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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover

ROCK BOTTOM

Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene


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Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
5 stars Wow! How one does not commit suicide after falling from the window on the fourth floor and realizing that he will never walk again. I think I have never heard such a personal album like this one and the Syd recordings do not come close as those were so sloppy. This is rather a healing job as the open wounds just start to cauterize , but as he says in the booklet of the remaster, he realized also that he would not have to write music according to his different band mates as it will be impossible to tour again especially with a band, so this would give him more artistic freedom in the writing dept. Everyone ot these tracks is an absolute gem and his voice has never been so fabulous. Nerve-wracking, hair-raising, flabbergasting, spine-tingling. But nevermind me, I'll let my trusted collabs talk about this album.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#29833)
Posted Monday, April 19, 2004 | Review Permalink
diddy
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars In the middle of 1973 Wyatt fall out of a window and broke his backbone, during a party. For a Drummer this is, like you can imagine, a profoundly change in life, including genral and musical life. After this event he concentrated on playing piano and organ as well as various percussion instruments. But the main part of his music for sure is his beautiful voice. Rock Bottom is the first album after this momentous event. Various popular musicians supported him on this album and encouraged him to go on. Featured are amongst others Mike Oldfield and Richard Sinclair.

"Sea Song" is a beautiful lovesong as well as a duett of Wyatt and Richard Synclair's bass. Organ and bass are dominating this song but you also get guitar and piano. The song raises slightly in the end. "The last Straw" commences in a similar way, organ and bass build a musical basis and Wyatt's voice impends over it. The drums stay discreet all the time. "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road" is an extension of "The last straw", the melody commences and Mongezi Fesa adds some trumpet. This song is kind of hypnotic due to Wyatts voice and the melody, terrific! "Alifib" is a homage to his significant other and again, a duett, this time between Wyatt and Hopper on bass. In the beginning you just hear Wyatts breathing and gasping over some beautiful, mellow and muted Keyboard sounds. After a time Wyatt begins to sing, just as alsways, very melanciloc. After the song gets more and more intensive, it passes into the next track "Alife" wich is a bit madder mainly because of the saxophone. Nevertheless the two songs seem to belong togher, two great and melancolic tracks, beautiful. On "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" Mike Oldfield, Fred Frith, Laurie Allen and again Richard Sinclair gathered to attend Wyatt. The vivid beginning is dominated by Oldfield's guitar and Waytt's voice, later on Frith's viola affiliates. The end is quite funny because somebody tries to tell you something about a broken telephone, drinking tea and some other weird stuff. The song dies away with laughter.

"Rock Bottom" is a timeless Canterbury classic and a masterpiece of this genre. A terrific journey through Wyatt's psyche. It is mainly settled, calm and very melancolic. Wyatt's voice is for sure the main part of this release but you also get beautiful instrumentation wich is very Canterbury typical. For me "Rock Bottom" is one of the most beautiful records in my collection and I don't want to miss it. Five Stars is a MUST for this Canterbury Masterpiece.

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Send comments to diddy (BETA) | Report this review (#29835)
Posted Tuesday, July 06, 2004 | Review Permalink
Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Rock Bottom as the title depicts is Wyatt scraping the barrell after the terrible accident and climbing back out of it with defiance as well. It is a great album helped along by Oldfield's guitar and Richard Sinclair's bass. Vocally I find Robert Wyatt borderline manic and hard to take in large quantities. It is the passion and fragility he brings across which is so tangible even to this day. Songs to recommend are the title track and the crazy ' Alifib'

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Send comments to Chris S (BETA) | Report this review (#29837)
Posted Sunday, September 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
soundsweird
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A great, one-of-a-kind album with a lyrical sense of humor that is so sadly lacking in most progressive rock. I'm sure a lot of people, in fact most people, would find this nearly unlistenable. Wyatt's vocals and lyrics are an acquired taste, and the music is often deceptively simple and repetitious. The Syd Barrett comparison in another review here is apt, and of course Wyatt and his Soft Machine mates backed up Syd on a few tracks. I don't really see him reconciling his tragic accident here; it seems like a rather happy and whimsical album to me. My friends and I loved this album when it was released; it was an immediate favorite on our stereos in the mid-70's. I recently picked up the "Winged Migration" soundtrack after learning that he sings on a couple of tracks. Another overlooked gem is Nick Mason's "Fictitious Sports", with some great Wyatt vocals.

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Send comments to soundsweird (BETA) | Report this review (#29839)
Posted Thursday, March 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cesar Inca
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Fuelled by the motivation of the new musical freedom he had just found under his inconvenient paraplegic condition, and additionally inspired by the dramatic circumstances that outlined his past life as he knew it, Robert Wyatt started what would be an unstoppable solo career with his second solo effort "Rock Bottom". This album is simply stunning, beautiful: the way that it portrays an air of dreamy melancholy in each and every pore of its textures, melodies and vocal lines, is cathartic without getting depressive, compelling without getting too overwhelming. There is a sense of constant liberation that develops in a recurrent basis as the repertoire goes on right until the ultimate relief, when the final notes of the last song vanishes into the void. Wyatt contemplates his own personal drama and learns to re-value life under new terms: his keyboard layers, his jazz-tinged piano chords and, most of all, his lyrical singing, are the perfect vehicles for this intimate testimony of his heart. All guests (on bass, sax, violin, guitar, drums.) insert their respective inputs in total communion with the song's motifs and moods: this is one of those solo albums in which the sense of ensemble becomes a crucial sonic factor without decreasing one inch of the main man's prominent role. 'Sea Song' kicks off the album as a well-defined statement of what the album is going to be all about: emotional density, plain and simple. The organ layers (complemented by what seem to be mellotron washes) and Wyatt's falsetto singing are immensely moving and evocative, and they will remain so for the following 30 minutes. 'A Last Straw' portrays a certain lightness that adds some extra colours to the continuing density. 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road' goes for a more uplifting mood: it carries on as some sort of big band thing without properly being a big band kind of song. The solid foundation created at unison by Richard Sinclair's bass and Wyatt's piano and percussions sustains a proper column around which Mongezi Feza's exciting trumpet lines go floating by in a multicolor manner. Meanwhile, the keyboard layers provide a now more subtle ethereal background. IMHO, the linked sequence of 'Alifib' and 'Alife' is the most accomplished piece of the album, and arguably, the one that takes the album's melancholic stance to its most robust expression. Heavily based on some persistent organ chord progressions laid on a slow 3/4 pattern, it sucks the atmosphere of the listener's room and reinstates it as a mystic fog of introspectiveness and ultimate redemption. 'Alifib' features an amazing series of Hugh Hopper's lines on bass, properly punctuating the dreamy cadence of Wyatt's singing: the rhythm background is traced by the syncopated breathing of a man in a comma supported by machines - graphic beyond belief! When 'Alife' emerges, things get more intense while keeping the same tempo. The sax displays a lunatic solo and some tribal drumming gets in as Wyatt repeats the 'Alifib' lyrics in a stuttering speech, almost bordering on the inarticulate - Alfreda Benge's closing statement combines the candour of love declaration and the straightforward conviction of menace. Deliciously disturbing!! This is not sad nor depressive. this is plainly dangerous!! The album ends up with 'Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road', a song solidly framed by Laurie Allan's almost-martial drumming and Mike Oldfield's soaring leads: its coda consists of yet another soliloquy, this time delivered by a playfully naughty Ivon Cutler while Fred Frith's violin creates some Celtic-like ambiences above the organ minimalistic layers. While it is true that the music and lyrics for a couple of these songs had already been written for a band that was being inaugurated during the party in which Wyatt had his terrible accident, the fact is that the aura of cohesiveness definitely works steadily all along this album's repertoire. This is an absolute prog masterpiece: out of his own genius alone, and properly supported by a host of big names from early avant-garde 70s rock Parnassus, Robert Wyatt created an autonomous musical world within the boundaries of Canterbury - The drummer is dead! Long live the musician!

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Send comments to Cesar Inca (BETA) | Report this review (#29840)
Posted Monday, May 16, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album was made after falling from a window and loosing the ability to walk. I know no other album so full of pain and sadness. All 6 pieces are great, full of emotion and puts you in the atmosphere of despair and loneliness. The track Alifib is one of the best songs ever sang by anyone. For me this album is one of my favorites in all time and one of those I will take with me anywhere. That is great music, not less. A superb album, a must have !

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Send comments to omri (BETA) | Report this review (#29841)
Posted Sunday, May 29, 2005 | Review Permalink
Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Other reviewers have given their in depth analyses of this album and the context in which it was recorded, so I'll cut to the chase: this is a masterpiece, one of those rare albums that could not be improved in any way. Robert Wyatt has one of the most expressive voices of the last 50 years, and has a jazz musician's feel for harmony, melody and texture. In addition to this he is an unflinchingly open and honest songwriter whose work is sometimes shockingly direct, as on the Alifib/Alfie sequence where the listener feels more like an eavesdropper straining to hear what the couple next door are talking about. Wyatt's vocal and keyboards are complemented by the contributions of an impressive roster of guest musicians, all under the the sympathetic production of Nick Mason. Wyatt has denied that the songs were inspired by his accident, but it's hard to believe that there wasn't at least a subconscious link there. What is more impressive is the lack of self pity, despite the rather melancholy feel, and the flashes of absurdist humour that recall the early days of Soft Machine, especially Ivor Cutler's contributions. Robert Wyatt's 40 year career in music has been littered with high points, but he's never quite equalled this. Essential.

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Send comments to Syzygy (BETA) | Report this review (#39140)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Amazing! Well, Robert Wyatt never dissapoint me, but this album (I think it's the 3rd of his solo career) it's really a musical journey attacking all your senses starting with "Sea Song". More than canterbury or r.i.o. or avant garde this album is an excellent example of what a compromising musician and composer can do with his talent creating an album tottally different and singular. Perhaps all the songs are really brilliant with an unique sound, the most wonderous are "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road" and "Alifib". The line up it's legendary: Wyatt, Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper and Laurie Allan, with collaborations of Fred Frith and Mike Oldfield amongst others.

It's really a wonderous album, evocative and full of little details that made this album a unique piece of collection, weird in his own style, but extraordinary. Highly recommended to know one of the most paradigmatic heroes of the canterbury golden age.

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Send comments to progadicto (BETA) | Report this review (#41210)
Posted Monday, August 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
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

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#41973)
Posted Sunday, August 07, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars I assume the album has been re-issued since I bought my copy, as the cover on my vinyl - and CD - copies were pencil drawings of figures standing in the sea, drawn by Robert's long time partner. Although the album was made after his fall, I've read that many of the songs were already composed, but that lying in hospital enabled him to spend the time refining and fine-tuning them. But it's hard to believe his awful accident didn't influence this album; he seems to be baring his soul in Alifib/Alifie, moving from a child like dream on the former into frantic pain and panic as sax and keyboards break ominously on the latter. This seems to me the most powerful, personal statement here; it is a passage of music that always makes the hairs stand on the back of my neck. "Little red Riding Hood" features overlays of the trumpet of Mongezi Feza, who apparently died in a car accident some time after; it's a grat track. "Sea Song" and "A Last Straw" are seemingly gentle songs, but with a hint of menace behind them. The only track that slightly dissappoints for me is the final "Little Red Robin Hood", although there's a nice guitar break from Mike Oldfield, showing what he can do. The whole is lovingly produced by Nick Mason. I really do this this is an essential album for any prog fan and I'm giving it 5 stars.

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Send comments to Phil (BETA) | Report this review (#43420)
Posted Friday, August 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
jarquilliere@
3 stars Don't get me wrong! I love Robert Wyatt, I feel much sympathy for him, but I don't think this album is really enjoyable! I definitely prefered the crazed "drunken biped" from the Soft Machine era.

I give one star for "Sea song" and "Alifib" intro, and another one for the eerie atmosphere created by the organ drone over the whole album! I am dissatisfied with Wyatt's vocal performance because I found it embarrassing (end of Sea Song) or just boring and nasal (well, pretty much anywhere else). "Sea Song" is gorgeous until Wyatt almost choked himself by the end of the song, "A last straw" is an Ok track, nothing wrong really, but nothing really moving either. The third track--I have really mixed feelings for it-- I first hated it for the orchestration went a bit over the top, but after a thorough listen, it might be the second best track- after "Sea Song"-- on the album : nice chords progression, and odd time signature and melody. "Alifib" guests former-Machine Hopper, and his great bass soli fit in nicely with the strange organ, then the song veers into what is in my opinion a plain song-- a commonplace melody and strange words, for the sake of being strange! Finally, I don't like the 2 final tracks...again, Wyatt is quirky and experimental for the sake of it...

All in all, I will be over-generous and give an extra star for the 3rd track! I have had the album for three years now and it has not especially grown on me since! Anyway, that is 3 stars for Robert and his --IMO--overrated masterpiece!

