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Robert Wyatt

Canterbury Scene

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Robert Wyatt The End of an Ear album cover
3.25 | 161 ratings | 22 reviews | 14% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Las Vegas Tango Part 1 (Repeat) (8:13)
2. To Mark Everywhere (2:26)
3. To Saintly Bridget (2:22)
4. To Oz Alian Daevid and Gilly (2:09)
5. To Nick Everyone (9:15)
6. To Caravan and Brother Jim (5:22)
7. To the Old World (Thank You for the Use of Your Body, Goodbye) (3:18)
8. To Carla Marsha and Caroline (for Making Everything Beautifuller) (2:47)
9. Las Vegas Tango Part 1 (11:07)

Total Time 46:59

Line-up / Musicians

- Robert Wyatt / vocals, drums, piano, organ, producer

- Mark Ellidge / piano
- David Sinclair / organ
- Marc Charig / cornet
- Elton Dean / alto saxello
- Neville Whitehead / bass
- Cyril Ayers / assorted percussion

Releases information

Artwork: Alfreda Benge

LP CBS - 64189 (1970, UK)
LP Barclay - 920308 (1970, France)
LP not on label 1 RW (1980)
LP CBS - 31846 (1980, UK)
LP Embassy - 31846 (1980, UK)
LP Cherry Red - CRP201 (2013, UK)

CD Columbia - COL 473005-2 (1995, Europe)
CD Columbia - 493342 2 (1999, Europe)
CD Sony Music Direct - MHCP 430 (2004, Japan)
CD Esoteric Recordings - ECLEC 2324 (2012, UK) 24-bit remaster by Paschal Byrne

Thanks to ProgLucky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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ROBERT WYATT The End of an Ear ratings distribution

(161 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(14%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(31%)
Good, but non-essential (33%)
Collectors/fans only (19%)
Poor. Only for completionists (3%)

ROBERT WYATT The End of an Ear reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by Sean Trane
4 stars Robert's first solo album is one of the crazier you'll get to hear on this site, especially so early in the chronology of the prog movement. Outside some Experimental Zappa albums in the late 60's, you'll be hard pressed to find a rock persona that managed such a "difficult" album especially for a debut album. This album is to be approached with great care, and must only be listened to when in the mood for some really depressive music ala Rock Bottom. If I speak of Robert's second album, that happened after his accident, TEOAE was released as he was still in Soft Machine (between Third and 4) some three years before RB.

With TEOAE, his music was certainly a step ahead of the group "that was making him so miserable", partly because on this album, Robert gets to exercise his scat vocals as much as he pleases (not the case in SM), and believe he catches up on lost time, as he signs: "out of work pop singer, currently on drums with SM". Self produced (with a quite interesting artwork), very aptly-titled and issued on the same Columbia label as SM, you can bet these piques did not smooth out the difference with his other partners. Robert speaks in all admiration of almost pure jazz avant-gardist in the liner notes, such as McGregor, Keith Tippet, Mongezi Fiza and friend Gary Windo, and his music goes to some point as far as these people's works. He might have mentioned Colemen or the post-Ascension Coltrane as well.

Recorded with some "Canterbury" friends (most well known, but some lesser family members: Cyril Ayers, Marl Ellidge as well), TEOAE is a really difficult album to get into, because of the nature of the dissonant music developed everywhere on the album, an early sign of Robert's future lunacy in his music some three years later.

Starting on the LV Tango (a Gil Evans "tune"), Robert gives his voice the full work-over over crazy un-metered percussions, his brother's dissonant piano (I think Mark Ellidge is his brother), and he lets his voice run wildly all over and around your brains while drumming up a storm. While there are completely nutty moments, the music keeps a certain beauty behind its chaotic nature and the track ends superbly after well over 8 mins of madness. The short Can-like Mark Everywhere track drives a crazy rhythm and ends in space whispers. Equally short and strange is Saintly Bridget (the folk singer B. St John), driven over an inventive Giles-like drum pace, cornetist Mark Charig and saxman Elton dean pull out mad horn sounds, while Whitehead would silence-out most Hopper unconditionals on bass. The next track is dedicated to Gongheads Daevid and Gilly (called Oz aliens), while the closing To Nick Everyone (Evans, former SM) sounds like a taunt, and this might be the album's most difficult track and it's overstaying its welcome by four or five minutes. On the flipside, the opener is dedicated to Caravan and Brother Jim, and it proves to be the album's more conventional track, a welcome rest through the exhausting trip in Wyatt's brains. The binary rhythm has a hypnotic quality that allows the piano shooting its note from the machine gun. Old World is a bizarre ambient percussion track, while Carla, Marsha And (the infamous) Caroline is a weird minimalist trip with the piano and organ keeping the whole thing sane, because the percussions, devices and other affects are certainly not doing it. Closing on a reprise of the LV Tango, where Robert not only matches the madness on the first version, but easily surpasses himself in this second part. While the album can't be reduced to a Las Vegas Tango sandwich (the album's centre pieces are just as worthy), it is clear that they do represent Robert's vengeance to SM's imposition on his hushing up.

