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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover


Robert Wyatt


Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 940 ratings

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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!
Cesar Inca | 5/5 |


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