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#46671)
Posted Thursday, September 15, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Beauty and strangeness. Robert Wyatt manages to create a quite perfect balance between both impressions in this album. Also, it seems to be simple and complex at the same time : some vocal melodies are easily remembered, while some instrumental passages are difficult to get into.

Moreover, this album has a story to tell, and possesses a particular atmosphere of calm and sadness (don't expect anything grandiose or noisy, it's mainly a contemplative work).

It's an album that will grow over the listener who has enough patience to try and catch its beauty. The more I think about or listen to it, the more stars I'd like to give. I am now between 4 and 5, while after the first listen I would have put 3.

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Send comments to Flyingbebert (BETA) | Report this review (#47320)
Posted Monday, September 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The career of Robert Wyatt as a unique poet starts from this work "Rock Bottom".A light color changes slightly and music from which the color is given to a gray sea little by little. It is the unique world that can be called the philter of the imagination. It is a sad, beautiful work.

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Send comments to braindamage (BETA) | Report this review (#48297)
Posted Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars The new edition's cover image of "Rock Bottom" speaks for itself: this record is so deep and introspective that you can really dive into it. Lovely, agressive, delicate, harsh, gentle, cruel, tender and utterly confusing as it is, the album has its own kind of accesibility: maybe it's the toy keyboard sound that bewitches "Sea Song", the jazzy sway that runs through all the songs, the trembling vocals. Almost sounds like a cry for help, or a confession, in a way that could remind Brian Wilson's "Smile"- era songs. Personal circumstances left apart, you could call it "the sound of a man on the verge of losing all kind of control over his life". Wilson lost. Wyatt, fortunately for all of us, won. And them both left impressive accounts of their struggle.

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Send comments to Winterfamily (BETA) | Report this review (#52281)
Posted Tuesday, October 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Now THIS is a masterpiece. WOW!! What an AMAZING piece of music! This guy really had guts with experimenting in such a colourful way. This music and these sounds are touching your soul like you never experienced before. It leads from the beautiful melodic 'Sea Song' (one of the most melancholic tunes I ever heard) to the jazzy track 'A Last Straw' (reminds of Soft Machine's 'Slightly All The Time') highlight 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road' (the halfway passage contains some goosebump-giving minor piano-chords) and the outstanding experimental adventure that habits Side B of the LP: 'Alifib' (hugh hopper's bass-sounds are writing a fairytale on this one) 'Alife' (impossible to describe this track, it's pure experimenting-mayhem, outstanding!) and the finale 'Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road' (strong intro, I keep saying this is some kind of magic; it ends with an interesting baritone concertina accompanied by funny vocals). I'm very excited and everyone has to hear this album, it's one of the greatest musical adventures ever created. Extremely highly recommended by a true prog-fan!!!

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Send comments to Robin (BETA) | Report this review (#70669)
Posted Monday, February 27, 2006 | Review Permalink
VanderGraafKommandöh
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars On the 1st June 1973 - the former drummer of The Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine and his own band, Matching Mole - Robert Wyatt, fell from a third story window, whilst at a drunken party. The injuries Wyatt sustained were severe and he became a wheelchair bound paraplegic.

This solo album by Robert Wyatt, was the result of his recuperation in Hospital and is a masterpiece from start to finish. No album gives me so much satisfaction as this one and I could play it endlessly and never get bored of it. Infact, I often find myself with different parts of this album going constantly through my brain.

This album brings in such guest performers as: Mike Oldfield, Ivor Cutler and Fred Frith (Henry Cow), Richard Sinclair (Caravan, Hatfield and the North and Camel) and Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine).

This album could easily have been a disaster, but it was far from that, it is has left a major incision in not only the progressive music world, but the music world in general and has made Robert Wyatt a very well respected individual throughout the world.

Much of the lyrical material on this album may seem a bit confusing, or nonsensical, but it kind of does make a lot of sense to me. The lyrics to Alifib and Alife for instance, seem to be about his time in hospital, lying in bed, with his wife Alfreda Benge (hence Alife, an anagram of her nickname, Alfie) by the side of him, but in reality, Wyatt wrote the lyrics before his untimely accident. Alfie would also have a part to play on this album (more about that under the "Alife" section).

Now to the music itself.

Sea Song

A very heart-felt track and very difficult to review! Wyatt's voice (as it is throughout this album) is desperate sounding and very delicate and fits the mood perfectly. There are some great instrumental passages throughout, interspersed, with some very avant-garde style piano playing by Wyatt. There is also a constant synthesized keyboard sound throughout the track. This is just Wyatt by himself, except for some backing vocals (more just "ahs" actually), which may be synthesized (but I'm not absolutely sure) and Richard Sinclair, who guests on bass. Halfway through, Wyatt starts to "whine" (want of a better word for it) and sing without vocals and the synth is still very dominant, as is the piano. The whole sound draws you in from start to finish and there is not a single dull moment.

A Last Straw

This is a more jazz tinged track, with a very nice bass sound (Hugh Hopper) and yet again the piano and synth sound of Sea Song are dominant. Laurie Allan is playing just on symbols for the majority of this track, which really adds to the overall sound. Once again, Wyatt's vocals are beautiful. There is an ethereal guitar sound that blends into the background as well, being played by Wyatt himself, which adds to all the layers of this track and later becomes a brief - yet restrained and delicate - solo. Once again Wyatt's lyrics are quirky, but they'll get quirkier still with the next track. A Last Straw ends with just a simple descent down a pianos keys, yet is rather poignant and memorable.

Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road

This is where the real fun begins. This track starts with Mongezi Feza's multi-tracked and tape-looped trumpet, that creates a very surreal sound; also present are piano and bass. This is a very trippy track, which has a nice constant beat, that I cannot help but tap my foot too. This song I believe plays with reels and loops (continuing on from his experimentations from his debut solo album, as well as his late work with Soft Machine) and creates something rather unique, especially with Wyatt's lyrics. The lyrics, I believe, are about his time in hospital, as this track was written post-accident. Ivor Cutler also has a part to play near the end, speaking in his wonderful Scottish accent (his voice would later be heard on the final track). With the late South African Mongezi Feza's trumpet continuing on what seems a weird (perhaps reversed) loop, this track ends with a great sound, with a very prominent bass (Richard Sinclair) as well. Alas, Mongezi Feza sadly died not long after Rock Bottom's release, making this track even more poignant.

Alifib

This track goes hand-in-hand with the track Alife and is very much symbolic Wyatt at his best. Wyatt simply chants Alife, in a very despairing way at the beginning of this track and to the uninitiated, may be disturbing (which of course, is the intention). I love the keyboard intro, because, even though it's relatively simple, it works so well and creates the exact atmosphere for what is to follow. The "Alife" chanting continues on when Wyatt's keyboard playing begins, accompanied by perhaps Hugh Hopper's best bass solo (and one of my favourites by any bass player), to create a compelling track, which some people may find off-putting, yet sound like nothing else I have ever heard. Hopper's bass solo intensifies as the track continues and the track gets more and more interesting and invasive on the brain. With around 3:15 to go, Wyatt's vocals start, with some very memorable words indeed. "Alife my larder, Alife my larder". "I can't forsake you, or forsqueak you". Meanwhile, the "Alife" chanting continues, as does the very interesting keyboard playing (and Hopper's gorgeous bass). This and the next track are possibly the most difficult tracks for the unintiated, to get into (and appreciate). This is Wyatt at his absolute best.

Alife

Alife continues straight on from where Alifib ended, with an almost unnoticable segue, with Gary Windo's sax playing. There is a constant bongo-style drumming throughout the track (played by Wyatt on "James' Drum") and the usual piano playing. This is where Gary Windo shines on saxophone, creating a dark and desparate feel, which again, could be quite disturbing, if the listener was in a depressive state of mind. Wyatt's vocals continue on from the previous track and we hear "Alife my larder" and "I can't forsake you or forsqueak you" once more, as well as further quirky, yet compelling and (to me), not meaningless lyrics. One of the ingenius things about this track, is the fact that the lyrics are exactly the same as Alifib, yet are sung in a completely different way; very purposeful and important. This is a desperate track indeed and the music marches along, cutting through a once more cheerful atmosphere and bringing in even dark overtones. Windo's sax playing is vicious, desperate and played with the anger that this track deserves and is possibly the best of this late woodwind player's work. A purely emotional and often gut-wrenching tour-de-force, full of despair, anger and relief. Also not to be forgotten is the end of the track, where Alfreda Benge (Wyatt's wife), has kind of chanting and spoken lyrics, whereby she responds to what Wyatt sang about earlier in the song, with her own little anecdote. The synth continues on and nicely segues into the next track.

Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road

This track begins joltily after the previous tune, but turns into a tour-de-force for Mike Oldfield on guitar (multi-tracked again), in his distinctive style. Yet again the drumming is mainly symbols based at the beginning. Wyatt's singing seems to be more at the back of the mix, but that's not a problem, it works perfectly, creating a disturbing track once more, where Wyatt repeats "Can't you see them", whilst Oldfield's guitar cuts and swathes through with ease. Everything suddenly slows down and we hear the beginning of Ivor Cutler's concertina... his very distinctive spoken word vocals then begin. Yet none of this detracts from the overall sound of the album. Fred Frith also plays Viola over Cutler's concertina and creates yet more wonderful atmosphere. The lyrics are once again quirky and compelling. Cutler's small laugh winds up the album and once the track ends, one feels very empty inside; and to me, I feel I have just witnessed (sonically speaking) something very special indeed.

This is one of my favourite albums of all time and it always hits home and never disappoints me. Rock Bottom is recommended for those who are aware of Wyatt's output in Soft Machine and Matching Mole, but also for those who are interested in something that little bit different. It was an instant classic for me.

5/5 stars and faultless throughout.

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Send comments to VanderGraafKommandöh (BETA) | Report this review (#78202)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars I simply love this album, this masterpiece. Wyatt, after his incident gave to this work all his strenght, all his power, all his energy, just included in some simple songs. The feelings and emotions that arises this album are unique. Differently from the first album, very near to free jazz and characterized by exotic elements, and above all by the sperimentation, this is a more genuine and simpler album, easier to be listen to but at the same time more difficult to be caught in all its parts, in all the inner emotions of Wyatt. A man who try to swim underwater and to reach the deep ocean in all its infinity. Listen to Sea song and Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road....and listen to Wyatt's voice, he uses it as an instrument to communicate his sufference, his melancholy, his sadness, his joy to live.

Five stars for one of the best music album!

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Send comments to Kord (BETA) | Report this review (#79724)
Posted Monday, May 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
Raff
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Enclosed in a distinctive, brightly-coloured cover showing two people diving at the bottom of the sea (courtesy of Alfreda Benge, Robert Wyatt's other half), this album does not make for comfortable listening - especially when one is aware of the circumstances behind it. Paralysed from the neck down after a fall from the fourth floor in 1973, Wyatt had to reconsider and rearrange his whole life with the knowledge he'd never be able to walk again, let alone be a drummer. This record tells the story of how he came to terms with this new situation, and survived - a story of triumph over adversity, a celebration of the strength and hidden resources of the human spirit.

"Rock Bottom" straddles the line between the Canterbury sound, with all its quirks and jazzy leanings, and the fully-fledged avant-garde tendencies that Wyatt would embrace later on in his career. The guesting musicians read like a roster of Canterbury and RIO aristocracy , with Richard Sinclair and Hugh Hopper sharing bass duties, Laurie Allan on drums and Henry Cow's Fred Frith, Mongezi Feza and Ivor Cutler appearing on some of the tracks. The music is at times a rather demanding listen, often hauntingly beautiful, often downright disturbing, almost atonal. It is intimate, poignant, sad, yet infused with a sense of being still alive and wanting to fight back, even in the toughest of situations. The lyrics veer from the pure poetry of "Sea Song" and "The Last Straw" to the sheer quirkiness of "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road", down to the mixture of poignancy and nonsense that is "Alifib/Alife" - where Wyatt seems to revert to a sort of childish state and is severely, though affectionately, reprimanded by Alfreda, who tells him she's not just his provider of food ("I'm not your larder"), but rather his partner and lover. A skewed love song, perhaps, but very moving indeed.

The album opens with the ethereal, delicate, intensely lyrical "Sea Song", where Wyatt is accompanied by Richard Sinclair's precise, understated bass. The mood continues on the following "The Last Straw", where Hopper's dazzling bass work adds a more definitely jazzy feel. Then, things get increasingly crazier with "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road", characterised by Mongezi Feza's distinctly avant-garde use of trumpet and Ivor Cutler's funny Scottish accent. "Alifib/Alife" starts with a droning keyboard intro over which Wyatt's heavy, rythmical breathing can be heard - disturbing for want of a better word - before his whining, nonsensical singing starts. Hugh Hopper's bass provides a solid backbone for this unique track, which sometimes feels as if one was looking at a very private moment in the life of two human beings bonded by love in the most difficult circumstances. Album closer "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road" sees a brilliant guitar performance by guest star Mike Oldfield and more Scottish-flavoured madness courtesy of Ivor Cutler (who also plays concertina). Wyatt's vocals, though always an acquired taste for me, are at their most effective on this album - at turns plaintive, ironical, desperate, or just plain quirky, as in the closing section of "Sea Song".

