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ROBERT WYATT

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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Robert Wyatt biography
Robert Wyatt Ellidge - Born January 28, 1945 (Bristol, England)

WYATT must hold a special place in many proghead's hearts as he was at the forefront of the progressive movement from 66 until his grave fall from a fourth story window which has kept him in a wheelchair. Even since then, Robert has been a real prog talent. He had started in the WILDE FLOWERS (which split into SOFT MACHINE and CARAVAN) and held the drum stool and singing mike for years before leaving to found MATCHING MOLE (a pun from the French translation of his former group MACHINE MOLLE) but had also participated to many projects involving many musicians at the forefront of progressive music before his fall.

While at the hospital, he started to write one of the most personal and intimate album ever "Rock Bottom", realizing that he would never walk again let alone drumming. He also took another approach to songwriting as he also realized that he would never be in a band anymore and therefore would not write songs according to the musicians in the group. The following albums will be less interesting for progheads and his discography become erratic. Only in the last years will he come back with new albums, some superb.

WYATT is one of the great musicians focused upon in Prog Archives and every proghead should investigate his oeuvre.

: : : Hugues Chantraine, BELGIUM : : :

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ROBERT WYATT discography


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ROBERT WYATT top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.24 | 149 ratings
The End of an Ear
1970
4.29 | 968 ratings
Rock Bottom
1974
3.49 | 138 ratings
Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard
1975
3.53 | 95 ratings
Old Rottenhat
1985
3.79 | 98 ratings
Dondestan
1991
3.86 | 162 ratings
Shleep
1997
3.53 | 93 ratings
Cuckooland
2003
3.77 | 93 ratings
Comicopera
2007
3.09 | 22 ratings
Radio Experiment Rome, February 1981
2009
3.00 | 39 ratings
Wyatt / Atzmon / Stephen: For the Ghosts Within
2010
3.71 | 43 ratings
'68
2013

ROBERT WYATT Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.11 | 82 ratings
Theatre Royal Drury Lane
2005

ROBERT WYATT Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

ROBERT WYATT Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.22 | 41 ratings
Nothing Can Stop Us
1982
3.00 | 6 ratings
Compilation
1986
3.39 | 14 ratings
Mid-Eighties
1993
4.06 | 7 ratings
Going Back a Bit: A Little History of Robert Wyatt
1994
3.74 | 20 ratings
Flotsam & Jetsam
1994
3.16 | 20 ratings
EP's by Robert Wyatt
1999
3.00 | 2 ratings
Best Selection: Strange Days
2003
3.61 | 14 ratings
Solar Flares Burn for You
2003
3.27 | 11 ratings
His Greatest Misses
2004
3.94 | 12 ratings
Different Every Time
2014

ROBERT WYATT Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.92 | 6 ratings
I'm s Believer
1974
3.67 | 3 ratings
Yesterday Man
1974
2.75 | 4 ratings
Arauco
1980
4.00 | 6 ratings
At Last I Am Free
1980
2.75 | 4 ratings
Stalin Wasn't Stalling (with Peter Blackman)
1980
3.00 | 2 ratings
Grass (with Disharhi)
1981
3.43 | 18 ratings
The Animals Film
1982
3.22 | 8 ratings
Shipbuilding / Memories of You
1982
3.00 | 3 ratings
4 Track EP
1984
3.67 | 6 ratings
Work in Progress
1984
3.20 | 11 ratings
Peel Sessions
1987
3.25 | 4 ratings
Chairman Mao
1987
3.03 | 14 ratings
Short Break
1996

ROBERT WYATT Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Shleep by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.86 | 162 ratings

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Shleep
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Gallifrey

4 stars Listening diary 22nd April, 2022: Robert Wyatt - Shleep (canterbury/art rock, 1997)

A strange record from a strange man, but Wyatt has this odd ability to be totally compelling with his strangeness, even when writing about sleep. I hear a lot of Richard Dawson in this, and I have no doubts that a lot of his idiosyncrasies are influenced by Mr Wyatt, particularly in the incorporation of atonal avant-folk in to otherwise straightforward songs. There's nothing here that stands out to me as being exceptional, but it flows by without making much noise and occasionally will bring out a section that really sounds unlike anything else, particularly in the scene of prog rock greats making albums in the 90s. You could even call parts of this post-rock, with its minimalist intricacies calling to mind Bark Psychosis and Talk Talk far more than the 70s prog greats. I don't think I'll ever totally love a Wyatt album, but I'm glad he exists, because he's strange, and we need more strange.

