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Robert Wyatt - '68 CD (album) cover

'68

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

3.72 | 36 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Despite its simple and evocative title, this album does deserve quite an explanation in terms of context. These studio tapes were thought to be missing and only acetates had survived, and were never thought to be issued as an album, beit under Wyatt's name or Soft Machine's. If I mention the Machine, it's obviously that these sessions were recorded in Lost Angeles while Soft Machine had temporarily ceased action, after touring the US with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And if the tapes still exist today, it's precisely because the JHE management paid the session bills (they also had used the studios) and took the tapes with them. After the US tour, where future Police guitarist got fired and left stranded in the US (he managed to find engagement in Eric Burdon and The New animals, then based in California), only Wyatt remained overseas and just hung around with the JHE and was even using the spare bed in the band's accommodation in LA's canyons.

Anyway, the four tracks on this session have all a strong link with Soft Machine, since the opening track Chelsa (sic) bears lyrics of Kevin Ayers, and it may just sound very familiar in a later Matching Mole album with different lyrics. While we're busy with the short track, let's mention that Slow Walkin' Talk (a Brian Hopper composition that sounds furiously Hendrix-ian) features that very same Jimi on bass - most likely playing left-handed on Noel Redding's right-handed bass.

As for the two longer tracks, Ryvmic Melody, but the first part is very reminiscent of the Alphabet of SM's Vol 2 album (yet not even recorded), but to be honest, it overstays it's welcome under this repetitive form: the only interesting time comes when he spells involuntarily BBC. Indeed, the "Dada Was Here" second section outclasses the psychedelic delirium of the Alphabet, but Wyatt's dope purveyor must've been good, because he psycho-babbles in Spanish (actually "guiltying" about missing his fatherhood back home) under McCoy Tyner-ian piano chords and later on thanking the full JHE. Personally, I find this second section the most interesting archives document of this release.

As for the 20-mins+ Moon In June all-Wyatt version, it's pure candy, with these effects around the 6th minute. Needless to say this version is much more sung that its official Third version, but the second part is from a session where Hopper and Ratledge do their usual things; this is a montage of different studio tapes (already done on another Cuneiform release Backwards). Needless to say that this second half holds as much interest as its preceding collaged companion piece and this could be one of my fave versions of this track.

Aymeric Leroy's liner notes (based on fresh e-mail interchanges and original Wyatt French-press interviews) are of great interest, as usual, and reconstruct the era, which Wyatt didn't seem to remember too much at first. This includes a fairly interesting passage where Wyatt explains (+/-) how to proceed recording the sequence and actual every recording track of a composition when not using a metronome (remember the era's rudimentary studio technology). My main (only?) gripe is that while the album is indeed a Wyatt archives release, it might just induced some newer (90's and 00's) fans into error (though the title and line-up are evident enough), because I might even think this could've been a Soft Machine-named archive album, for it would have less chance to WTF unaware acquirers. So while this release is "for aware fans only", it's of real interest for Machine fans.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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