"Rock Bottom" (excellently produced by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason) is certainly not an easy album to get into, nor will it be to many people's taste. It requires repeated listens in order to be properly appreciated, and the darkness of its subject matter is sure to put off those who prefer the fake angst of many Prog Metal bands, but cannot cope with real-life tragedy. However, for those who like to keep an open mind and explore every aspect of prog, it will definitely be a more than worthwile purchase.

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Send comments to Raff (BETA) | Report this review (#87309)
Posted Tuesday, August 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Rock Bottom is a hypnotic, repetitive and borderline insane Canterburian progressive record. The songs are quite different from one to another. "Sea Song" announces the bizarre & unusual character of the album, and the last 2 minutes are particularly delightful, featuring Robert Wyatt's Canterburian voice style and Camel-esque keyboards arrangements. On "Last Straw", the refined cymbals patterns give an overall jazzy tendency. Robert Wyatt's extravaganza is materialized by his usual excentric vocals, that amazingly fit well with the music; the piano in the background is very hypnotic; some psychedelic echoed guitar remind the early Pink Floyd. "Little red riding hood" contains psychedelic echoed trumpets a la Art Zoyd; the repetitive loaded texture is very hypnotic and some part of the rhythm seems to be recorded reverse. "Alifib" is at least as strange as the other previous tracks: just hear the repetitive human breath combined with a curious, restless and inoffensive electric guitar solo: strange, you must admit! The Canterburian style is however confirmed by the inoffensive background organ. "Alife" is VERY strange and dissonant, as reveals the presence of VERY twisted sax sounds. "Little red robin hood" has the early King Crimson's influence, as revealed by the Frippian electric guitars, played by Mike Oldfield, and by the floating melodramatic Mellotron.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#93795)
Posted Sunday, October 08, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Looney tunes. (Sorry, bad joke)

Former Soft Machine and Matching Mole's drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt, was undoubtly a genuinely weird and melancholic person before he fell out the window, and broke his spine. In the reissue Wyatt informs us that about half the album was written in Venice, quite a while before that accident. Some of his friends, including his future wife Alifie were working there on the film Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg). A nightmarish, supernatural, haunting mood piece on loss and guilt. Like in the film, in real life, unforeseen disaster strikes, and he is hospitalised for eight months. Even if Wyatt himself says he doesn't consider the incident that left him paralyzed from the waist down disasterous, or important for how this album turned out. As a listener its impossible not to think that this has everything to do with hitting Rock Bottom. This album is a true, classic piece of great art in every thinkable way. Its unique, virtouos, beautiful and fun. With one heartsstopping, jawdropping moment of musical perfection after another. Still the listening experience is painful and heartwrenching, so I've probably played it a little less to death than my other top ten desert island discs. Nothing I've heard compares to the emotional impact this album has on me. Beyond Canterburyjazz, avantprog or any other attempt to describe what we're hearing. The lyrics are in itself very touching and geniously mad. from Alifie:

...Alifi my larder Alifi my larder Not nit not nit no not Nit nit folly bololy Burlybunch, the water mole Hellyplop and fingerhole Not a wossit bundy, see ? For jangle and bojangle Trip trip Pip pippy pippy pip pip landerim...

If I haven't already started earlier on, I always break down and start sobbing uncontrollably in the beginning of the last track; Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road. When Mike Oldfield's guitar copies the way Wyatt sings ...in the garden of England... That's the sound of a guitar gently weeping.

Rock Bottom is not just Mr. Wyatt's artistic peak, but also a peak for music and humanity in general.

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Send comments to Rocktopus (BETA) | Report this review (#102682)
Posted Monday, December 11, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Wizard
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Robert Wyatt having broken ground with the Soft Machine, made some excellent experimental music with Matching Mole and on his debut 'End of an Ear' moved on to create the masterpiece that is Rock Bottom. Wyatt would begin to take a more song driven approach, while still being as experimental as ever. Rock Bottom is unlike no other album ever recorded, it is truly unique. Not everyone will see it's glory, in fact few will be able on their first listen. It's the perfect example of a rewarding album.

There is little of traditional rock on this album. Instead there are the sounds off jazz and electronic music along with the melodic touch of pop music. But to describe the sounds of Rock Bottom by simply using genres does not do justice to the unique sound of the album. Using minmalist percussion, woodwind instruments, delicate basslines, smooth acid rock guitar tones, and layers of almost dissonant synths the album gains a very surreal and mysterious atmosphere. Wyatt delicate and tender voice as an instrument, while also using it to express surreal, stream-of-conscience lyrics that add further to the albums atmosphere.

I have listened to Rock Bottom countless times and each listen is a unique experience. Everytime I slip into the albums surreal world I notice something new and interesting. There are many things going on in the album, layers of synths and effect, but at the same time the album is minimalistic; everything there serves a pourpose and adds to the experience of the album. Nick Mason truly did a fabulous job producing this album and capturing the talent of Wyatt and his fellow musicians.

The tender and melodic Sea Song opens the album, with those droning sythns giving a backdrop to simple drum beat and Wyatt's sensitive and beautiful voice. Rarely have I heard lyrics so deep, personal, and searching yet surreal and odd. Rumors claim they are about his stay in the hospital after he fell out of a building, but they were written before the accident occured.

Much of the album follow a pattern of dissonant yet ambient synths, minmalistic percussion, improvisational jazz, all giving Wyatt a brackdrop for his singing and melodic piano. In some cases this would get repetive and boring, but it never does. This idea works so well that it never gets tiresome or dire. It is a brilliant balance between melody, pure atmosphere, and improvisation. The whole idea of the song still exist, but it is brilliantly expanded upon.

The album ends on a very bizzare note, with Ivor Cultler rehearsing a spoken word part written by Wyatt over a sea of backwards violins. The words he says are positively strange and in a way disturbing, his thick Scottish accent being perfect for his role. Rock Bottom is a perfect title for the album because the album is like a mysterious and surreal journey through the sea, everything seeming like a foggy dream. While this album may be hard to tackle and understand, it's definetely one of the most magnificent things ever recorded and is case for genius. Anyone searching for an experiece that transends common music will find Rock Bottom a perfect album.

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Send comments to The Wizard (BETA) | Report this review (#109383)
Posted Monday, January 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars This is an album of fragile, shimmering beauty; quite possibly the most moving album by any artist in the Prog Archives.

But is this the sort of music most people would identify as Prog? It's got nothing in common with the flashy solos and pseudo-orchestral climaxes favoured by Yes or ELP. Although several well-known musicians from the Canterbury Scene participated in its making, their contributions tend to be subdued. Hugh Hopper plays the most wonderful bass solo of his life on 'Alifib', and Mike Oldfield's contribution to 'Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road' is the most heart-wrenching music I've ever heard from him, but there's no trace of Canterbury-style rock-jazz. I find it instructive to compare the original ROCK BOTTOM with Wyatt's live performance on THEATRE ROYAL DRURY LANE. On the latter, synths are virtually absent, instrumental improvisations are extended, the electric piano dominates, and the result sounds like ROCK BOTTOM as interpreted by Matching Mole.

Back in the 1970s, the friend who introduced me to this album, used to play 'Sea Song' and say, with a happy grin: 'Isn't that lovely? As sublime as anything by J.S. Bach!' I stilll agree. Few prog artists have come up with such a sad and delicate opening. (Where on earth did Wyatt get that unique keyboard sound?) No other prog vocalist ever wrote such mysteriously poetic lyrics (without a hint of pretension) or brought their opening number to a close with such original (but also unsettling) wordless scat-singing.

And 'Sea Song' is just one of ROCK BOTTOM's treasures. The album's second tune, 'A last Straw', starts with another great intro (piano, bass, cymbals, synths and possibly slide guitar - thank you, Nick Mason, for making the album sound superb!) and ends on what has to be the most astonishing anti-virtuoso piano solo in prog history. (Oh, how I love that solo!) Then comes 'Little Red Riding Hood Hits the Road', which I used to find too bright on LP, but it sounds wonderfully clean on CD and will make you see things no other music has shown you - and how many albums truly achieve that kind of effect?

Unexpected depths of pain are released on 'Alifib', which contains Hugh Hopper's aforementioned solo. Some listeners will find it hard to digest Gary Windo's jittery sax outburst on the next track, 'Alife', but its qualities are an integral part of the ROCK BOTTOM experience, and any irritation is soon dispersed by the majestic opening of the final piece, which (rather enigmatically) describes the experiences of English garden moles. Wyatt's repetitious singing, and the band's playing, then fade, making place for a droll ditty (very much like a nursery rhyme) sung by Ivor Cutler and beautifully accompanied on viola by Fred Frith. After the physical and mental suffering evoked on the previous two tracks, the ending comes as glorious relief.

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#113422)
Posted Saturday, February 24, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of my favorite albums of all time, so I can't be very objective about it.Intensely personal, whimsical, poignant and very very English this album exemplifies Wyatt's solo career. Start here, and then get Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard as well ....you will not be disappointed.

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Send comments to mixmastermorris (BETA) | Report this review (#114518)
Posted Thursday, March 08, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars THINK:after falling from the window during a party on the fourth floor,after months and months in hospital,,realizing that you never walk with your legs... you what would have do???? Robert Wyatt realized ROCK BOTTOM, one of the best album of all prog story.beautifull atmospheres, that they make to dream, transporting in made places of love and glad to you melancholy

ROCK BOTTOM is a timeless Canterbury classic and a masterpiece of this genre

9+

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Send comments to Planet_Gong (BETA) | Report this review (#114523)
Posted Thursday, March 08, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rock Bottom, recorded with a star-studded cast of Canterbury musicians, has been deservedly acclaimed as one of the finest art rock albums. Several forces surrounding Wyatt's life helped shape its outcome. First, it was recorded after the former Soft Machine drummer and singer fell out of a five-story window and broke his spine. Legend had it that the album was a chronicle of his stay in the hospital. Wyatt dispels this notion in the liner notes of the 1997 Thirsty Ear reissue of the album, as well as the book Wrong Movements: A Robert Wyatt History. Much of the material was composed prior to his accident in anticipation of rehearsals of a new lineup of Matching Mole. The writing was completed in the hospital, where Wyatt realized that he would now need to sing more, since he could no longer be solely the drummer. Many of Rock Bottom's songs are very personal and introspective love songs, since he would soon marry Alfreda Benge. Benge suggested to Wyatt that his music was too cluttered and needed more open spaces. Therefore, Robert Wyatt not only ploughed new ground in songwriting territory, but he presented the songs differently, taking time to allow songs like "Sea Song" and "Alifib" to develop slowly. Previous attempts at love songs, like "O Caroline," while earnest and wistful, were very literal and lyrically clumsy. Rock Bottom was Robert Wyatt's most focused and relaxed album up to its time of release. In 1974, it won the French Grand Prix Charles Cros Record of the Year Award. It is also considered an essential record in any comprehensive collection of psychedelic or progressive rock

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Send comments to olga (BETA) | Report this review (#126256)
Posted Monday, June 18, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Wyatt had already written the basic structure of the music for this his second solo album, plus the lyrics for "Alife", "Sea Song" and "A Last Straw" when on the night before the new group was to have it's first rehearsal he fell from a fourth floor window breaking his spine. He spent the first three months in the hospital flat on his back until he received a wheelchair which allowed him in the coming months to play on a piano in the visitors room. This is where he continued to prepare his songs. When he was finally released from the hospital he was ready to record this album. Those on board to help him were HENRY COW members Fred Frith and Mongezi Feza as well as Mike Oldfield, Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper and Laurie Allan from GONG and more. Nick Mason from PINK FLOYD is the producer of these pastoral, chaotic, desperate, emotional and at times humerous songs. Robert's vocals seem so vulnerable.

"Sea Song" is one of my favourite songs on here with piano and vocals leading the way. "A Last Straw" has Canterbury written all over it and is another highlight that opens with keys and bass as vocals follow. Another vocal melody from Wyatt as the drums come in playing a more prominant role now. "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road" is more avant with the chaotic sax and percussion. Sadly Mongezi Feza the sax player would pass away a year later from pneumonia. Keys come in followed by a vocal melody then vocals. A monologue from Ivor Cutler late in the song as well as some great bass lines from Sinclair.

"Alifib" and "Alife" are like parts one and two about Robert's wife Alfie. These are amazing pieces of music. The first part has Wyatt's desperate voice saying Alifib over and over again throughout most of the song until we get his fragile vocals before 4 minutes. Keyboard melodies and bass provide the background music to this song. Part 2 is my favourite track and we get percussion, clarinet and vocals leading the way. Sax after 3 minutes and keys with spoken words from his wife Alfie. "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" is in my top three here of favourite tunes. Mike Oldfield really makes his presence felt, and you know it's him right away, there is no mistaking his style and tone. The drums are well done and we get more spoken words from Ivor Cutler before some viola from Fred Frith. There are dissonant sounds to end it.