6.5 (5th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

 Short Break by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1996
3.03 | 14 ratings

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Short Break
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Syzygy
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars A short, sketchy review of a short, sketchy release.

Robert Wyatt was always fond of the ep format, and this 20 minute curio would fit nicely into an updated version of his eps box set. The 5 tracks were recorded at on a 4 track at home in 1992 and were released in the gap between Dondestan and Shleep. The 5 pieces are built around piano and mostly wordless vocals, with cymbals, keyboards and rudimentary percussion giving some added texture. Musically it has more in common with Old Rottenhat and Dondestan than the albums from Shleep onwards, but it's also of a piece with the 1981 Radio Experiment and End of an Ear. For the most part it feels like demos that are waiting for some lyrics and further instrumental contributions (apart from the closing track, Unmasked) but Robert Wyatt is an artist whose musical sketches are still worth a listen.

It's pleasant background for a cup of tea on a wet Wednesday afternoon, but distinctly non essential. If you're a Robert Wyatt aficionado it's worth picking up (the CD has some childhood photos and a short essay by the man himself); if you're new to the wheelchairman, start with Rock Bottom or Shleep.

 Old Rottenhat by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.53 | 95 ratings

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Old Rottenhat
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Mirakaze
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

2 stars Robert Wyatt's equivalent of The Final Cut: an album that wasn't born from any distinct musical idea but rather from the desire to get an urgent political message out.

I have two problems with Old Rottenhat, and the first is that I just don't think the lyrics on it are very good. This has nothing to do with the political beliefs expressed in them, most of which I actually find agreeable, but rather with the fact that they read like dry manifestos rather than song lyrics. There's not much poetic flair to them and sometimes a mere glance at the song title suffices to get the gist of it. I mean, I get it: when you want your message to reach as many people as possible, you don't want to muddy the meaning of your words with metaphors, symbolisms and other things that'll only confuse it, but nothing on the album feels particularly rousing either, especially when combined with the music, which consistently sounds like a moody dirge, but in a child-like and overall very shy manner; not something that conveys urgency.

Worse, the songs are forgettable (with the possible exception of Gharbzadegi, which at least has a riff) and the album as a whole is dreadfully monotonous: Wyatt uses the same organ tone on every song (again except for Gharbzadegi, which is piano-based), along with either a drum machine or some light percussion, usually in a slow waltz-like tempo. It all just gets very predictable after a while.

I suppose that this might be of value if you're as convinced a leftist as Mr. Wyatt, but even then I can't imagine someone like that gaining any real insight through this; at best it might bolster beliefs they already have. I don't want to give it too low a rating because I personally have found some slight use in it as pleasant background music: Wyatt's voice soothes my head and I can't deny that there's a cuteness in the particular organ tone he overuses here, but as anything more than that, I can't but see this album as a failure. I mean really, isn't "pleasant background music" the worst possible label you could attach to a revolutionary political statement?

 Old Rottenhat by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1985
3.53 | 95 ratings

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Old Rottenhat
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Beautiful Scarlet

3 stars One major flaw and one major positive on this album averages it out to 3/5

The flaw is the at every songs instrumentation is the same. Organ drone + hi hats. This makes the songs sound the same and the album quite dull. Additionally, the songs do not contain instrumental sections, averaging out to around 4~ minutes of singing.

The positive is that Wyatts vocals are great. He sounds inoffensive, clear and the melodies never head towards awful.