Certainly this is the kind of album that fell upon the ears of future-RIO kings across the planet of rock music, this album is definitely not for everyone, but every RIO-head should get a load of it. And if rock Bottom was an easy digestion, TEOAE shouldn't be that much more difficult, even if the musical dimension is very different, but the madness and lunacy are the same. Essential and influential.

Review by Dick Heath
4 stars Look at the date of original release and you realise this has to be an influential album, especially on the RIO movement. It was a real and unexpected surprise at that time if you consider the work done then by Wyatt largely within the confines of Soft Machine. Appararently, Wyatt was being marginalised with Soft Machine prior to being fired. So is this album a riposte, to show he could be as free as Machine intended going (although on record you'll only really hear Machine in free mode, on the recent Soft Machine "BBC 1971-74") or something contrary to the brilliant but seemingly out-of-place avante rock of "Moon In June" (on "Third"). "End of An Ear" is experimental and musically new, although to be progressed with Matching Mole. Its use of percussion, tape loops with friends dropping by to add their parts was innovative in the rock world - many of the tune tiles acknowledging friends in the Canterbury Scene. I find it great that Hugh Hopper has return to this method of recording on his most recent 'Jazzloops' and 'In a Dubious Manner' releases, as well as with Wyatt for a couple of tracks on "Solar Flares Burn For You" - and rumours have it Hopper is collaborating with Gary Lucas with similar experiments.
Review by soundsweird
2 stars Nothing like his later albums, with little or no singing and a whole lotta jamming. This was recorded between his Soft Machine days and his Matching Mole days. To me, the innovations and experiments are buried under the type of music that annoys me. It's a certain kind of jazz that just drives me up the wall. I guess that's a hole in my record collection that will never be filled.
Review by Syzygy
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars This is one of those albums that seems to divide opinions, largely on the basis of the extraordinary 'Las Vegas Tango', which opens and closes the proceedings. Wyatt was unhappy with the new direction that Soft Machine were taking at the time, which was towards purely instrumental jazz fusion. On the sleeve he refers to himself as 'out of work pop singer', and he was to leave the Softs after 'Fourth'.

The album contains no songs as such, and is dominated by Wyatt's version of 'Las Vegas Tango', a Gil Evans composition (Gil Evans was probably most famous for his work as arranger on Miles Davis albums like Sketches of Spain). Not so much a cover version as a radical deconstruction, Wyatt sings all the horn parts and also accompanies himself on drums and keyboards. It's a unique, bravura performance, one of the most extraordinary demonstrations of the power of the human voice in prog, but it's not easy listening.

Sandwiched in between the two halves of Las Vegas Tango are a series of mostly instrumental pieces which feature a strong free jazz influence. Elton Dean and Mark Charig get to cut loose in a manner that anticipates the dual horn interplay on Henry Cow's first album, or recalls the experimentation of pioneers like Ornette Coleman. The drumming is superb throughout, and in parts you can hear elements of Matching Mole - the track To Carla Marsha and Caroline would be reworked as 'Instant Pussy' on the first Matching Mole album.

I'd recommend this album to anyone interested in the more left field experimental rock that would later become known as RIO. This is as experimental as Robert Wyatt ever got in his own right, and repays careful listening.

Review by diddy
3 stars Actually 3.5 Stars

Originated during his time with SOFT MACHINE and 2 years before his momentous fall, Robert Wyatt's first solo album is likely the most challenging piece of music he delivered so far. Experiments with sounds and voice, free-jazz like compositions and improvisations, definitely nothing for friends of rather melodious tunes. Quite odd in my opinion, because that's pretty much the course SOFT MACHINE seemed to steer at the time. Wyatt and SOFT MACHINE broke up because of muscial differences, escpecially Wyatt thought that there won't be place for his influence and vocal performances in the future, when SOFT MACHINE drifts towards pure jazz/fusion. In 1971 HE is the one doing a free-jazz (almost) album with sparse use of his beautiful voice.