If I was to evaluate this record on the music alone I might say a solid 4 stars, but this album goes beyond the music doesn't it. Robert Wyatt is one talented and influential man i'll say that much. Even one of my favourite bands ANEKDOTEN lists him as an influence and a friend. The emotion on this album is beyond words.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#126571)
Posted Friday, June 22, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars "You look different every time." The beginning of the abum and the beginning of Sea Song starts with blazing swooping synth with very good vocals, piano, and erie vocal arrangments. A Last Straw has a weird off beat rhythm to it, drenched with synth and delay, psychedelic elements are found throughout the album especially this song, and once again geat vocals. After the psychedelic/rockish feel from the last song: The Last Straw you get a jazzy feeling, lots of horns, hardly any synths, fast pounding percussions of all sorts, soothing but strong bass, and Robert Wyatts voice creeps out of the jazz chaos, and leads us through to Alifib/Alife, which starts with electric piano, synth, and unusual vocal arrangments that should be expected with Wyatt, Roberts vocals stand out on this song and go good with the electric piano. Spaced out horns, dramatic synth, and obscured percussion, Alife is the most weird song on the entire album. Part of the reason it is so weird is because the vocals are sort of scary, and the lyrics seem to be written while under the influence of psychedelics, giving the song a dark feeling, much like Roxy Music's Bogus Man. #6 Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road:::::::::::This song is the most accessible, sounds almost like Pink Floyd Animals, leading synth, Jazzy drums, with a rock hard edge. At around three minuets into the song, it takes a major change, with violin, horns, and very funny lyrics, presented by someone other than Wyatt and sounds like something from medievil Scottland.

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Send comments to Jake E. (BETA) | Report this review (#126756)
Posted Monday, June 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars After reading the excellent reviews on this album, both on PA and elsewhere, I though I had to own a copy. I'm afraid to say whilst finding the album a good and entertaining listen, I cant see what the fuss is all about. It does frustrate me in a way as I feel maybe I'm simply missing something. As said, it is not a bad record at all, certainly interesting and unique. The keyboard sounds that RW create are diverse and hypnotic at the same time. The rhythms are repetitive and looping which often remind me of Krautrocker's CAN. I prefer the more mellow and melodic moments, like the opening track. There are points of mayhem and chaos which I find rather difficult on the ear. So I guess I'm in a bit of a minority not giving this the 'masterpiece' review it seems to richly deserve. I can safely say though, that any fan of the SOFT MACHINE and CANTERBURY in general should give it a try. And hats of to RW for not giving up after the tragic circumstances a year or so before!

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Send comments to kingdhansak (BETA) | Report this review (#127869)
Posted Sunday, July 08, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rock Bottom is a unique album in my collection, though as it is the only album by Robert Wyatt that I own as of now, I cannot comment as to how it compares to other Wyatt albums. Robert Wyatt managed to crate a sorrowful, melancholy album album that does not succumb to depression. I can sit out in the sunshine and enjoy the lazy unraveling of "Sea Song," just as easily as I can find refuge in the quiver of sorrow Wyatt sings in "Alfie." Though the album was conceived in dire circumstances, Robert does not feel the need to wallow in pain, but composes--and sings especially--as if saying, "I hit rock bottom, now the only way is up." Therefore, I feel a sense of optimism even as momentary flickers of pain and heartache shine through the music, perhaps from the British sense of carrying on even in the face of overwhelming adversity. There's also another aspect to Rock Bottom that we can speculate about the condition of Robert at the time of it's writing, though perhaps it is a motif throughout his entire career. I don't know about that possibility, but it seems to me that the lyrics on Rock Bottom have an entirely surreal and absurd quality to them, even nonsensical at times. Perhaps this was Wyatt's way of communicating his situation in impersonal and less emotional terms, or perhaps it was just a means of escapism. The music on Rock Bottom is exceptional and expected of a master of the Canterbury Scene; jazz-rock is the dominant form here, and can vary from the tight construction of the semi-nautically-themed "Sea Song" and "The Last Straw" to lightly guided all-over-the-place excursions like "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road," and it's very similarly titled partner, "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road." It seems with Robert Wyatt that tragedy spawned creativity, and Rock Bottom is an excellent album to own from an extraordinary composer.

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Send comments to stonebeard (BETA) | Report this review (#130349)
Posted Thursday, July 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
laplace
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Great canterbury album, or greatest canterbury album? Robert Wyatt's second work goes much deeper than many plowing the same musical furrow, both in terms of invention and drama - "Rock Bottom" demonstrates how a feeling of intimacy can bring extra warmth and life to a great set of songs.

Wyatt's voice is personal and much more compulsive than that of a polished rock singer under these circumstances, and whether he's delivering emotional words in a matter-of-fact way, performing his own vocal trumpet solo or just harmonizing gently, his technically flawed yet charming and irresistible style is the only one appropriate for "Rock Bottom."

Despite that, this album isn't all that gentle - most of the songs here are mixed loud, busy and dense, with - dare I say it? - a little pomp to the proceedings. Again, Wyatt's voice is like gravity here, anchoring the songs no matter how ambitious they become. All the songs are a little repetitious (naturally, as each is at least five minutes long) and none unfolds delicately - most begin suddenly and remain at an energetic level throughout. The lack of "light and shade" on side A doesn't seem to do the album a disservice, and instead gives it a vaguely hypnotic atmosphere. (Perhaps this can be attributed to Nick Mason's production? I hear he was once a member of a cult psychedelic outfit...) "Alifib" becoming "Alifie" represents the album's moment of calm, at least in terms of sheer pitch, though it has a textural, counterpointed quality, because after all, this is a progressive rock album of a much higher quality than many of the symphonic bands could ever have attained; inactivity is not mistaken for beauty, here - beauty is captured directly onto the record! If side A is intense, side B is still that much more poignant.

Happily, one of the smallest elements of "Rock Bottom" is the guitar playing which remains subdued (you won't hear many riffs or licks, and there's no gallop to any of the songs, but there is a great, shining, Oldfieldian solo on the closing piece) and although the album is often layered, you won't hear waves of distorted or chorus-y guitar filling the soundspace with sludge. Perhaps Wyatt, being an appreciator of avant-garde and contemporary music himself, preferred to give the traditional, "erudite" instruments more bearing and focus. This reviewer applauds the decision and regards this album as another sign that the guitar's presence in no way relates to heavyness.

A lot of what takes place does so in a minor key, and sometimes in a modal way - some of the above reviews have referred to "Rock Bottom" as being calm or else whimsical, and this reviewer has to disagree; this is a tense record, and although you could mistake Wyatt's lyrical style for being light-hearted and silly, every song bears a sense of sadness, of regret and of unresolved tragedy.

This has to be heard to believed. The circumstances of the album's origin aside (and to find out about these, just read every previous review - morbid, isn't it!) "Rock Bottom" is in any case a collection of life-changing songs. I'll recommend this to symph-heads, metal-heads and jazzmen alike; buy, buy, buy!

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Send comments to laplace (BETA) | Report this review (#134889)
Posted Sunday, August 26, 2007 | Review Permalink
b_olariu
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars After reading the excellent reviews on this album, on PA I though I had to own a copy. I'm afraid to say , I cant see what the fuss is all about, really. I don't find anything exciting here, only boring pieces.The rhythms are repetitive an unintristing to my ears.Not a piece make me listen again this Rock bottom. To be short i don't enjoy this work, the keyboardes played by Robert is unique to many listners, but to me is awful, not even the guitar of Mike Oldfield helps the album to be a total dissaster. Sorry not to be among the fans of this album,2 stars for this one.

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Send comments to b_olariu (BETA) | Report this review (#147769)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
5 stars I was into Caravan at the time.

Rock Bottom. I had heard a lot about it, many people called it one of the best pieces of music ever made and it got really good reviews overall on the site, and i decided it was something i needed to hear. I knew i liked Wyatt's unique (though with some similarities to Stewart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian) voice, because i had listened to Soft Machine and Matching Mole before, and liked it, but i really could never expect what i was going to hear. There was no way i could.

Wyatt himself once said something along the lines of to be avant-garde wasn't the challenge for me, i grew up with avant garde. It was to be more straightforward i needed to learn, and that is really obvious on this album. From beginning to end, Rock Bottom is like nothing you have ever heard, and yet it never ever sounds strained. It all seems to flow very natural, like an extention of a unique mind rather than a collection of experiments for the sake of it.

The six songs offer a great deal of variation, Sea Song is a piece both soothing and unnerving at the same time and Robert Wyatt's voice is at it's most beautiful, very melodic and dynamic. Sea Song follows in the same vein but is a bit more nervous and jazzy. Wyatt does a wah-wah solo with his voice over some strangely monotonous piano chords.

The next track ups the tempo a bit, but doesn't hold back on the madness, Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road is like a towing car pulling you over a rocky hill and back again. Literally. Wyatt starts by singing to a driving percussion and trumpet background, lyrics being pretty much nonsense, and then in the middle of the song, the tape is reversed and we hear him singing backwards the whole thing. Flip again for the lart verse where Wyatt briefly apologizes for something he has done wrong, proclaiming i'll keep trying, and i'm sure you will too. Outro has Ivor Cutler rambling something which make little sense but will make it's reappearance in the last, similarily titled, song on the album.

The twin track Alifib/Alifie continues the trend of magnificent songs on Rock Bottom, with Robert Wyatt's most moving nonsense lyrics so far and also his most spine-chilling vocals. Musically Alifib is slow, with a steady chanting of Alifib throughout, some electric guitar noodling, and subdued keyboard background. The second, however, it switches over to Alifie, there is a change in atmosphere towards the brooding and eerie, Wyatt's voice goes from pleasant and melodious to nervous and the instruments moan rather than sing. Wyatt's wife gets the last verse, telling Wyatt in a loving but reprimanging tone i'm not your dinner, you soppy old custard.

Once again Rock Bottom takes a turn, Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road features blazing guitar solo and the reprise of Ivor Cutler, speaking in a monotonous voice about fighting for the crust of the little brown loaf, for what seems now to be the only real way to end such an album as Rock Bottom.

I truly believe Rock Bottom to be a masterpiece of music, as it is a perfect blend of beauty and experimentation which few artists manage to balance in a satisfying way. It leaves me with something unique, a feeling i can't get anywhere else, but one that is worth searching for.

Give it a shot. Or two, if you need it.

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Send comments to Evans (BETA) | Report this review (#161591)
Posted Monday, February 11, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars But I can't understand the different you in the morning when it's time to play at being human for a while.

Rock Bottom is a journey, and an excellent one at that. The leader of this journey is then recently injured Robert Wyatt and the only means of directions that he has is his distinct and compelling voice. Over the course of these songs, Wyatt whisks you away to unfamiliar territory, oddly sensational but strikingly unique. The lyrics are a personal highlight. I honestly can not tell if they are overwhelmingly gibberish or genius poetry, its obviously a combination of the two. The instrumentation is impressive. I've always gotten the feeling of being in an underwater carnival while listening to this album. It's quite moody, but always expressive. The album is very jazz-oriented and it embraces the avant-garde side of jazz. This album is certainly experimental. One area of interest is the reversal of vocals, instruments, and the successful integration thereof. All of this aside, the central focus, for me at least, is Wyatt's incredible voice. It is the element that rings out above the other parts of the music. This distinctive voice found its home amongst this musical background of experimental, expressive, and often bleak jazz. Everything on this album collides as if it has been done RIGHT. This album is a force to behold. I recommend it highly, too interesting and haunting to be missed.

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Send comments to moreitsythanyou (BETA) | Report this review (#162076)
Posted Monday, February 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is a chilling piece of work. I literally feel like I am hopelessly falling each time I hear this album, but like in a dream. I don't know how to really explain it, maybe something like extended pastoral sections layered with haunting jazz. It's beautiful, and really one of a kind. I seem to like it more and more each time I hear it. Essential Canterbury! Highly Recommended!

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#163347)
Posted Thursday, March 06, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars The story about the conception of the masterpiece is well-known by everybody : Robert Wyatt, Soft Machine's former drummer, then leader of Matching Mole, break is spine in a stupid drunk party accident in 1972. He spends a lot of time in hospital, leg-paralysed for life, glued in a wheelchair, and instead of doing painting or crosswords, wrote some new arrangements for the songs he wrote a few months ago in Venice (before his accident). No longer he could play drums, so he turns himself to keyboards and singing. With the help of Richard Branson and Pink Floyd's drummer Nick Mason, he recorded, with some friends (Mike Oldfield, Ivor Cutler, Hugh Hopper...) and his wife Alfreda Benge, the entirety of the well-named album, Rock Bottom. The following, what will happen then, is pure history. This is a masterpiece, no more, no less. 6 purely magnifcent song. Wyatt broke himself, but speaks here with his heart.