Overall the album is pretty average in Roberts discography and marks a change towards more vocal based songs that would dominate the mans careers later years. If you like Robert Wyatt/The Canterbury Scene then definitely check this album out, after others first though.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.29 | 968 ratings

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Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Kempokid
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

5 stars Of all the classic prog albums I've heard, not one of them sounds anything quite like this album. Now there are quite a few reasons for this, whether it's the sound of frailty and vulnerability of the vocal delivery, the extremely sombre mood, or the emphasised focus on atmosphere and tone, there are many aspects of this that play a pivotal role in making this stand out. The way each of these elements are executed to such a high degree along with some other interesting decisions are only some of the reasons why this not only manages to feel so different, but is also a masterpiece.

Sea Song kicks things off in an utterly perfect way with its short but perfect intro. Layers of keyboards come in, blanketing everything in this sense of melancholy, yet with some serious beauty to it as well. What makes this work so well is how quickly these layered chords fall into an uncanny sense of dissonance, seemingly revealing the true nature of the emotions behind the song. Every other aspect of the song follows this pattern as well, with the vocal melody phasing in and out, sometimes being quite sad and charming, but not often for long before it almost diverts into a sense of semi-mindless rambling. As the end of the song approaches, I feel like its outro best encapsulates everything the song stands for, with its breathtaking atmosphere as Wyatt meekly sings, at first seeming like a hint of underlying optimism showing itself, but before long, it all sounds strained, as if it's all a facade that's slowly falling apart by the time it reaches the end. A Last Straw is the one moment in the album that I'd potentially consider a weak link in this album, though with that said, it's still a great song. It is quite interesting listening to the way all the instrumentation seems to mimic the ebb and flow of the sea, and while it feels a bit aimless at points, the aquatic atmosphere feels undeniably cool and ends up culminating in an interesting listening experience regardless of it not quite living up to the tremendously incredible nature of the rest of this.

It's once Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road comes on that things get really interesting here however, not really because of any individual song, but the entire last two thirds of the album and how it works as a whole. This aforementioned track definitely sets the stage well however, with a much faster pace behind it that sounds rather frantic, as if some sort of awful event occurred and there's an immediate and overwhelming sense of panic and regret that just washes over. While in the lyrics it seems to be talking about hitting a hedgehog with a car, the emotions conveyed here could easily be interpreted as relating to Wyatt's serious injury and the world of change it brought forth for him. It almost feels as if the song as a whole just represents this state of shock, with the sound of remorse running through, the way the audio plays backwards at one point, and especially that end monologue. This part both feels crazed and desperate, as if someone is trying to helplessly convince themselves that everything is fine and will continue being final even when deep down they believe otherwise. This sense of sadness continues strongly into the next song, Alifib, which yet again has its own intriguing appeal to it. After a few minutes of quiet, atmospheric instrumental material, the real song kicks off, and immediately bowls you over with a profoundly melancholic tune. What truly makes this song stand out is the way it manages to sound so moving and sombre while having lyrics that are blatantly nonsensical. Nothing explicitly says anything in this song, and yet, it still ends up being so emotionally powerful. This one's probably my favourite on the album, so much is said with so little, the emotions ring so true despite from just the delivery alone.

Alife is where the really unique and clever stuff comes in, definitely the point where things truly start to feel outright genius as it ties a lot of stuff together in a satisfying manner. This song essentially recontextualises the previous one while retaining a lot of the same elements. Despite keeping the same general lyricism, with many of the same lines being repeated word for word, rather than using them to create a sense of quiet sadness, this ends up sounding insanely eerie and even a bit menacing. The dissonant instrumentation is undeniably a big part in this, with the steady percussion remaining constant as everything surrounding it goes all over the place while still sounding tied to that nonstop beat. The vocal delivery yet again goes a long way in setting the tone as well, with the repeated short phrases without even an ettempt of creating a melody sounding almost broken, just repeating things over and over. It also feels as if the lyricism here further contributes to this sense of uncanny strangeness, with the Spike Milligan-esque vocabulary being that final aspect that adds to the surreal, twisted genius of this song. Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road closes things off perfectly, taking similar themes from its similarly named counterpart, but yet again putting a completely different spin on it. The track sounds confrontational, repeating "can't you see them" as if it's forcing someone to come to terms with some sort of awful event, to finally stare it right in the face and accept. Given the amount of sombre material throughout everything here, I think ending it on this sort of note is a great move, gives things a cautiously optimistic note to end things on rather than everything feeling like an exercise in wallowing. That last monologue especially brings forth a strong sense of finality, with the beautiful and droning instrumentation complementing it, together making for a nice playout for the entire album.