Well, the first Song Las Vagas Tango Part 1, a Gil Evans tune, features his exceptional voice. No lyrics, lots of queer sounds, sough and fizzling, accompanied by Piano and aplenty of percussion. I don't know the original, but I guess it's hard to make it out. Other songs don't feature Wyatt's voice, it appears now and then but it's never as present as it is in the first song, unfortunately I've to say. I really love his voice and the way he uses it. Just a little side note: check out BJRK's album Mdulla, Wyatt can be heard on "Submarine", an awesome song. But all other songs are very interesting as well, saxophone, piano and organ improvisations, interesting percussion performances and Wyatt's drumming assure a consistently good album. I want to accentuate the longtracks To Nick Everyone and the terminal Las Vagas Tango part 1 (also featuring "vocals"), they're exceptionally recommendable I think. But just as the rest of the album never a slight fare, though.

Everybody willing to look into a subject like RIO should have listened to The End of an Ear, it features everything that accounts for this particular genre, sometimes very close to free-jazz, though. Wyatt is a great musician and this release proves this point. Highly recommended, but beware: I also think that there are people really hating this kind of music, even amongst prog lovers.

Review by Andrea Cortese
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
2 stars ...and what is this?

Sometimes it is necessary to test our ears with something new from what we're used to listen to. I have been really impressed when I listened to this 1970 album for the first time. "The End of an Ear"...very few titles are more correct than this one! Don't worry! I gave this freely jazz improvisation more and more spins, but the result is the same.

I don't know canterbury genre well, neither I know the discography of Robert Wyatt. I'm trying, though, to enlarge my knowledge, but I have to confess that this genre very difficulty would become my favourite one. I understand the value of The End... in the whole prog scenario. Jazzy experiments and avantgardisms: this is what the album is made of. An ambitious work for that time. Not exactly what I call my personal cup of tea. Neither what I was searching for from Wyatt.

2 and a half stars.

Review by The Wizard
3 stars Robert Wyatt's debut is very different from what we will later see in his albums to come. This album is not all vocal based and more so avant prog than the art rock of Rock Bottom. Here we get some jazzy soundscapes that are very strange and at times mind numbing. The music has a very loose structure and carries little melody. Wyatt uses very interesting techniques for providing a rhythm like his own voice overdubbed. The horns are somewhat scattered and difficult to listen to, kind of like a saxaphone sneezing. Pianos often keep the beat and the drums seem to be the lead instrument, You can tell he was having fun when he recorded this, which probably the greatest thing about the album. It's a very difficult listen nonetheless but very rewarding after a few listens. Just laying back to this album and letting the music take over your mind can be very fun. A good album, but not really essential. Check it out if your interested in RIO or Zappa's soundscape work like Lumpy Gravy.
Review by fuxi
2 stars Wyatt's METAL MACHINE MUSIC?

Robert Wyatt has had a long, distinguished career; he's one of the few rock musicians who managed to delivered deeply moving masterpieces in every single decade, starting with the 1960s. But THE END OF AN EAR is not one of those. Although some reviewers have lauded this album for being free-spirited and avant-garde (Wyatt was making a stand against Soft Machine, which he was about to leave), I defy anyone to declare openly that they have listened to this album, purely for pleasure, more than five times.

Going berserk in a recording studio and experimenting as much as you like with tape loops, sound effects and crazy voices... oh, it's all very fine, but what's the use, really, when it only alienates the listener? I've got absolutely nothing against "difficult" music, but I expect it to either move me or at least grab my attention, and I'm afraid THE END OF AN EAR does neither. Prospective buyers, be warned.

Review by Mellotron Storm
4 stars Robert Wyatt's first solo album "End Of An Ear" came out when he was on a voluntary leave of absence from SOFT MACHINE. This was recorded inbetween SOFT MACHINE's "Third" and "Fourth" albums.The "Fourth" would be Wyatt's last with that band. He gets help on this one from fellow SOFT MACHINE members Elton Dean and Mark Charig on horns, while CARAVAN's David Sinclair is on organ. Sinclair would join Wyatt in the band MATCHING MOLE that Robert would form after leaving SOFT MACHINE. Wyatt's half brother Mark Ellidge is playing piano on this album as well.This record is perhaps the earliest(1970) Rio / Avant example there is. Wyatt never did another one like it. This is so experimental that many fans just can't get into it at all. There is a Jazz flavour to much of this, no doubt about that, but often we get outbursts of intricate sounds instead of real melodies. Lots of atmosphere as well, and check out Wyatt's vocal melodies that go from amazing to funny on the first track. I laughed what Wyatt said in the liner notes as he thanks Vic Gamm for engineering the entire session without ever saying I can't go on !