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Send comments to Zardoz (BETA) | Report this review (#163962)
Posted Saturday, March 15, 2008 | Review Permalink
clarke2001
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars If you are shy person, stay away from this album. This one is so intimate that a listener feels almost uncomfortable.

Of course, that will be revealed only after repeated listening. It is difficult to digest, and it might sound like a set of whimsical noodlings. This is the album that took the longest time period before I started to really appreciate it. And then, the beauty starts to reveal itself; between each note. Between two integers, an infinity of beauty, emotion, so dense and desperate. Honestly, I don't trust Mr. Wyatt (and I'm not sure if anyone does) when he says songs on Rock Bottom weren't influenced by his personal tragedy. But that's the issue I won't be mentioning again.

The songs are based around piano, and could be appreciated both as a meditative concept and as a evolving, multi-layered body that it's rewarding to observe; in both cases - the lowest common denominator will be an emotion, bordering on madness. It will take you to the extremes: while nit not nit not and Wyatt's desperate, deep chords will bring you to the edge of sanity; mellow, minimalistic synth layers will make you wish to hug this little big album next to your heart, like a wounded dove.

We are taking for granted some things, without realizing how lucky we are. The little blue planet just happened to be on a right place and of perfect size to provide life. And this album also - it just happened, all the parameters were fine, now we can treasure it forever.

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Send comments to clarke2001 (BETA) | Report this review (#169739)
Posted Saturday, May 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Even though I´m not a fan of, or even know a lot about, the Canterbury scene, I do understand some works transcend the limits of a genre. And this is one of them. The sheer power of the music makes you enjoy and listen to this album. Ok, it is not easy listening in any way, you have to pay atention, but once you do, you´re hooked. That´s what I feel about Rock Bottom. The music is sometimes strange, too jazzy for my taste, but still it captivates me. That´s the best sign of an excellent prog CD.

Can´t say much more about it. Musicanship is excellent, as usual, especially if you take a look at the all star group of people who plays on the record (Mike Oldfield, among others). Production is ok for the time. The music is that really counts, I guess. Every prog fan should listen to this CD with an open mind. It is well worth the efford. Four stars at least.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#190705)
Posted Friday, November 28, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars Rock Bottom is a very abstract and eccentric record which could be inaccessible to most people. Following the terrible accident that left him a paraplegic, Wyatt seemed to withdraw into his own world... the music here is very personal, lonely, introverted, and at times claustrophobic. I can't imagine the ordeal he must have suffered at that time... the bitterness and frustration are palpable in every track, and everything tends to drift out of focus after a while, as if Wyatt was lost in thought.

The album begins with the gorgeous 'Sea Song', a fragile and heartbreakingly beautiful ballad. A haunting sadness floats beneath the mellow surface waves of synthesizers, piano, distant bass and hand-percussion... which are the only instruments which accompany Wyatt's mournful aching vocals for the majority of this record.

The first part of 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road' is very strange and hypnotically repetitious. Half of the music plays backwards while the other half moves forwards, which creates a psychotic feeling... it's like being pulled into two different dimensions of reality simultaneously. The vocals are weird (alternating between forward and backwards speech) but Robert's unique delivery is always entrancing.

'Alifib' and 'Alife' are quite Avant-Garde in approach... disjointed vocal ramblings containing surrealistic stream-of-consciousness lyrical gibberish are accompanied by the cacophonous noise of droning synthesizers and painfully-straining Acid Jazz horn shrieks. Parts of these tracks are interesting and pleasing (especially the melodic second half of Alifib) but this part of the album runs on for too long and ultimately never goes anywhere.

The second epileptic episode of 'Little Red Riding Head' swirls around in a blurry state of confusion. It begins relaxed and gentle and becomes increasingly busy, bizarre, and convoluted. This is the second best moment on the album. This track ends the album with a deep spoken-word part that is a head-scratcher... real out-there.

The morose atmosphere of this album may be too depressive for casual listening... it is very blue. I think it may take many deeply concentrated listening sessions to really 'get' this material. The albums is very good for the most part (especially the first half) but worth owning only if you enjoy bizarre experimentalism in music.

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Send comments to AdamHearst (BETA) | Report this review (#204604)
Posted Friday, February 27, 2009 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Rock Bottom is the second full-length studio album by British experimental rock artist Robert Wyatt. Unlike what some people seem to think most of the material on Rock Bottom were written before Robert Wyatt´s accident. His fall from a fourth floor window on the 1st of July 1973 left him paralyzed from the waist down and meant that he had to concentrate on singing more. The realization that he was never going to be a drummer again must have been a hard pill to swallow. While most of the material were written during a stay in Venice in in early 1973 according to the booklet in the CD version ( which is written by Robert Wyatt himself) the arrangements of the songs where mostly done by Wyatt during his recuperation from his accident.

The music on Rock Bottom is quite unique, dark and haunting. Robert Wyatt´s fragile and distinct voice is intense and deeply emotional and the lyrics are clever. There are lots of guests on the album ( including Richard Sinclair, Hugh Hopper, Laurie Allan, Mike Oldfield, Fred Frith and Ivor Cutler) and besides the more ordinary rock instrumentation of guitar, bass and drums there are also lots of percussion, brass and keyboards on the album. The drumming is mostly subtle and there are actually more parts without drums than with drums. The music can seem repetitive in structure but the emotion that the music invokes is really something special IMO. Quite frankly I´ve never heard anything like this before. If you´re familiar with the very dissonant and experimental debut album The End of an Ear (1970) by Robert Wyatt don´t expect Rock Bottom to sound anything like that one. While I found the former annoying to the point where it hurt my ears I find the latter to be one of the most beautiful and deeply emotional albums I´ve ever heard. It´s a very atmospheric album. Calm yet intense. Dark and serious but at the same time greatly humourous ( just listen to the ending minutes of Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road).

The production is warm and pleasant. Another great feature on an already perfect album.

Rock Bottom has moved me greatly and it now ranks among my favorite albums. I find it very recommendable if you enjoy dark and atmospheric music with deeply emotional vocals. A very unique album that definitely deserves a 5 star rating from me.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#221551)
Posted Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Sea Song, Robert Wyatt, 1974

StarStarStarStarStar

Robert Wyatt's sophomore solo effort, Rock Bottom, famously came after his unfortunate accident, which prevented him from seriously drumming and touring, and, as mentioned in the sleeve notes, forcing him to focus more on the singing and arrangement of his work. While The End Of An Ear was a very respectable jazz-rock album, the new Wyatt has an emotional resonance and connection that is simply staggering, as well as a mouth-watering guest list. Rock Bottom is an astoundingly good album, with perhaps 4 of the songs being just about ideal, and the other two are also extremely strong and individual, and moreover it works as a whole, the idea of hitting bottom, of being at your lowest point and yet not being that badly off, is repeated throughout... it's a serious and yet seriously silly lyrical work, and one of the subtlest and most understated in progressive rock. Thus, noting the coincidental fact that, without a single strain, Rock Bottom is one of the most exotic and excitingly quirky albums I've heard, this album gets a well-deserved five stars.

Sea Song's strange, optimistic, but mournful, romanticism is the perfect opener. A measured tap on a single hollowish drum acts as a constant for the gorgeous shimmering keyboards (incredibly tasteful mellotron, a shimmering foreground and some moonlit dancing from the pianos and the most moving synthesiser part I've heard) and Wyatt's uniquely emotional voice blending in with them from the flowing verses to the school of aquatic sounds in a soft, longing, wordless conclusion. The lyrics are yet another attraction, with playful marine imagery merging in with the song's genuine, impassioned thoughts on love; and let us not forget Richard Sinclair's quiet, understated, low bass part, nor how incredibly moving that sung conclusion is, nor the calculated contrasts of the challenging low piano rolls... all in all, this song is as perfect as songs get.

A Last Straw is a piece I'd initially thought of as slightly clunky, now, I have to admit that it's still fantastic, even if its introduction and occasional lines don't flow quite as smoothly as I'd like them to. A smooth low jazz jam enters the song, with Wyatt employing a really neat guitar sound (the solo is just incredible), and a fantastic rhythm section consisting of Hugh Hopper and Laurie Allan more than capably pulling into an essentially improvised-sounding piece over which Wyatt's prepared guitar and piano echoes and voice are cast. The pieces of wordless improvisation here, a bubbly vocal creature, a looped guitar solo (in the same sort of manner as Ratledge's organ was on Soft Machine's Third) and a breathy piano conclusion are again the song's highlight/s. So, the sonic texture is really interesting, and, though this is certainly not the best piece here, I can't now see it not being on there, which means it's not lowering the rating.

Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road is driven initially by a frantic, carnival-sounding trumpet and a rhythm section which consists of energetic work from Richard Sinclair and an array of small percussive creatures. Vanishing trumpet and keyboard segments seem to contrast and supplement all this franticness, as does Wyatt's running vocal (again continually curtailed with an interesting fade), with another shift from seemingly nonsensical and light-hearted lines into an entirely serious and meaningful address (again, romantic: 'But I'll keep on trying, and I'm sure you will too'). This all melts together, following Ivor Cutler's bouncy, lower and more defined voice offering carefully preparatory nonsense (now, it's nonsense, later, it's serious), into a thick wall of trumpet and keyboard and bass and everything quite together sound.

Alifib begins as an almost mantric chanting over Hugh Hopper's confident basswork and a variety of dextrous classical-guitar-sounding solos with a hymnal vibe and saddened keys; this transforms into a medieval-type yearning romantic nonsense-driven-plea with hugely emotive, downcast vocals, and suddenly a dark keyboard chord sequence, panning piano and the hollow sound of James' drum (Wyatt's percussion staple for this one) leaves us sliding along with a snarling bass clarinet (one of my favourite instruments) and Alife, which outpours and reshapes the same lyrics into a childishly possessive vocal part so perfectly and rightly. There's a bit of a neat jazz solo in amongst this... the sophistication and the childishness of the male supplicant, in our case Bob, contrasting with Alife's generosity (Alfreda Benge, Wyatt's then-fiancée). At first, it appears like cleverly arranged nonsense, and then the pattern hits you. It's real, it's relevant. It's pretty accurate in my experience (it just doesn't seem to make sense!). Anyway, Alfie's apparition and winding-down vocal leads out this deluxe suite.

Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road is a two-part creature, with firstly Wyatt's pessimistic and sad vocal and a full band in attendance (and man, what a line-up, Laurie Allan offering an incredible militaristic drumming performance, Richard Sinclair on bass guitar, Mike Oldfield on guitar, Wyatt on keys)... its impact in terms of sheer destructiveness is something that other artists simply don't do... 'In the gardens of England/dead moles lie inside their holes/The dead-end tunnels crumble/In the rain, underfoot'... no amount of supposedly brutal pseudo-Satanism is going to hit you that hard emotionally with such a sense of destruction. This first part, rounding out with an increasingly intense band and Wyatt's looped 'Can't you see them' vocal, falls off into a weepy baritone concertina (I know because the credits sheet tells me) and Ivor Cutler's miserable, low brogue offering a negativity to contrast completely with his previous appearance, and suddenly, Fred Frith's unwinding viola appears, and the song is slowly unfolding, step by step, fold by fold, moment by moment. The conclusion, at the same time destructive, mocking, and yet, not all that terribly bleak, seems almost logical. As an ending piece, this one's just incredible, crushing, yet hopeful, and it works.

So, if you've read the above, it's obvious I'm a big fan of this one, and slowly gathering more of Wyatt's albums. An obvious five-star record, though it takes time, appreciation and a good sense for, if not necessarily of, humour to really get to know. One of the subtlest, most interesting and most moving records of the classic era, and it strikes me as being just about obscure enough that a lot of reasonably knowledgeable folk might not have it; so, if you're in that number, rush to your nearest store of quality music and order Rock Bottom. Give it a few listens, time to grow, think about it a little, and you probably won't be disappointed.

Rating: Five Stars Favourite Track: Sea Song

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Send comments to TGM: Orb (BETA) | Report this review (#230843)
Posted Monday, August 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom is considered to be the pinnacle of his solo career. This statement is quite understandable after listening to this album a few times, but it's not so much the musicianship or arrangements that make the album so powerful. To be honest, most of this music would never have been considered that noteworthy have it not been for the very personal delivery on the artist's part. Robert Wyatt literally spilled his heart and soul over this material making this release his most personal work to date.

It's almost impossible not to reflect over the connection that the accident, that paralyzed Robert Wyatt from the waist down, had to do with the powerful statement that can be heard on this release. Even though it was claimed that a hefty chunk of the album was written while he was in Venice, in early 1973, prior to the accident. To me, this just proves how much a personal touch can add to even lesser material. Still, I would lie if I said that there weren't a few really exceptional compositions here like the gorgeous album opening Sea Song. Not only does it set a perfect mood for the rest of the album but we also get one of the most chilling vocal and keyboard performances from Wyatt.