Overall, I really do consider this to be the finest progressive rock albums I've heard at this point. So much emotion is brought forward in every moment, with a lot of complexity coming from these emotions as well. While the instrumentation itself often has some really impressive individual moments, it's the atmosphere it conjured that's the true star of the show. Along with the way it works with the vocals to provide a range of modes and tones, it's those moments where the feel of a song is ever so slightly shifted from moment to moment to create a world of difference in everything it conveys that form the strong backbone of Rock Bottom. Robert Wyatt really did make a masterpiece here, not only a masterpiece, but one that manages to feel quite unlike anything I've heard in the genre, and I consider that to be insanely impressive as well.

Best tracks: Sea Song, Alifib, Alife

Weakest tracks: A Last Straw

 At Last I Am Free by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1980
4.00 | 6 ratings

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At Last I Am Free
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars I had found the early Soft Machine albums in my late teens, but my introduction to Robert Wyatt's solo music a bit later was a compilation disc Nothing Can Stop Us (1982). At the time -- roughly 3 decades ago -- I used to tape the best songs from the CD's I borrowed from libraries, and the mentioned, overall rather poor compilation contained three songs that I became pretty fond of. One was Elvis Costello's composition 'Shipbuilding', and also the other two, the ones on this single, are covers.

I learned only now by googling that 'At Last I Am Free' was originally recorded in 1978 by the pop group called Chic. Truth to be told, I always imagined the song to be Wyatt's own, since his version is so heartfelt and charming. Without a doubt Chic's version is radically different, but Wyatt really translated the song into his own unique style. The tempo is very relaxed and the spacey sound has jazzy elegance. Piano is played by Frank Roberts and double bass by Mogotsi Mothle (never heard of them). It's a very nice and dreamy song to my ears, but if you're not that much into slow and calm vocal music, you may get bored by it.

'Strange Fruit' is an older and notably more famous song. The shocking, metaphorical lyrics originated as a poem ('Bitter Fruit') published in January 1937 in "The New York Teacher" union magazine, written by Jewish-American writer, teacher and songwriter Abel Meeropol under his pseudonym Lewis Allan. The poem was a protest against lynchings of black people. Sometime later Meeropool wrote the music to his poem, and the song was at first performed by his wife. Someone introduced 'Strange Fruit' to the legendary jazz vocalist Billie Holiday who performed the song for the first time at Café Society in 1939. The song soon became one of Lady Day's best known numbers. It's indeed a song to give shivers down the spine, mainly due to the strong lyrics. Robert Wyatt cannot compete with Billie Holiday as a performer of this song, but he does a decent job with a ripped down arrangement.

 I'm s Believer by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1974
3.92 | 6 ratings

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I'm s Believer
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 20-Year Chronological Run-Through pt. Twelve: 1974.

On 1 June 1973 Robert Wyatt fell out from a window at a birthday party and was paralyzed from the waist down. It was the end of the Matching Mole band project, but a beginning of a new phase. The much praised album Rock Bottom (released in June 1974) shows that Wyatt re-invented himself as a musician and songwriter. Two months later he released this single. Electric guitar and violin on both songs are played by Fred Frith (Henry Cow). Wyatt plays keyboards, and on bass is Richard Sinclair (Caravan, Hatfield and the North).

'I'm a Believer' is a song written by Neil Diamond and it was a No. 1 hit for The Monkees in 1966. Wyatt's version, produced by drummer Nick Mason of Pink Floyd, reached No. 29 in the UK chart. The lively version is both faithful enough in the spirit to the original and truly Wyatt's and his backing band's own interpretetation. It also features Dave MacRae (Nucleus) on piano.

