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Robert Wyatt - '68 CD (album) cover

'68

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

3.72 | 36 ratings

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Mellotron Storm
Prog Reviewer
4 stars There certainly has been a buzz about this archival release created by an inspired Robert Wyatt back in 1968. SOFT MACHINE had just finished an exhausting tour of the U.S.A. opening for a very popular Jimi Hendrix, and when it ended the SOFT MACHINE members all went their seperate ways as the band had broken up. Their first album still hadn't even been released yet but it had been finished and ready to go for 6 months. Robert looked at this time as a chance to work on his own ideas as a solo performer and stayed in America at the request of Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell. The band had rented a house in Laurel Canyon for 2 months in L.A., this particular house was used to film the Perry Mason TV series, but when they weren't filming they would rent it out. Robert describes it as having lots of windows and big swimming pool. Here he would work on his songs and visit other U.K. musicians who lived in the area like Andy Summers and Eric Burden. Wyatt says he had no interest in the West Coast music scene but did go and see THE CHICAGO TRANSIT AUTHORITY who impressed him with their brass rock style. He credits them for moving SOFT MACHINE to add Keith Tippett's brass section to SOFT MACHINE's lineup later on.

After some weeks Robert and THE JIMI HENDRIX EXPERIENCE would head north to New York City where Wyatt would continue to work on his material and go out with Redding and Mitchell to clubs etc. They knew Robert had a small allowance from the record label so they paid his way, happy to have this charismatic englishman at their side. I should mention here that Mitch Mitchell gave Robert his custom made drum-set after the tour as he couldn't bear to see Wyatt playing the cheap set he owned. While in New York City Jimi paid for the studio time for Robert to record these particular tracks, even helping him out with the bass on "Slow Walikin' Talk". More on that later. These recordings would take a back seat when a homesick Robert Wyatt returned home to the U.K. only to see the band re-unite. Now these particular tracks would show up in various forms with SOFT MACHINE, MATCHING MOLE and Wyatt solo, but for the most part I prefer these originals. So yes when I heard this album for the first time it was all familiar to me just different. The sound quality is very good as well.

Up first is "Chelsa" a song Robert believes was written by Kevin Ayers because Kevin liked this girl in Canterbury named Chelsa. The music here is Robert's though and the music would end up as "Signed Curtain" on MATCHING MOLE's debut record. I must also mention here that Robert really compliments Ayers ability for making a beautiful melody saying that he kept all the songs that Kevin discarded, keeping them on a cassette, eventually using some and adding his own words to them. Next up is "Rivmic Melodies" at over 19 minutes in length. This would end up as a series of songs completing side one of SOFT MACHINE's "Volume Two" album. I never dreamed that someone singing the alphabet could make me laugh like Wyatt does here. Classic ! There is a white noise bit later on that perhaps inspired Robert on his "End Of An Ear" album, plus he sings a thankyou section directed to Noel, Mitch and Jim, and also sings about missing the rain back in England. Just an entertaining track to say the least.

"Slow Walkin' Talk" was written by Brian Hopper back in the WILDE FLOWER days and it's here where Hendrix comes in the studio and asks Robert if he wants him to play some bass on that track. Of course Wyatt says yes and marvels as Hendrix takes Redding's bass and turns it upside down(as he was left handed of course) and gets it on the first take. Robert describes that moment as "Staggering !". This would later become "Soup Song" on Wyatt's "Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard" album. Lastly we get the famous "Moon In June" and yes this is the best version I have heard of this track and i've heard many. Robert says he named it that based on the American pop music he was hearing which he felt had bad lyrics despite the music being good. So "Moon In June" was a joking reference to the soap opera songs he was hearing in America. On this track he sings about his first wife and also about living in New York City. The second half of the song which was finished in 1969 includes Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on a fuzzed out Lowrey organ. Man this second half smokes ! I love Robert's vocal melodies over top of the killer instrumental work.

Essential for Wyatt and SOFT MACHINE fans.

Mellotron Storm | 4/5 |

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