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Robert Wyatt - For The Ghosts Within (with Atzmon and & Stephen) CD (album) cover

FOR THE GHOSTS WITHIN (WITH ATZMON AND & STEPHEN)

Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene


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fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars WYATT TUNES FOR GROWN-UPS!

Robert Wyatt has been honoured by many admirers in recent years. There have been much- praised collaborations with the trombonist Annie Whitehead, and more recently with the French National Jazz Orchestra. Now the British violinist Ros Stephen has come up with the idea of arranging a few RW classics and some jazz standards for string quartet (with added double bass). Robert Wyatt himself overdubbed lead vocals, and the eminent Israel-born sax player/clarinettist Gilad Atzmon added some of the freshest and loveliest solos you could imagine.

Progressive rock this ain't, and strictly speaking it isn't even a RW solo album (it's credited to "Wyatt/Atzmon/Stephen") but to all those who love Wyatt's singing and the predominantly melancholic mood of his solo career, FOR THE GHOSTS WITHIN is a must.

Where are the days Wyatt told the world he couldn't sing properly anymore, because his voice was now no more than "a croak"? (I believe that was just a few solo albums ago.) Judging from this album, his vocal range may have diminished, but his voice sounds warmer, more mature and more endearing than ever. With the coming of old age, it has also gained in grace. Wyatt's interpretation of ballads like "What a Wonderful World" sounds amazingly tender, not schmaltzy in the least. At the same time, his rebellious nature can be discerned in the disorienting reworking included here of the beautiful "Maryan" (a track he co-wrote with Philip Catherine), and in two melancholy tunes which express the suffering of Palestinians driven from their land.

Among the Baby Boomer generation, there are those who pretend they will be adolescents forever (Mick Jagger, most notably) but fortunately there are others who keep finding new and wiser ways of expressing themselves. (Robert Plant, too, belongs to the latter category.) I can only hope Robert Wyatt's "Indian Summer" will go on for many years.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#333694)
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This new Wyatt's album has no relation with Canterbury sound or any form of prog rock at all. It includes seven jazz standards in quite unusual transcription and four original compositions. Two main Robert's collaborators on this album are Israeli reeds and accordion player Gilad Atzmon and violinist Ros Stephen.

Songs all are down tempo,nostalgic with characteristic Wyatt vocals, but the album doesn't sound as vintage release at all. Its more modern collection of old and new in one in the style of John Zorn's movie series or even most current Terje Rypdal's works. Music there is mostly classic jazz, from New Orleans to bop, but every composition is re-worked and re-arranged for its own manner. There are some compositions with Eastern (world) fusion elements, and rap- vocals, and female singing. Jazz standards are reworked themselves and include elements of modern electronics and contemporary music.

As often, Wyatt singing and common atmosphere of his works changes original material quite radically. All album sounds mostly as soundtrack to modern movie about 30-s,40-s or 50-s, with some re-worked compositions from that time, and some openly modern songs. Very eclectic album finishes with Wyatt's version of "What a Wonderful World", and open ears listener can really enjoy that quirky and experimental collection of great songs.

My rating is 3,5 rounded to 4.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#372484)
Posted Tuesday, January 04, 2011 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
2 stars 2.5 stars really!!!

A Wyatt collab with saxman Gilad Atzman and also to a lesser extent violinist Ros Stephen (appears on half the tracks, and half of those on backing vocals), as well as a Sigamos String Quartet, From ghosts within is more of standard jazz affair, but more accurately jazz standards. Strangely enough, double bassist Richard Pryce is much more present than Stephen, but doesn't share the bill, but unlike him, he's no "executive producer" and "string arranger". Graced with an artwork in the line of Cuckooland and Comicopera, FGW is now clearly in the Domino Records tradition, sporting a white-rimmed and tray digipak package, which is now the standard for Wyatt reissues, including most of the 70's stuff. Anyway, this album is a mix of jazz standards getting the lounge treatment (nothing to do with Buddha Bar garbage, though) and some original written-for-this-session tracks, which do differ somewhat from the first category of tracks of the album.

Well if you were thrilled by Robert's recent works, don't jump on this one hastily, because it's extremely different and you will probably wonder WTF by the second track onwards. Opening on ELO-type of an intro in Laura, as soon as Robert starts singing, the musical mode shifts in syrupy jazz standards ala third-age lounge music, quite a world away from what Wyatt had gotten us used to. And the original tracks, while not as standardly jazzy, don't have any kind of energy, even when they stray into ethnic ambiance - slightly Arabic on Lullaby For Irena, Bal-Musette on At Last (with its accordion) or Gypsy-inspired on Maryan (Robert's best vocal performance of the album), etc. The only track that sticks out from the lot (especially on the energy level) is the bizarre and sometimes dissonant piece where arte they Now that develops into an Arab-spoken (I think) rap courtesy of Atzman. Overall, the strings have a tendency to over-sweeten what are interesting ideas to start with, but completely flattened by the listless string arrangements. Atzman's wind-instruments playing is easily the best thing on this album.

So better watch out and not jump on the Wyatt product blindly, unless you're actually a couple decades older than Robert, as the closing ultra-standard Ellington (not Ellidgeon ;o))) Sentimental Mood or Wonderful World rendition, not even reprised in an even remotely Canterburyan fashion?. And between Robert and Louis, it's not much a match, with all due respect to Wyatt. A risky bet, but Robert is not one to play it safe, and that's much to his credit.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#401389)
Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars Definitely one for collectors and established fans. It goes against the grain to give such a low rating to a Robert Wyatt album, but this is Progarchives and there's barely a hint of prog - or indeed rock of any kind - to be heard on this album.

Fist things first. This isn't a Robert Wyatt solo album - the credit is shared equally with Ros Stephens, leader of the Sigamos string quartet and main arranger, and Israeli sax/clarinet player Gilad Atzmon, who previously worked with Wyatt on Comicopera. Stephens and Atzmon each co-wrote one of the three original songs, with lyrics by Wyatt's wife Alfreda Benge. There are no new songs by Wyatt himself, and he even revisits some of his old cover versions. The album does relate very strongly to Wyatt's political beliefs, especially the Palestinian cause, and also his love of jazz standards from the pre rock and roll era.

The album opens with a lush reading of Laura that wouldn't sound out of place on an oldies station aimed at the over 80s. Things then take on a middle eastern flavour with the album's 3 originals, each of them dealing with the Palestinian conflict. Where Are They Now? is the albums loudest and fastest track, built around a fragment of Dondestan and featuring an impassioned Palestinian rap. Things cool down with a beautiful reinterpretation of Maryan, one of the stand out songs on Shleep and the closest that this album ever comes to the Canterbury sound of yore. Then we're back with the cover versions, including Thelonious Monk's Round About Midnight, whistled rather than sung this time, and Chic's At Last I Am Free, both songs which he recorded in the 80s. What A Wonderful World closes the proceedings, and while Wyatt's voice has the necessary world weariness and venerability to do it justice I have to agree with Sean Trane that there's no comparison with Satchmo.

If you're a fan, and if you're familiar with the source material, there's plenty to enjoy on this album. I suspect it's the album that Wyatt has wanted to make for a long time, and it could be argued that in some ways it's one of his best. The strings are a bit too saccharine, especially on the second half of the album, but Gilad Atzmon's playing is superb and Wyatt's interpretations of the songs transcend the limitations of his voice. If, however, you're coming to this album via Soft Machine, Matching Mole and his 70s solo albums, you're probably in for a bit of a shock. It's a bit self indulgent, but he is a national treasure after all.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#421673)
Posted Thursday, March 24, 2011 | Review Permalink

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