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Robert Wyatt - Nothing Can Stop Us CD (album) cover


Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene

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4 stars Look at any Robert Wyatt discography and it seems to be the case that he didn't record or release anything between 75's "Ruth..." and this lesser known gem from 1982. It's tempting to think that his confidence and self-belief evaporated completely during this time as the realisation sunk in that he would almost certainly never walk again. While there may be a tiny grain of truth in this, in fact Wyatt was highly active on the music scene in many different ways. One listen to "Nick Mason's Fictitious Sports", for example, which Wyatt performed lead vocals on, proves this - it's just that no-one bought it owing to the usual stigma of being the 'drummer's solo album' (Mason's not Wyatt's). However, it was during these so-called 'lost years' that Wyatt became increasingly involved not just in left-field music but particularly in radical politics, joining the CPGB and campaigning for a range of environmental and animal rights issues as well. These activities were to play a major part in the creation of this extraordinary album. Featuring a drawing of Rolls Royce on the sleeve with the 'silver shadow' replaced by a working class comrade, the centrepiece of this album is the immense "Stalin wasn't Stallin'", a fearsome (and entirely hummable!) riposte to western liberals and capitalists who constantly denigrated Stalin and the eastern bloc at the time, conveniently forgetting that not only was Russia on the same side as the US and UK in WW2, but that Stalin and his counytrymen expended perhaps the greatest effort of all in terms of fighting fascism, Nazism, and anti-semitism. Historical revisionism is attacked on all fronts by Wyatt. "Stalin wasn't stallin'/when he fought the beasts of Berlin/said he'd never rest contented/til he'd driven them from the land/so he called the French and English/and proceeded to extinguish/the fuhrer and his vermin/this is how it all began". But this LP is no mere history lesson. Containing much of Wyatt's trademark humour, his voice is as haunting and beautiful as ever, and the instrumentation is simply superb. This is a remarkable, mighty album which should be indispensable to all Wyatt's fans. It's not easy to find, perhaps due to the collapse of Rough Trade in the early nineties, and I'm not sure if it's even been re-released on CD other than in Japan. Despite being heavily into Soft Machine and all things RW, I was scarcely aware of its existence until I found it on vinyl while trawling through the 'Eighties' section in a second-hand record shop - not a section that many prog fans visit often, myself included. But hunt it down - you won't be disappointed, unless you're a Tory of course.
Report this review (#29845)
Posted Sunday, August 29, 2004 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars I agree with Mick H's review below, but would like to add a few comments of my own. After 'Ruth...' Wyatt did crop up in all kinds of places, including Eno's Music For Airports, but had stopped writing songs. Apparently his return to recording under his own name was prompted by a financial crisis, and the results were extraordinary. This album compiles a series of excellent singles he released on Rough Trade records in the early 80s, and they demonstrate his remarkable skills as an interpreter of other people's songs. He also selected material from a wide variety of unlikely sources. Stalin Wasn't Stallin' was written shortly after the end of WWII and is an American left wing anthem. Caimenera is a Latin American rabble rouser better known as the sanitised 'Guantanemera'. Grass is by the brilliant Scottish poet/songwriter/comedian Ivor Cutler, who guested on 'Rock Bottom' and who describes Wyatt as 'The cleverest fellow I know'. The ace in the pack, though, is his truly beautiful reading of Chic's At Last I Am Free, for many old school music fans also the most controversial song on the album - never mind singing hymns to Uncle Joe Stalin, how dare he sing a disco song? It was originally coupled with his version of Billie Holliday's Strange Fruit, and the two songs worked together superbly. In prog rock circles cover versions tend to be looked down on as inferior, but Robert Wyatt has frequently shown that an imaginative cover version is better than an uninspired original, and never better than on this collection.
Report this review (#29847)
Posted Saturday, March 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Just a brief comment on this album.... interesting and rewarding efforts here by Wyatt but I certainly wouldn't highlight 'Stalin wasn't Stallin' as the jewel here. Apart from the misguided politics of a song celebrating one of history's greatest mass murderers on the grounds that he defended his country against another mad tyrant, it is a tad irritating. But perhaps I cannot separate the two.... Anyway, the highlight for me is Wyatt's cover of Costello's 'Shipbuilding'. There is no doubt as to the talents of Elvis Costello but instead of an elaborate arrangement and Costello's nasal crooning we have Wyatt's plaintive delivery and a rather sparse affair. To me this captures the song's mood much more effectively. The album is worth it just for this song alone but 'Born again Cretin' is also good and the album has generally a good feel to it.
Report this review (#52293)
Posted Wednesday, October 19, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Born Again Cretin was on the C81 cassette given away with NME, and introduced a new post-punk audience t the strange world of Robert Wyatt, who had been coaxed out of retirement by Green from Scritti Politti. A series of highly eclectic 7"s followed on the ubercool Rough Trade label, culminating in a suprise Top 30 hit with Shipbuilding. At Last I am Free was an inspired choice of song, originally a Chic album track (most recently sung by Elizabeth Frazer). Strange Fruit is also amazing, although no-one will ever match the contempt Billee Holiday brought to the original version. But then there a few filler tracks which let the project down a little. Still this album relaunched Wyatt very effectively to a new generation.
Report this review (#114522)
Posted Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars "Nothing Can Stop Us" is a collection of songs released as singles (A-sides and B- sides in the late 70s and early 80s by UK progressive rock artist Robert Wyatt. The compilation was released through Rough Trade Records in March 1982. All tracks are covers of other artists except the opening track "Born Again Cretin" which is penned by Robert Wyatt himself.

