo").

Okay, I do have some gripes with this album... I'm not particularly enamoured of the 'singing' of my compatriot Arno (who croaks like third-rate Tom Waits) and I definitely don't like the way a certain Daniel Darc destroys one of my old favourites, "Oh Caroline"... Also: why do the title of the album and the name of the orchestra appear on the cover in Japanese? (This smacks of snobbery.) And finally: why couldn't they fit this 77-minute collection onto a single disc?

But these are minor quibbles. I hope I've given you a fairly good impression of the delights that can be found within this set. No doubt about it: if you enjoy RW's solo career, this is a Must Buy!

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Posted Thursday, January 12, 2012 | Review Permalink

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