A Last Straw fits more in with my original statement about how adding a personal touch to an average composition does a huge difference. This number would have easily slipped by completely unnoticed have it been released at a different stage of the artist's career, while here it just glows and sparkles! The rest of the album consists of two two-parters where Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road and Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road never made much sense to me so I just sit back and enjoy the raw energy that is being transitioned though the speakers. Alifib and Alife, on the other hand, are just magnificent pieces where the first one is half atmospheric instrumental and half vocal driven ballad while the second one is just pure madness put on a vinyl record. Naturally I have to give the latter an upper hand!

I might not be that original when I say that Rock Bottom is a record well worth your attention, still this is exactly what I'm doing. It honestly doesn't matter if you're a fan of the Canterbury sound or if you've familiar with Robert Wyatt's previous collaborations since this is one of those rare albums where the mood of the artist transitions every barrier making it an excellent addition to any prog rock music collection.

***** star songs: Sea Song (6:33) Alife (6:33)

**** star songs: A Last Straw (5:48) Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road (7:42) Alifib (6:57) Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road (6:08)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#283612)
Posted Wednesday, May 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars At what point do you decide you don't like an album vs. just haven't given it enough time to "get it"?

I wish I knew, because I would like to feel what others are getting out of Rock Bottom. Unfortunately, I think I'm to the point of simply not liking it.

Here's why I think that's the case. Maybe it's just that I'm an instrumentalist and really have a tough time paying attention to lyrics unless they make themselves apparent to me. Perhaps that means I'm lazy. Maybe I'm not into Rock Bottom because even though I know about the personal tragedy at the heart of much of these tunes, I just don't feel the pain, the searching, the questioning. Perhaps that means I'm insensitive.

Either way, I don't feel good about not liking this album, but there it is. I value Wyatt as a friend and contributor to many prog musicians who I love, and as one who has made numerous memorable contributions himself.

I just don't think the drones, noodles and gibberish that characterize much of this album are up my alley. However, I do enjoy the ambiance, the textures, and the syncopated rhythms. I just don't feel it in my soul.

Maybe when I hit Rock Bottom, I'll turn to this album and understand. I generally hope this doesn't happen, but part of the progger in me hopes it does.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#285385)
Posted Sunday, June 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars For my second review I decide to spend some words and time on what is probably my favourite recording of all time. It might not be the most important record historically, it didn't break any selling records (obviously), it didn't kick-started any genre or current, and all in all its impact on Rock music is not that relevant compared to albums like say Dark Side or In the Court or Revolver, just for naming a few hosted in this website. The point with Rock Bottom is that it doesn't need any of that. It is not one of those albums you improve your opinion about given their historical importance or ground-breaking attitude. Of course, it is incredibly ground-breaking, but we'll come later to that. The point with Rock Bottom is that it is one of the most powerful statements about the tragic beauty of Life. I am not a christian, hardly a believer in anything, yet I believe in the extreme power of Art. In front of a Piero della Francesca or a Raphael, a Picasso or a Rothko , I am often brought to admit that, although it does not seem to have any meaning, in the en Life makes perfectly sense. The same happens with Rock Bottom. Every time I listen to it, usually at night, before going to sleep, I am brought face to face with my own Life, and consider what has been good and what bad, what beautiful and what ugly. As all works of Art with capital "A", it is universal. He might be talking about his lover, but he's actually naming every single lover any human being ever had. He might be talking about his own solitude, yet it strikes us all. All of this is accomplished thanks to Wyatt's incredibly childish-yet-mature lyrical poetry which has developed perfectly up to this album. Being he the artist he is, he knows the power of irony, of innocence, of childhood, of playfulness, which are capable of striking chords in our inner selves that sometimes sheer musical beauty can't. The same happens with the music: although all kind of experimental and avant-garde-ish instances are going on there, you always have the impression is all part of this man's vision of the world, and not just an artistic statement for the sake of it. This music can't be described, you have to experience it yourself. Try not to sample any tracks, as this is a single musical journey if there ever was one. Just think of it as a bit of Rock, a bit of Jazz, a bit of Canterbury, a very little bit of standard Prog, lots of Love and Sadness, and some other mysterious ingredients Mr. Wyatt would never reveal. Bear in mind this is no easy listening, this album is full of chaos and nonsense, but then again, could a work about life avoid chaos and nonsense? The title itself is a reference both to the philosophic and the musical statements in this album. The Rock Bottom of human condition, ie its purest form, its deepest secrets, its hidden tragic beauty. And then, the bottom of Rock music, where only tried and true explorers descend. So you have the incredibly water-y atmosphere of Sea Song, drowned in an ocean of Keyboards, with only the shy beat of a drum which sounds far away on another mind, and the intimate universality of Alifib, who might probably be the best love song about love sung by a man in love for all the men in love ever made. And that laughter, oh that laughter. That paranoid laughter at the end of it all, stands for human condition in its purest form.

A combination of Romanticism and Dada, of Rock and Jazz, of high and low Poetry, of childhood and maturity, of Happiness and Desperation, of deep meaning and nonsense, of Cry and Laughter, Rock Bottom stands as one of the ultimate works of Art in the 20th Century, in any Art form, by one of the truly understated geniuses of its time. If you are sensitive about art and life, and if you want a completely new approach to these themes, buy Rock Bottom, and listen to it at night before going to sleep, forget about your unity and enter the universality of human nature.

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Send comments to AA (BETA) | Report this review (#300193)
Posted Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Review Permalink
1 stars Extremely boring and abrasive. Irritating vocal, weak compositions and vestigial melodies. Instrumental arrangement just like in amateur dance-band at some wedding-party. Piano, viola, trumpet and most of guitar solo-parts and drum-lines are coarse or rather primitive. There is only one track possible to listening "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road" (with Mike Oldfield as an author of only interesting instrumental part) but without any enthusiasm. Only wonderful album cover is at high level. The second best album of 100 Canterbury Scene Top Albums? And average score 4.37? You got to be kidding! Despite the sad but true story of Robert Wyatt's life only one star from me.

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Send comments to Koper (BETA) | Report this review (#320102)
Posted Monday, November 15, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Robert Wyatt. Rock Bottom

What an odd album Rock Bottom is. Its has a strong melancholy vibe to it, but at the same time it has a fun playful vibe. If thinking how is that possible? don't worry I am to. I have no idea how he Robert Wyatt managed to create this sound. It is an amazing accomplishment and I have yet to hear anything like it again. Maybe I should look further into Mr. Wyatt discography. This album starts out with "sea song" which is my favorite tack on Rock Bottom. It like I said about the rest of the Album has a melancholy feel to it but its lyrics are strange and funny. My next favorite track is probably "Alifib". This album has some classic Canterbury qualities to it. Its jazzy and it has goofy lyrics. The only reason why I didn't give this album 5 stars is because at times the lyrics don't make sense and they are just to goofy. "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road" is an example of this weirdness. But If you like the Canterbury Scene you will Love this album.

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Send comments to kawkaw123 (BETA) | Report this review (#386957)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars Soft Machine's co-founder Robert Wyatt recorded his first solo album still being its member. Than he left disappointed by band's musical direction, but didn't continued with solo releases. Instead he founded short-lived band Matching Mole.

This,his second solo album, was released when Matching Mole finished its existence as well. During recordings for this release Wyatt's life was changed radically: he felt from house window and loosed the use of his legs at all.As a result, he couldn't play drums anymore and concentrated more on vocals (as well as some keyboards and percussion).

Wyatt always was the source of psychedelic lyricism starting from his early musical works, but this album is his absolute peak of intimacy,openest and artistic sensitivity. Extremely unique mix of quite liquid,ambient sound,mostly all slow/mid tempo, with beautiful tunes and nervous and fragile atmosphere. It is not jazz,prog rock or even casual Canterbury sound - it's "Wyattness", his unique sound and atmosphere. With accent more on emotional field than on technical mastership, this album is one rare recording that you don't hear,but feel. Every time you listen to this album, you just feel it again and again, it looks that there are something deeper under quite accessible and even simple in moments music. And that "something" is happily not political message (which will become so usual for Wyatt on his later solo works),but great artist's naked soul with all his pain and hope.

Absolutely best Wyatt's album ever. My rating is 4,5 rounded to 5.

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Send comments to snobb (BETA) | Report this review (#409709)
Posted Tuesday, March 01, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars A beautiful but simple album, sung by the the paper thin vocals of Robert Wyatt. A very layered recording with lots of instruments which somehow are made to sound very melancholic indeed.

Wow, this is much better than I remember.... Brilliant trumpets are mixed in and out of reversed vocals and instrumental parts creating an environment where you truly feel you're drowning in a sea of sound.

This is from the unusual end of 'Canterbury' - a much more downbeat affair, after the tragic accident suffered by a debilitated Robert Wyatt which could never have been recorded otherwise. A pain stricken and emotional outing only enlivened by the marvelous Ivor Cutler sputterings towards the end.

A personal tragedy resulting in an LP of beauty. A life affirming album sung by a man full of dignity despite his hardship. Could make you miserable if you're in the wrong frame of mind though.

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#417784)
Posted Thursday, March 17, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is just special. It's magic from the first to the last note and there's a moment of weekness in between. Wyatt is fragile and true as anything can be. This is the kind of work that couldn't be better and can't be repeated or improved in any way. It's not for everybody witch is another good thing by the way. Listen to it and you will find that if it suits you, here you have one of your favourites album of anytime. If it doesn't suit you, no problem, there are thousand other different albums to try. But if you feel a shiver down the spine with the first notes and words.. wow! welcome to the rock bottom.

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Send comments to Ziggy (BETA) | Report this review (#452363)
Posted Thursday, May 26, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars I first bought this album fresh from hearing Matching Mole and Soft Machine and was hoping to find some signals of the music of both, but when I heard it I was glad such was not the case. The only thing Rock Bottom has to do with the aforementioned bands is it's maker and the partcipation of bassist Hugh Hopper, the rest is entirely different from Third and Matching Mole.

Rock Bottom was first thought as a new Matching Mole record, with the line-up of Wyatt/Monkman/Windo/MacCormick, but as Robert suffered the accident and it became clear he wouldn't be able to drum anymore, he turned that nugget into a solo album, a move that would dramatically change the music of it and Wyatt's whole career.

The instrumentation present here is pretty strange and most of the ethereal atmosphere of it is due to the use of a mysterious cheap keyboard, an electric organ from italian combo company GEM called Riviera, which is a rather simple machine but capable of some jaw-dropping stuff. Wyatt acquired in it while on trip with his girlfriend (and future wife) Alfreda Benge in 1973 at a toy shop, and learned to use it while recovering in the hospital. The sound of the Riviera dominates four of the six songs, be it with brass and vibrato ("Sea Song"), reeds ("A Last Straw", "Alifib") or flute settings ("Little Robin Hood Hit The Road"). Apart from the Riviera, there is mellotron choir on "Sea Song", slide guitar on "Last Straw", bongos, tape processing, harmonium on "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road", and Richard Sinclair and Hugh Hopper on bass, Laurie Allen on drums, Mongezi Feza on trumpet, Gary Windo on sax, Mike Oldfield on guitar, and Alfreda Benge and Ivor Cutler as speakers, the result is a record like no other before or since.

An important thing to note is that this is not music for the faint-hearted, it is very personal, searching, weird and intense, so anything remotely resembling easy-listening or even acessible material is entirely absent here, and it's hardly a good place to start with Robert Wyatt, even if it's his very best.

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Send comments to JackFloyd (BETA) | Report this review (#455324)
Posted Tuesday, May 31, 2011 | Review Permalink
baz91
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Recently, I've been getting into Soft Machine, and I realised that the thing about that group I enjoyed the most was Robert Wyatt. His drumming, vocals and lyrics make the songs he plays on so unique and special. It didn't take me long to discover his solo albums, and consequently 'Rock Bottom'. I was immediately mesmerised by this shimmering album, and in a week, I'd managed to play it over ten times without getting bored in the slightest. Imagine my delight then, when I found that it was ranked as the second best Canterbury Scene album on ProgArchives.

First, some history. As you have probably read elsewhere, Wyatt had been writing the material for this album when he took a tragic fall from a fourth storey window, permanently paralysing his legs. In the eight months he was in hospital, he had to come to terms with the fact that he would never be able to drum in the usual sense again, let alone walk. Somehow, Wyatt was able to capture the emotions of these troubling times in the album, making 'Rock Bottom' one of the most intimate and personal albums ever.