Robert Wyatt became a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1982 and his political beliefs are displayed in the choice of songs for the album. Song titles like "Stalin Wasnīt Stallinī", "Red Flag", "Stalingrad" and "Trade Union" say more than words. The latter is actually quite an oddity on the album as it features arabian ethnic singing and instrumentation by guest group Disharhi. Most tracks are performed solely by Robert Wyatt though and we get to hear quite a lot of his fragile and distinct sounding voice on "Nothing Can Stop Us" as well as his percussion skills and great ideas for keyboard playing. The music ranges from slightly experimental music to more simple pop/rock but all tracks are relatively interesting. The Spanish language "Caimanera" features a slightly silly holiday type mood, which isnīt that interesting though.

The sound production is a bit lo-fi and canīt match the excellent productions on his first three solo albums and to my ears itīs a minor issue, that the material isnīt packed in a well sounding production. "Nothing Can Stop Us" is a political protest album and some people will as a consequence of that probably find it offensive but it does feature a lot of intriguing moments for fans of experimental music. Fans of Robert Wyatt should definitely check it out even though itīs not his best release by any means. A 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.

Report this review (#225923)
Posted Saturday, July 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
2 stars This Wyatt's album is very controversial one. It contains a collection of singles Wyatt recorded for newly founded Rough Trade label in few years (and he didn't release studio album at that period at all).

By its structure A side contains singles' A-sides, and album's B-side - singles' B-sides (in chronological order). The only original composition on all album is opener quirky "Born Again Cretin". All other compositions are covers of songs of different time and musical genres, but many of them are common theme - they are leftist (often -radical) ideology hymns in one or another form. Even "Red Flag", Communist Party hymn found place there between them.

Musically album is quite minimalistic and often simplistic, but contains few Wyatt's excellent songs at the same time ( Chick song's "At Last I'm Free" is one of greatest Wyatt's song ever). Unfortunately, after very few first songs things turn to bad direction on this album. "Caimanera" is a version of "Guantanamera", the famous Cuban pop song appropriated as a nationalist/anti-imperialist anthem. Wyatt sings in Spanish, and the song is a total disaster. Similar case is "Arauco" - Chilean protest song. Two them would be enough to make album less attractive, but it's still a beginning of serious troubles.

American song "Stalin Wasn't Stallin'" could be understandable in historical contest, but huge dose of Soviet nostalgia, even sung a-Capella, in early 80s (read - Cold War time) sounds as misunderstanding (softly speaking).Even more terrible is music-less narrative poem "Stalingrad", closing this album. Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" cover sounds almost as lyric ballade in such neighborhood.And even more pity - all these songs are extremely simple and uninteresting musically.Terrible combination...

Everyone familiar with Wyatt's solo works perfectly knows his love to leftist propaganda, but quite often when the music is great you can just ignore these foolish naive things ( I can hardly imagine Wyatt killing 10% of England's population,as Stalin done with Soviet Union, in local GULAGs for his crazy ideas). But when bloody ideology wins against music, it becomes difficult to accept it.I wonder how Wyatt himself see these his songs from nowadays position.OK, it's possibly more his private business, but I know at least few European countries (free countries, not ruled by dictators, and placed on the world list of free countries higher than UK or France), where propaganda of fascism and communism both are banned (because these two radical ideologies are anti-human by their nature), and I expect Wyatt would have serious problems when singing some songs from this album in public there.

In all, few songs are really great (Wyatt will return to them in his later albums), all other are very controversial and musically often hardly interesting material.Album mostly for Colombian guerrillas,if they care about such things....

Report this review (#423824)
Posted Monday, March 28, 2011 | Review Permalink

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