"Las Vagas Tango Part 1(repeat)" opens softly with vocal melodies that build. Assorted sounds come and go like piano, sax, cornet and drums as Wyatt uses his voice like another instrument. Amazing. It gets very experimental 4 1/2 minutes in. "To Mark Everywhere" is in tribute to his brother Mark playing piano.This one has a nice heavy beat as sax and cornet blast away.The beat stops 1 1/2 minutes in as it gets psychedelic on us to the end of the song. "To Strictly Bridget" is dedicated to Bridget St.John a solo artist (singer and song writer) who would go on to play with Kevin Ayers and Mike Oldfield. A great bass line in this one as horns come and go and drums beat away. Some dissonant sax late as the song blends into "To Oz Alien Daevyd And Gilly". Of course the Daevyd here is Daevid Allen from GONG who was an early member of SOFT MACHINE. And the Gilly is Gilli Smyth who co-founded GONG with Allen. She was also known as Shakti Yoni. This song naturally is quite out there. Haha. A dissonant soundscape that blends into "To Nick Everyone". This is for Nick Evans the trombone player who played with SOFT MACHINE and on KING CRIMSON's Lizard record. It opens with Wyatt beating on the drums seemingly at random while the sax comes and goes. Cool sound. Piano comes in a minute in. I am so impressed with Robert's drum work on this one.

"To Caravan And Brother Jim" is dedicated to the band CARAVAN of course and Jimmy Hastings. Another great track as a steady beat is heard while piano plays over top. Organ arrives and it all sounds so normal. Haha. Well not for long. The piano becomes dissonant and the drums become odd-metered. "To The Old World(Thankyou For The Use Of Your Body, Goodbye)" is a strange one with weird horn sounds. Piano and drums come and go quickly. No melody to this one. Experimental all the way. "To Carla, Marsha And Caroline(For making everything beautifuller)" refers to American Jazz pianist Carla Bley who collaborated with Wyatt, PINK FLOYD, Jack Bruce and others. Marsha Hunt was a model, singer and actress who is also American. And Carolie Coon was a political activist, journalist and artist who inspired Wyatt's "O Caroline" song. This song here features organ, bass and drums with more experimental sounds. "Las Vegas Tango Part 1" opens with piano and crazy vocal melodies. Percussion creates a beat. This is the longest song at 11 minutes.

I love this stuff. I really was blown away with this album. The guy truly was and is a genius. A brilliant album truly deserving of 4 stars. For any Rio-Avant fans out there,you have to check this criminally underated album out.

Review by UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator

The End of an Ear is Soft Machine drummer/ vocalist Robert Wyatts debut studio album. The album was recorded while he was still a member of Soft Machine ( which he would soon leave).

The music on The End of an Ear is avant garde jazz/ rock and most songs are unstructured jamming with lots of avant garde sounds like the wailing dissonant sax from Elton Dean or the outbursts of atonal piano runs. The album is fully instrumental albeit for a few notes hummed by Robert Wyatt with his easily recognizable voice. The Canterbury tag is a bit hard to understand while listening to this album, but maybe later solo works from Wyatt justifies his inclusion in this catagory? ( surely its not because of his involment with Soft Machine?)

The musicianship on the album is excellent. Lots of great performers show their skills and Robert Wyatt experiments with lots of intricate drumming.

The production is good.

Im sorry but I cant hold it back. This is a horrible album for me. I cant stand this avant garde jazzy jamming. This is completely as unlistenable for me as Soft Machine four and five. This has been such a stressful experience for me that I must lie down to get my heart working in regular mode again. I can see from other reviews that some people enjoy this far more than I do, but this is simply too noisy and stressful for me to enjoy. The only reason I will not rate this with 1 star is the fact that the musicianship is so excellent. The compositions remain unlistenable for me though. Ill stretch and give The End of an Ear 2 stars. I still dont understand what happened to that great band Soft Machine after their first two excellent albums ? Did every member of the band decide that anything they would touch from now on should purely include noisy unlistenable avant garde elements ? If I want to hear avant garde rock Ill listen to Zappa or Henry Cow anytime over this. At least their approach to the avant garde genre contains memorable and exciting elements.

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Robert Wyatt's debut was released still when he was a member of Soft Machine (right after release of their "Third" masterpiece). It's difficult to say if this release is related with Robert growing disappointment with Soft Machine's direction. Especially when it's well-known fact that Wyatt wasn't happy with decrease of his singing material on Soft Machine albums and their more jazz-fusion music.