Like any good solo album, the list of musicians appearing is permeated by some real stars. Canterbury stars Hugh Hopper and Richard Sinclair take turns in playing the bass on the album, whilst Nick Mason from Pink Floyd produces. Scottish poet Ivor Cutler rounds off the album, and on the same song, we hear the legendary Mike Oldfield on guitar, and Henry Cow star Fred Frith on the viola. With Wyatt's beautiful vocals on top, this is a musical journey you won't forget.

Sea Song is the obvious choice for the start of the album, as it is a brilliant stand-alone track. This is a synth led song with piano accompaniment, and the production is very clean. The lyrics are the highlight of this track, as they are bizarre, but strangely beautiful, just like everything Wyatt does. This is a simple song, with no chorus, and a long outro. Wyatt's wordless vocals are impeccable when he decorates the outro with them. A very sad song, and one that perfectly captures Wyatt's emotional struggle at that time, even if not lyrically.

Last Straw is my least favourite song on the album, but that doesn't mean it's not brilliant. This is a jazzier track, with Laurie Allan on drums. There are simple lyrics, but the best part of the track is Wyatt's signature 'wah-wah' vocal effect in between verses. What's amazing, is that he sounds like this live, and on certain recordings, he does much more with his voice than on here. An impressive song.

Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road is a more experimental song. The song features Wyatt on the bongos providing a fast beat for the chords in the background. The best word to describe this kind of music would be drone. Throughout the song, there is a sense of urgency that drives the song towards its finish. Amazingly enough, the lyrics between 2:53 and 3:40 are reversed between 3:40 and 4:23, but still fit perfectly. So perfectly that your humble reviewer didn't realise until this very listening (after listening to it 12 times already). Ivor Cutler gives a quick segment of the speech from the end of the album before the song ends. For managing to sneak backwards lyrics in without me noticing, this song recieves full credit.

Side 2 begins with a two part suite, which is seemingly dedicated to Wyatt's partner, Alfreda Benge. The first part of the suite is Alifib, and the first striking thing about this track is Wyatt's heavy breathing. However, this is not just breathing, he is actually saying the word 'Alife' over and over again. In fact, he does this 318 times, which lasts the entire of the first part of the suite. The first three and half minutes are taken up by a beautiful synth solo. On the 169th 'Alife', Robert Wyatt begins singing. The lyrics are nonsensical, like a children's nursery rhyme, but they are incredibly resonant, and seem to hold infinite meaning to Wyatt. This is the saddest track on the record, and probably the track that convinced me to get it. In the second half, Alife, things get more experimental. The lyrics from the first part are repeated but rather than singing the lyrics, Wyatt takes to saying them with no rhythm at all as if he is going insane. This is quite a disturbing song, with the dissonant saxophone in the background. There is a long experimental instrumental, where the sax takes a life of its own. Right before the end of the song, Benge herself enters and concludes the song with more nonsensical lyrics. Strangely enough, this is an incredibly romantic song, when you see it as a tribute to her.

Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road is perhaps my favourite song on the record. In my opinion, this is the closest the record comes to conventional prog rock, with Mike Oldfield's amazing guitar solo, Wyatt's powerful lyrics and Laurie Allan's rocky drumming. The lyrics 'In the garden of England...' remind me of Genesis's 'Selling England By The Pound'. The song finishes with a sort of nonsense poem by Ivor Cutler, which sounds amazingly powerful with the concertina and viola in the background. Maniacal laughter closes the album. After finishing this song, it's good to pause and reflect on the astonishing album you've just heard.

This is an emotional rollercoaster album that is full of contradictions. It's nonsenical, but at the same time full of meaning. It's simple, but at the same time incredibly complex. It's innocent and naive, but at the same time incredibly provocative. It's sad and depressing, but in a way joyous and triumphant. It's loose and liquid but at the same time, intricate and well thought out. The front cover shows a beautiful delicate pencil drawn image by Benge, with a girl with balloons in the sea, perhaps representing the first song on the album. The delicateness of the artwork reflects how delicate this album is, and how delicate Wyatt would have been after his fall. I could play this album over and over and never get bored, and it could even be one of my desert island discs. Needless to say, this album gets 5 wonderful stars, for being a work of utter genius.

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Send comments to baz91 (BETA) | Report this review (#466375)
Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Recorded in the wake of Wyatt's life-changing accident which left him without the use of his legs and therefore unable to drum as he previously used to, Rock Bottom is the most beautiful and haunting album Wyatt ever made, and one of the best to come out of the Canterbury scene. Haunting submarine soundscapes construct an album packed with love (especially when the subject of Alfreda Benge, Wyatt's partner who he married on the day of the album's release comes up), anger, frustration and hope. Love songs are ten a penny in rock music, but it takes a rare sort of confidence to invite the object of said song on to cap off the performance by fondly rebuking your hyperbole; this is precisely what Wyatt does. The closing performance by Ivor Cutler is the eccentric capstone on a very strange structure indeed, and one which has yet to cease yielding its secrets and treasures.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#517390)
Posted Thursday, September 08, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars A powerhouse performance of a man at his lowest point.

Robert Wyatt was recovering from a horrendous fall breaking his legs and his spirit. The remains of that shattered spirit is injected into every vocal and musical instrumentation on "Rock Bottom". The melancholy of the album is astounding; it overflows with sadness and yet one could not sense any bitterness in Wyatt's vocals. He is so reserved apart from the Soft Machine and Matching Mole among other projects. Here we have the paraplegic man in solitude at his piano in his most reflective thought provoking mood. His fragile vocals are soothing and emotionally charged but there is no self pity. The music ranges from beauty to inner rage appropriate to the flowing organic atmospheres. This one grows slowly on the listener like crawling poison through the veins and is definitely one to savour if you want to hear the inner depths of a man's soul laid bare. Wyatt opens up his spirit, his mind, his soul to anyone who would dare to listen.

'Sea Song' is one of his quietest songs with a powerful ending with swirling synths and intonations of Wyatt's angst driven emotion. Richard Sinclair's bassline and Wyatt's gentle piano opens 'A Last Straw'. Wyatt indulges in some of his ad lib scat style but its okay. He really shines on vocals on "Rock Bottom". Some nice guitar breaks on this lift the spirits.

'Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road' is more towards the experimental Soft Machine style, with wild sax and Wyatt gasping for air, perhaps reliving his tragedy through music. He ad libs some cries of desperation "stop it, oh deary me, what I heaven's name." The music reverses into backwards as does Wyatt's vocals and the result is very unsettling but appropriate in projecting the awful torment of losing the use of his legs. The narration is an incoherent Wyatt at his lowest point and then dissonant music builds with truly chilling effect. Fred Frith's violin has a Celtic flavour.

'Alifib' begins with the pulsations of Wyatt's breathing as though strapped to a life machine in a coma, thus a re-enactment of the situation he had faced. The guitar is trilling nicely over a layer of ethereal keyboards and bass. Wyatt's vocals are mixed to the front and are full of disconsolate tones. The melody is rather pretty but still have dark nuances. It changes into Gary Windo's sax squeaks that speak insanity and Wyatt lapses into madness with vocals such as "Alife my larder, Alife my larder, I can't forsake you, or forsqueak you." The dissonance of piano barricaded by a downbeat melody and depressed sax is an astounding combination. One may be reminded of Van der Graaf Generator here with the great Jaxon on sax. At times the sax is blown without any noise penetrating through; I have never heard the sax used so intensely, it just screams in spasms of agony, and is very disturbing to the ears. The song ends with more incoherency from Wyatt and a really creepy narration; "I'm a dear little dolly", and then closes with multi buzzing drones.

Without warning Wyatt begins the next song 'Alife' with higher vocals and a marching timpani rhythm. The lyrics are the same as the previous track but it is a completely different style and much more restrained. The low vocals of Ivor Cutler on the final track are burblings of madness "I want it I want it give it to me I give it you back when I finish the lunch tea, I lie in the road, try to trip up the passing cars. Yes, me and the hedgehog, we bursting the tyres all day. As we roll down the highway towards the setting sun, I reflect on the life of the highwayman, yum yum. Now I smash up the telly and what's left of the broken phone." It ends on this note with a manic laugh.

At the end of the album it leaves this reviewer rather drained as it is an intense experience entering the mind of the genius madman and we can really sense his emotions that are in turmoil from the experience. It is a wonderful cathartic album though as it delivers such bold and powerful statements. Wyatt does not hold back his pain and we feel refreshed as we experience it with him from the comfort of our headphones. This album may be Wyatt's finest achievement.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#613233)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2012 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars 10/10

"Rock Bottom" is more than a beautiful album; it's a somber lesson of life.

Who is the most gifted and most dedicated Prog musician? Of course, there is not a universal answer, but Robert Wyatt sure proved himself that he deserves to be recognized as a musical legend. After the infamous incident, Wyatt was forced on the wheelchair for the rest of his life, thus, he would have never been able to play the drums again. He put his sadness and melancholy in music, creating one of the greatest masterpieces of Rock history; that is 'Rock Bottom', an timeless landmark LP that never seizes to amaze listeners.

Robert Wyatt was and is known as a somewhat crazy fellow, and his music, especially with the Soft Machine, was extremely surreal, yet innovating and bold. His first album as a solo, 'The End Of An Ear', was received sort of poorly but I believe it is yet another extraordinary manifestation of Wyatt's romantic madness. But, only with 'Rock Bottom', did he manage to fully express his genius: these six songs are full of deep melancholy and sadness, as it could have been predictable, but they all have the Wyatt stamp on them, that makes them so idiosyncratic and original. The ex-drummer focuses on organ, keyboards, and his beautifully original voice, another great trait of his music. Then, of course, there are all the guest musicians, from Richard Sinclair to Mike Oldfield, all of them carefully put in their place by Nick Mason's gorgeous production. All of these songs as a consequence have an utterly lush and dense sound, where tons of layers are put together in a dreamy, surreal soundscape, that feels so mature and real, for a grown child like Robert Wyatt. To call this Progressive Rock is superfluous; it bends so many rules, to the point where it is simply an album of it's own genre, isolated from the rest of the music, untouched. It would be easy to say that it's more of a Singer-Songwriter album sunk in the romantic flavors of Canterbury, and smothered by a ethereal, Jazzy tone. Indeed, 'Rock Bottom' is a different world, living underneath the sea, with no other currents influencing it.

This is much more than an album, it is a lesson of life: an observation of radical changes, which can be unexpected and unpleasant, but they have to be accepted, no matter what. This is fully succeeding a challenge that seemed impossible to execute, but turned out to be exemplar to say the least. It might be sad to see such a big, curious baby facing the harshness of the world, but it shows how only with pain, can you find within yourself your greater artist, as Robert Wyatt obviously did.

Starting with 'Sea Song', Wyatt delivers one of the most beautiful songs he's ever done: a sadly romantic piece that makes the listener plunge into the music itself, surrounding himself with suspended-note keyboards, the odd piano virtuosities, and Wyatt's unmistakable, falsetto-like voice. 'A Last Straw' however seems to be a bit darker, thanks to the gorgeous slide guitar (played by Wyatt), the lower pitched vocals, and the magical keyboards accompanying. The vocal harmonies too are dark, haunting, yet so dreamy and somewhat jazzy too. 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road' is much different than the previous two tracks; stretched out, hypnotic, yet beautifully haunting piece that finds it's dorsal spine in the romantic resonance of the trumpets playing for the entire seven minutes of the song. 'Alifib' and 'Alife' seem to go together; the first part much more mellow, with some unique breathing sound by Wyatt, but becomes shortly a wonderfully melancholic piece, when he starts to sing; 'Alife' on the other hand is much more tense, obsessive, with a wild Robert sounding like a madman: the song repeats many ideas of the previous track, putting them however in a completely different, almost creepy context. The last song is the one that sounds the most epic, most ethereal, and the only one where some traces from traditional Progressive can be heard. Once again sounding extremely emotional, it unexpectedly ends humorously, with a man singing with a strong accent.

'Rock Bottom' is not only Robert Wyatt's masterpiece, but also easily one of the best Rock albums ever released, and a key album for the entire Progressive Rock genre. Such deepness in music is rarely heard, and, when we do hear something as profound, there is only Robert to thank for it.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#642678)
Posted Tuesday, February 28, 2012 | Review Permalink
zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Post/Math Rock Team
5 stars "Jazz didn't teach me how to play drums; Jazz taught me how NOT to play drums." I read this quote from Robert in a book once, but as of June 1, 1973 Mr. Wyatt was no longer a drummer. It's a short story: Robert was intoxicated at a party and fell three stories out of a window. He's been in a wheelchair ever since. Such a shame for one of the more unique rock drummers of the time, yet this very event made Robert focus on what he became known for: odd but unique ways of singing and playing keyboards. Although the music here sounds sad and reflective it was actually written before Wyatt's accident. Although this is his second solo album, with Rock Bottom the former Soft Machine/Matching Mole drummer/singer made his first real statement as a solo artist.