'Memories' was written by bassist Hugh Hopper in the mid-60's for The Wilde Flowers, the proto band of the whole Canterbury scene; Soft Machine and Caravan were founded on its ashes. I'm not familiar with other versions (including one by Soft Machine) of this song, but Wyatt's slow version is beautiful. Frith's violin is a wonderful additional element in it. Happily I now realize that I've heard a fairly good live version of 'Memories' in a private prog mini festival with my friends a few years ago (and I also have the gig taped and burnt on a cd-r).

This is an excellent individual single. Both songs were ten years later contained on a 4-track ep, and therfore are included also in Wyatt's 2-disc compilation album Eps (1999).

 The End of an Ear by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1970
3.24 | 149 ratings

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The End of an Ear
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars ROBERT WYATT was of course one of the founding fathers of progressive rock's Canterbury Scene given his membership of the archetypal Canterbury group The Wilde Flowers which quickly disintegrated into Soft Machine and Caravan. It's no secret that ROBERT WYATT's stint with early Soft Machine was a tumultuous one but they managed to crank out a couple unique albums before totally shifting gears on the band's lauded masterpiece 'Third' which forewent the psychedelic pop tendencies of the first two albums and took the leap of faith into the world of avant-garde jazz-rock with instrumental sprawlers that led to a double album.

By this time WYATT's vocal oriented musical ideas were becoming increasing rejected as Mike Ratledge, Hugh Hopper and Elton Dean were making a beeline to the world of instrumental extremism with no time for the cute, cuddly melodies of the psychedelic pop past. This obviously caused great friction in the band and although WYATT's inevitable exit from the Softs would occur in only a year's time, in 1970 when 'Third' was released WYATT decided to use some of the rejected ideas and craft his own bizarre amalgamation of avant-garde jazz rock which surprisingly were unlike anything he would release in later years. The album made the perfect counterpart to what the Softs released the same. year.

THE END OF AN EAR is WYATT's debut as a solo artist and the only one in his canon before his horrible accident that ended his drumming career and left him a paraplegic. This album therefore is unlike anything that came after and in reality is the bridge between the avant-skronk proggy jazz-rock of 'Third' and WYATT's soon-to-be band Matching Mole which would find the lyric based vocal aspect in his writing again. Being somewhat of anomaly, THE END OF AN EAR is an exercise in free jazz mixed with heavy psychedelic organ sounds, hi-jazz piano techniques and progressive rock heft along with a wide variety of electronic accoutrements, sound techniques and freaked out esoterica. Vocals do occur but when they do they are wordless and provide bizarre rhythmic counterpoints to the incessant flow of avant-garde freakery.

While the music itself is calibrated to some weird parallel universe where customary conventions are far from the norm, the Canterbury whimsy shines through in the playful antics as well as the interesting track titles that refer to various Canterbury stalwarts such as Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth, Nick Evans, Caravan, Jimmy Hastings, Kevin Ayers as well as others like Carla Bley, Marsha Hunt, Caroline Coon and WYATT's own half brother Mark Ellidge. Considered on his strangest solo offerings, THE END OF AN EAR takes on many familiar styles of music but finds them collaborating them in strange ways. Jazzy McCoy Tyner piano runs that spastically turn into demented Cecil Taylor bizarreness are accompanied by eerily hypnotic bass grooves, ethereal female vocals, atonal squawks from the cornet, saxophone and saxello along with various percussive noises dish up a strange interesting procession of sounds that take the most psychedelic features of the 60s and marry them with the demanding jazz techniques of the avant-garde free jazz crowd.