The list of musicians who came out to help Wyatt with this project is impressive: Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper, Caravan/Hatfield bassist/vocalist Richard Sinclair, former Gong drummer Laurie Allen; Mike Oldfield adds guitar to one song and Henry Cow's Fred Frith adds viola to the same song. Pink Floyd's Nick Mason produced the album and although he doesn't play any drums here, he does on the single for the cover of the famous Monkees song "I'm A Believer" which was released around the same time as Rock Bottom. Compared to the debut End Of An Ear, this is less chaotic but also more minimalist. There is also nothing here that sounds like it could fit on a Soft Machine or Matching Mole album; Wyatt is basically in his own world here.

"Sea Song" is a terrific opener. The lyrics are nonsensical but are delivered in a serious manner. The synth appears to sort of solo. The piano playing becomes more dissonant and avant-garde for awhile. Love the part over halfway through with synth and some kind of synthetic choir vocals which leads to Robert scat-wailing. The percussion in this song works like a metronome. A classic Canterbury song that only Robert Wyatt could have created. "A Last Straw" starts with some light jazzy cymbal work and either a double-tracked organ or guitar. When Robert starts singing the song picks up and sounds somewhat like an early Soft Machine song. Robert does some altered "wah, wah, wah" scat singing which sometimes sounds like a rubber duckie in the middle. I like what sounds like a bluesy, Floydian slide-guitar near the end.

"Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road" is probably the stand out track here. Featuring overdubbed trumpets that sound like you are at an ancient Roman game in the Colosseum...yet also sound jazzy. Interesting and hypnotic percussion and bass playing. The piano playing is superb and breathtaking; it fits Robert's vocals perfectly. The lyrics here seem more serious and are delivered in a more emotional way. Halfway through the song the vocals get reversed and played backwards. Yet, Robert's vocals do not lose any emotional impact! The vocals continue forward again. Ivan Cutler does some talking in a heavy Scottish accent and you hear non-vocal backwards sounds as the bass playing gets more busy. Echoed and/or looped trumpets to end it.

Robert (or someone else) repeats "alif" at the start of "Alifib" as some bass notes and avant-organ playing carry on underneath him. Melodic jazzy guitar joins in. Eventually the organ starts to sound like a smoke alarm going off. Robert starts singing the song like it's a lullaby...albeit a sad and depressing lullaby. Robert's vocals get double-tracked later. This continues right into..."Alifie." This features some percussion and skronky sax work. The creepy sounding organ works really well here. Altered vocals from Robert are almost talked. The organ playing gets looser and almost improvised at times. The sax almost does a 'normal' solo. Robert's future wife Alfreda Benge does some talking at the end with what sounds like distorted bass feedback. This track just builds in intensity and would be less powerful taken out of context from the album.

Album closer "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" opens with Mellotron(?) and military drum rolls with Wyatt singing. Some Fripp-ish guitar playing from Mike Oldfield for a bit. The guitar starts imitating what Robert was saying. Loose drumming leads to some chanting. What sounds like bagpipes fade in as the rest of the music fades out. Ivan Cutler returns to recite his words from "Riding Hood" but in a different tone of voice. Harmonium and viola join in. A strange but wonderful ending to such a great album. Shortly after this Wyatt would release another album that consisted mostly of other people's songs(unlike here where he wrote everything). Then he would disappear until the 1980s. Rock Bottom is a one of a kind album, it could only have been made by those who made it when they made it. A classic. 5 stars.

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Send comments to zravkapt (BETA) | Report this review (#703009)
Posted Sunday, April 01, 2012 | Review Permalink
friso
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom (1974)

One of the progressive movement its finest moments.

With a fall from a window from the fourth flour the drumming career of ex-Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt had come to a pittifull end, yet it also marked the beginning of his careeer as a vocalist and keyboard player. After eight months of recovery and learning to cope with life in a weelchair Wyatt continued working on some material he had already been working on before his excident. His artistic mindset had changed, stating that his limitations would make touring almost impossible, which let him to the conclusion he could free himself from the limitations of the fixed band and do whatever he wanted to do in the studio with whom he wanted it. The album has some nice contributions (along others) of Richard Sinclair (Caravan) and Hugh Hopper (Soft Machine). On the last track Mike Oldfield adds some great & recognisable guitarlines, whereas Ivor Cutler (a Scottish poet and musician) ends the album with an eccentric performance on harmonium and vocals which is funny and sentimental at the same time.

The highly innovative and artistic music of Rock Bottom flows from the free, almost un-sensical form and mind-set. Far away from the intellectual and logical prog of his peers, Wyatt music potraits roots of child-like playfulness and cosmic chaos - using symphonic equipment and vocals/lyrics in a totally original way. In nature complexity arises out of the way chaos and selection intertwine, a totally different way from how complexity arises from the mind. Rock bottom captures this universal principle beautifully. All this would give rise to a very personal and intimite atmosphere in which mind-states as love and fear are expressed so deeply that I just forget about myself. I'm all music.

Enough said. Five stars.

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Send comments to friso (BETA) | Report this review (#876575)
Posted Sunday, December 16, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rock Bottom is an outstandingly unique jazz-infused prog rock album from the Canterbury Sceene by Robert Wyatt, shortly after he was paralysed from the waist down in 1973. The album starts off with the luxurious and almost otherworldy "Sea Song", with beautiful lyrics related to the sea (as with most of the album), an intriguing piano break in the middle, and ending with Wyatt's emotional vocals calling out.

The following song "A Last Straw" has a similar feel to the earlier song, but takes a couple more listens to fully grasp the greatness of the song. With possibly an even has a better musical atmosphere than "Sea Song", "A Last Straw" is overall another great song. This then becomes "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road", with an undescribable mildly chaotic melancholy jazz feel.

Starting the second side of the album, the beautiful "Alifib" enters with soft tunes for the intro, followed by sombre (in a good way) and intricate lyrics. The song morphs into the sort of evil twin of a song "Alifie", with excellent squeaking saxophones and Robert's extraordinarily unhuman voice uttering the same, thought-provoking lyrics. The album then ends on the majestic "Little Red ROBIN Hood Hit The Road", with all the brilliance of previous songs as well as Mike Oldfield's screaming guitars rolling around the song. This is definitely more of a rock song than the previous songs. The song is incredibly British, starting on the lyrics "In The Garden Of England" and with Ivor Cutler's Scottish brogue singing the lyrics, adding more diversity and flavour to the album, as well as his concertina. The song is abruptly interrupted by a laugh that I always dread to hear, because I know that it means the end of the album...

A-. A much needed addition to anyone's prog rock collection, very underrated.

Sea Song - ***** A Last Straw - **** Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road - ***** Alifib - **** Alifie - **** Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road - **** (But the atmosphere of the album makes it go up to a 5*)

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Send comments to Xonty (BETA) | Report this review (#984544)
Posted Sunday, June 23, 2013 | Review Permalink
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.

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Send comments to VOTOMS (BETA) | Report this review (#1005711)
Posted Friday, July 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
LinusW
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Intimate, fragile, unstable and delicate - Rock Bottom is a reserved but bustling musical odyssey inwards. A perfect marriage of the personal and the abstract.

While never outright showy, there's just a subdued shimmering and hazy richness and gentle grandeur that make this album positively simmer in a unique and self-contradictory hallucinatory clarity.

A freely flowing, kaleidoscopic enigma of intimate beauty in predominantly colder colours, it's made full by layer upon layer of droning, eerie ambience, psychedelically immaterial or squealing guitars and the entirety of the zany zoological garden of sounds you find on the Canterburian experimental side. Sweetly innocent and clear melodies alongside Wyatt's almost tangible, vulnerable and very personal vocals fuse with darker streaks of wavy and diverse keyboards or a low-intensity jazz glow with gently crackling drums and unpredictable, fiery, but ultimately restrained woodwind and brass. Substantial, melodic, but sometimes detached, freely roaming and wilfully strange piano and importunate, entrancing percussion and imploring saxophone. Viola, concertina...there's room for so much. Every track is a new adventure, rewarding patience and attention in order to fully soak up all the nuances and minute twists and turns in the crisp and clear atmosphere.

The songs drift away into the unknown on a steady, patiently repetitive beat, but soon develop into isolated and hypnotic universes of their own when all the restless instrumental opulence gradually kicks in. It's fractured and jumbled, undependable and shaky, free-form, but often bent towards naked melancholia and sadness or even sinister, looming danger. And there's even room for a twisted sense of fun, creating a schizophrenic tension that never really goes away, and which only further adds to the vibe of uncertainty. But in the end it's always so wondrously, surprisingly, controlled. The emotion and instrumentation are like embers in the dark, with a constant deep red intensity that says it all without ever having to resort to wildly dancing flames.

While the charms of this one eluded me for a long time, the more I've listened to it the more I've come to adore it. It's an intense and intruding, but simultaneously restrained and naked affair, which if you let it in under your skin can cause exhilarating dizziness and lasting shortness of breath. And that's a good thing.

4 stars.

//LinusW

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Send comments to LinusW (BETA) | Report this review (#1146126)
Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've owned and listened to this album regularly for a few years now but to this day fail to feel the sadness others associate with listening to it. I know the story, and I can imagine Robert's mood and mindset whilst creating this album (how cathartic and, hopefully, healing!) To hear the man's shift in instrumental orientation is quite extraordinary. And the emotion in his voice is quite raw and beautifully, expressively carefree. The contributing band members must have been quite focused in the making of this one. The contributions of Richard Sinclair, Mongeza Feza, Gary Windo and Mike Oldfield's are especially notable, though Fred Frith's viola play in the second half of "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" is exemplarily of the album's seriousness.

1. "Sea Song" (6:32) (9/10) is plaintively beautiful if a bit monotonous.

2. "Last Straw" (5:47) (9/10) is most remarkable to me for Robert's vocalized 'trumpet' play-- something I quite enjoy.

3. "Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road" (7:41) (10/10) is a gorgeous song with amazing piano chord play, bass lines, and multiple tracked trumpets weaving among and beyond the tick-tocking percussive play. The distorted and reverse-effected keys, guitars and vocals are used to amazing effect. The Hedgehog is just weird.

4. "Alifib" (6:55) (8/10) is probably the album's oddest, saddest foray into self-pity and opiate- induced nonsense. Thank goodness it shifts into some more expressive free-form jazz with

5. "Alifie" (6:32) (8/10), an excursion into some deeper, darker expressiveness primarily via the inspired saxophone play of Gary Windo.

6. "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road" (6:09) (9/10) is highlighted by some vintage Mike Oldfield guitar work (on multiple tracks) as well as some of Robert's cleverest wordplay.

Definitely a better listen if on headphones and while giving it one's full attention. It has a timelessness to it that makes it rise above the 4 stars it might otherwise deserve. The Hedgehog is just weird.

"Dinsdale!" . . . "Dinsdale!"

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Send comments to BrufordFreak (BETA) | Report this review (#1166037)
Posted Saturday, April 26, 2014 | Review Permalink
GruvanDahlman
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This genre called Canterbury leaves me baffled every time. It is such an askew sounding genre, yet extremely focused and visionary. There's plenty of jazz, plenty of rock and plenty of everything and then stuffed into one big bucket of prog. Actually, I think that Canterbury may well be the prime example of prog in it's most vivid and exploratory manner.

As such it demands something special of the listener. Though melodic it is also, as stated, askew and spinechilling. Prog is by definition something to sink your teeth into but Canterbury, like zeuhl for instance, is really something else. Demanding, yes. Rewarding? Absolutely.

I came across this album having read about it's glory and godliness. At first I found it just a tad too bleak. It is not an uplifting listen, though I would not necessarily say it's a downer either. It is, really, a strange trip. Wyatt manages to create an album of sparsity though really rich in texture and body. I suppose you need to hear it to understand it. To me it is a wonderful example of restraint without holding back. Is that talking nonsense? I think not.

The first two tracks are incredible. "Sea song" is inexplicably beautiful, mellow, melancholic and simple in in it's complexity. "A last straw follows". A bit more rock feel to it, though jazzy. "Little red riding hood hit the road" is effect laden and full lf intricacy in instrumentation. Wonderful. "Alifib" recalls Hatfield & The North, I think, which is great. (Wyatt contributed vocals on the first Hatfield album.) "Alfie" is the strangest song on the album. Really it is scary, with it's half spoken vocals and eerie effects. The album ends with "Little red robin hood hit the road", on which Mike Oldfield adds some distinct guitar playing. An awesome track and a great way to end this gem of an album.

In conclusion, this is one great example of Canterbury but also prog in general. Eerie, demanding, bleak, rich and rewarding. It has everything one could hope for, really. However good, I cannot reward it five stars. This is an amazing album and I think an excellent addition to any collection. Essential? Well... In parts I think so but on the other hand no. I cannot put my finger on it. If you are looking to investigate Wyatt, start here. It is a good place to begin.

Four shining, glorious stars.

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Send comments to GruvanDahlman (BETA) | Report this review (#1166163)
Posted Sunday, April 27, 2014 | Review Permalink

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