Despite the jazz and rock experiments, THE END OF AN EAR ultimately comes off a very transcendental hypnotic album takes all the rules of the prog and jazz playbooks and throw them out the window in lieu of a more uniform flow of sound that slowly unfolds with more sounds slowly accruing onto a glob of musical counterpoints. This one will come as a true surprise for anyone who has only experienced ROBERT WYATT's works from 'Rock Bottom' on but the unique delivery of different styles all mixed up in the most deliciously avant-garde methodologies is what makes this one so utterly addicting as it literally sounds like nothing else ever created.

While this one may come off as too weird for many, this is the kind of music avant-garde dreams are made of. The music is simultaneously mellow and soothing while offering some of the most unexpected hairpin turns of weirdness in all of Canterbury. This one may be the odd album out of the WYATT discography but is by no means one that should be missed. It really comes off as an early free form organic version of downtempo as the beats are steady and deliberate while the accompanying contrapuntal elements of piano, horns and percussion literally exist on separate plains of reality but somehow collude to craft a bizarre amalgamation that works quite well. Devoid of the emotional heart-wrenching subject matter of the future, THE END OF AN EAR is nevertheless a really brilliant album simply to get lost within its magnificent charm.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.29 | 968 ratings

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Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by jamesbaldwin
Prog Reviewer

5 stars Here's to you Rock Bottom, 1974, produced by Nick Mason.

Side A. 1. Sea Song (6:31). First piece: carpet of keyboards, hinted percussion, evocative singing that becomes beautiful when it rises in tones, moving, then there is an instrumental break with keyboard solo (I guess Wyatt plays three kind of keyboards in this track), sweet lullaby. In the middle begins an angelic chorus, and finally again the singing with celestial orgiastic atmosphere dominated by onomatopoeic sounds. Masterpiece that introduce the atmosphere of the record. Rating 9.

2. A Last Straw (5:46). The second piece is shortest, it's a more rhythmic song, which begins with drums and bass (Hugh Hopper) in evidence, producing a very jazzy sound, and good guitar phrases (Wyatt): In the background estatic keyboards that fade after other onomatopeic sounds with the trumpet of the third song. Another great track without schemes. Rating 8,5/9.

3. Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road (7:38). The third song, which produces a leap in quality for the very avant- garde arrangements, has got a very solid bass (Richard Sinclair) and an exceptional performance on trumpet by Mongezi Feza. Wyatt's voice (with an help from Ivor Cutler) does the rest. A peak, a gem of contemporary music. Rating 9.5.

Overall, a side A consisting of three mixed songs, almost a single suite, with a sober and moving first part for arrangement that then becomes more and more elaborate for rhythm and arrangements becoming total music, pure avant-garde. The quality level is very high, we are around 9+/10.

Side B. 4. Alifib (6:55). It starts with the sound of the voice making a rhythmic verse that replaces percussion, then, for about half of the song there is only instrumental music: keyboard in evidence, it's free-jazz music. Then finally begins the singing, which has lyrics formed by assonances of words. The pathos reaches high peaks when Wyatt flies to the high notes with his voice, accompanied by screeching on the keyboards. Rating 8.5/9.

5. Alife (6:31). The second song, which echoes Alifib's lyrics, is the peak of the second side, for its sense of estrangement and schizophrenia, with a voice (Alfreda Benge) with a demented cadence. It starts with avant-garde noises and sounds (Gary Windo on alto & bass clarinets), as if it wanted to deconstruct and make the celestial sound of the previous one distressed and cacophonous. Final piece with beautiful clarinet solo that rises above a catastrophic atmosphere, where Wyatt's voice returns. Rating 9,5/10. Absolute masterpiece.

6. Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road (6:08). Last song with beautiful beginning, almost psychedelic, with guitar (Mike Oldfield), repetitive text, obsessive. Then about three minutes the music stops and begins a dissonant folk with the viola in evidence (Fred Frith), a paradoxical, alienating voice (Ivor Cutler), which recites an almost martial text, atmosphere Dadaist, surreal, robotic. It's the least musical song on the album, which closes it like a sneer, as if to say: Don't take me too seriously.

The B-side starts similar to the previous one, in fact the atmosphere of Alifib is comparable to that of Sea Song but after the first track the music turns into paradox and estrangement. The quality is equally high: 9+.

Medium quality of the songs: 8,96. Unbelieveble. Rating 10/10. Absolute masterpiece, six stars.

Two words about Wyatt's lyrics: evocative, full of non-senses, dissonances, meaningless assonances, pataphysics, creators of atmospheres or sounds. Perfectly calibrated and consistent with music, in short.

And now, a reflection on the importance and uniqueness of this album. There are great prog artists, such as EL&P and Yes, who are not loved by those who are not passionate about prog. Keith Emerson, for his excessive virtuosity, Jon Anderson for his contralto voice, are often hated by classical rock listeners. But in general, all the symphonic rock of the golden-age of prog is not well seen by many listeners of rock, blues, country, pop, melodic music etc.

Genesis are often respected, but are considered boring (while Peter Gabriel, starting with his third album, is seen as an innovative experimenter). Pink Floyd, with their operas from Atom Heart Mother (which marks their transition from psychedelia to prog), to Wish You Were Here and Animals, two notable albums (I consider WYWH a masterpiece, while I consider Animals good but a minor work) , they were seen as enemies by punk artists, and in fact Syd Vicious to justify the birth of punk, quoted Pink Floyd, to make it clear that punk was against mammoth art- works like Pink Floyd albums, produced with super elaborate music, full of suites, dilated songs, virtuosity, studio effects. He would have taken it with Yes and EL&P and Genesis if they were still on the crest of the wave, but in 1976-77 they were in decline, or were beginning to become pop. In contrast, Syd Vicious expressed appreciation for Peter Hammill for Nadir's Big Chance, which contained several songs of raw rock, the forerunner of punk.

Well, the eclectic prog, represented by VdGG and King Crimson has always been more respected by lovers of classic rock, blues, pop etc. Peter Hammill and Robert Fripp are much loved and appreciated, for their coherence, for their lack of interest in the show business and for the ability to make a prog rock not by dinosaurs but very capable of renewing itself and getting out of the schemese.

But... and here comes the point.... From my point of view on the world, no artist is as loved as Robert Wyatt. And not for the whole of his career, because yes, it is true that Soft Machine enjoys the same consideration as VdGG and KC (moreover, groups that have all given their best in the years between 1968 and 1971) but in the case of Wyatt , it's different: Wyatt is not loved for his Soft Machine career, nor for his later solo career (as with Hammill, Gabriel, or Fripp), Wyatt is loved almost only for Rock Bottom.

I heard the praises of Rock Bottom on Mucchio Selvaggio (The Wild Bunch), the most beautiful newspaper of Italian classic rock. But also in any other newspaper or rock site where users are not lovers of prog. Why this? First of all, because Rock Bottom is not a prog opera. It is a total art-work, which does not belong to any genre. It has nothing to do with, for example, In The Land of Grey and Pink, which is perhaps the most well-known and considered art- work of Canterbury Scene. The sound, the arrangement, the atmosphere, the music, the structure of the songs, everything has nothing to do with Canterbury Scene.

Of course, there are many Canterbury bands that diverge a lot from Caravan, as well as Gong, and make much more personal music, for example Henry Cow. But Henry Cow also goes beyond the patterns of the prog and in fact is appreciated very cross-cutting, only that he is less known than Wyatt.

Piero Scaruffi, the Italian American historian of music, who has written the history of rock, greatly appreciates prog but its preparation is transversal. He has a background that comes from jazz and classical music, and he appreciates prog more than classic rock (and despises country, folk, pop and everything commercial). Well, it's no coincidence that he considers Rock Bottom the second biggest record of the twentieth century (after Trout Mask Replica): it's a record that breaks every pattern, every genre, it's not even rock, it's absolute music, which is not catalogable either as light music or as cultured music - and it's almost new age music and almost Zen meditation music.

And perhaps the fragility of Wyatt, which is felt in his voice, in the sober and ecstatic arrangements, in the minimal percussion, his vulnerability makes this record a rare pearl that excites and almost creates a sense of intimacy, of protection of a sacred treasure. Maybe that's it, maybe it's something else but Robert Wyatt is loved by everyone (or almost) and considered one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, a total artist, not a prog artist, just for this album. This album is an absolute case, worldwide, despite the masterpieces of the first three albums with Soft Machine and those with Matching Mole.

This album, I repeat, belongs to everyone, not just the fans of the prog, and has something unique, it sounds extremely authentic, genuine, unfiltered, totally uncovered and vulnerable. Thank you, Robert.

 Rock Bottom by WYATT, ROBERT album cover Studio Album, 1974
4.29 | 968 ratings

BUY
Rock Bottom
Robert Wyatt Canterbury Scene

Review by patrickq
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Although the relatively light Rock Bottom is considered to be a 'Canterbury Scene' album, I associate it more strongly with Van der Graaf Generator and with the Krautrock style than with, for example, In the Land of Grey and Pink (though bassist Richard Sinclair appears on both albums).

At least here on Rock Bottom, Wyatt's lyrics are reminiscent of Peter Hammill's insofar as they combine the literal and the impressionistic. Both writers imply that their antagonist is not fully sane, or perhaps not fully lucid; the listener seems to be eavesdropping on the private thoughts of the singer. But whereas Hammill's musings (or ravings) tend toward the nightmarish - - and occasionally homicidal - - Wyatt's are more sentimental. Although some of the lyrics on Rock Bottom are a bit dark, especially in the context of the eerie music of songs like 'Alifib' and 'Alife,' they are just as often childlike or doddering (e.g., from 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road,' 'You've been so kind / I know, I know / So why did I hurt you? / I didn't mean to hurt you').

As a musician, singer, and composer, Wyatt defies the stereotype of the rock drummer. Tom Barnes expresses the cliché on mic.com: 'According to rock mythology, drummers are the Neanderthals on the scale of musical evolution. They don't understand melody or composition. They're only good for two things tops: keeping the tempo steady and coming down hard on the one.' Of course, the prejudgment is faulty and unfair, and et cetera, but the stereotype seems to be based on some shred of reality. At a minimum, many musicians self-select into their roles in a band, and there are characteristics many drummers seem to share that set them apart, say, from pianists or lead singers.

Anyway, the stereotype exists, and it couldn't be more alien to the Robert Wyatt of Rock Bottom. He's introspective, delicate, and as a vocalist, he even seems to overlook the rhythm in places.

The standout track here is 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road,' a near-perfect melding of accessible pop and high-minded art. As this song is as much a studio creation as a traditional composition, producer Nick Mason probably deserves much of the kudos. 'Little Red Riding Hood' is built on a wall of trumpets,* percussion, bass guitar - - but most notably trumpets. At some point the various tracks begin to run backwards, although we're not just hearing the whole song in reverse; the vocals, for example, are still phrased as per the usual. Eventually forward-running instruments and vocals join back in. As impressive as the production technique is, it never casts a shadow over the music itself. In this sense, Wyatt - - and Mason - - defy another stereotype: the drummer as technician rather than artist.

The other tracks on the forty-minute Rock Bottom are also solid, if bewildering upon the first listen. In a lot of respects, this LP is like an earlier-1970s 'Krautrock' album, sharing a general ambivalence toward convention with that German style: parts of 'Sea Song' and 'A Last Straw' border on the accessible, while 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road' and its companion piece 'Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road' are far more experimental. There are also hints of Floydian psychedelia, perhaps thanks to Mason, and there are echoes of folk-prog throughout.

My main gripe with the album is Wyatt's off-kilter, and sometimes off-key, warbling. It's grown on me a bit, partly because it's a bit endearing, and also because I can't really separate his vocal performance from his lyrics, which (at least to me) are essential to the album.

In short, Rock Bottom is well-composed and well-performed. Other than 'Little Red Riding Hood,' I don't find it to be as innovative as many other reviewers do, but it certainly doesn't seem derivative.

*courtesy Mongezi Feza, who died just a little more than year after the album was (famously) played at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane in September 1974.

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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