This album is almost pure avant-jazz and there is no traditional singing at all (but there are plenty of experimental Wyatt's vocals though). Released between his departure from Soft Machine and his first band Matching Mule was founded, this album is very different from everything Wyatt recorded till now.

Starting from very first sounds, album brings the listener to free form complex and quirky sound, very close to free-jazz, but with obvious Canterbury scene's psychedelic roots. It's interesting, that even participating such influential musicians as keyboardist David Sinclair, cornet player Marc Charig and especially sax player Elton Dean didn't make this album "band's release". Very personal in atmosphere and with huge accent on original free-jazz drumming, this album is real Wyatt's solo work ( besides of drumming, he plays organ/piano and sings there as well).

Two very experimental form compositions (or two versions of same "Las Vegas Tango") are both opener and album's final song. Seven compositions between them are dedicated to Wyatt's friends each. Very usually Elton Dean's participating on any album leads to his sax becomes main music's attraction, but there it isn't. Dean and Charig play both important part in common sound, but their participation is mostly in interplays with drums and in plenty of ascetic sketches around the whole sound. Wyatt himself is real hero of the day!

Between all compositions of this album only " To Caravan and Brother Jim" ,led by Sinclair melancholic organ, is quite accessible and well-structured. All others are chaotic free-form Wyatt-centered songs,not always essential but always with that magic Robert's emotional beauty.Very soon because of terrible accident Wyatt's life will become different and he will leave drummer chair forever and will concentrates on singing. This album is very intriguing illustration to how different his musical career could be if he would be able to play drums again.

Standing alone most experimental Wyatt's album till now. Not on the same field with his later excellent solo vocalist career, and possibly even more attractive for Wyatt's fans because of this.

My rating is 3,5,rounded to 4.

Review by zravkapt
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
3 stars The debut solo album from Wyatt while he was still a member of Soft Machine. For a guy who didn't like the direction Softs were going in, he comes up with music not too far removed from what Softs themselves were doing at the time. The music here is very jazzy and avant-garde; it sounds influenced by Zappa and influential to Henry Cow. Robert does wordless vocals and plays drums and keyboards. Of the guest musicians, the two most noteable are Softs saxophonist Elton Dean and Caravan keyboardist David Sinclair. Apart from two interpretations of "Las Vegas Tango"(written by sometimes Miles Davis arranger Gil Evans), the rest of the song titles are dedicated to somebody.

The first part of "Las Vegas Tango" has multi-tracked and speed altered Roberts imitating some of the instruments from the original. Almost entirely vocals/drums/electric piano. Some of the drumkit sounds recorded at different speeds. "To Mark Everywhere" sounds like something from Zappa's Uncle Meat. Steady drumbeat, some repeated vocal parts and very free and whiny saxes for the first half. Studio manipulated drums and sound effects for the next half. "To Saintly Bridget" has nice echoed whistling. Acoustic upright bass, sax and Wyatt's syncopated drumming makes up this track.

"To Oz Alian Daevid And Gilly" is dedicated to Daevid Allen and Gilly Smith of Gong. This is a free jazz/avant-garde piece similar to what Softs were doing at the time. Wyatt's drums are heavily echoed in "To Nick Everyone," which sounds very improvised. More sax and upright bass with some piano as well. Later the drumbeat from "To Mark..." gets reprised off and on. "To Caravan And Brother Jim" is the stand out track. Features Dave Sinclair on organ. Starts out with the "To Mark..." drumbeat and echoed vocals with some very proggy piano and organ parts. Slowly the song turns into free jazz.

"To The Old World (Thank You For The Use Of Your Body, Goodbye)" is dedicated to Kevin Ayerss' band The Whole World. More avant craziness. Some studio altered instrument can be heard. Not sure what it is, sounds like a piano with an effect on it and the playback speed is continually being changed. "To Carla, Marsha And Caroline (For Making Everything Beautifuller)" is one of the more interesting and melodic songs here. Some nice piano and organ. Some avant sounds from organ and piano can be heard overtop the melodic organ and piano. The second part of "Las Vegas Tango" has hypnotic backwards sounds. This sounds similar to some some of the stuff on Wyatt's next album Rock Bottom. Electric and regular piano dominate along with Wyatt's scat vocals. More speed altered vocals and effects.

This is a good album and was very influential on later avant-prog, but it's not something I would want to listen to everyday. It's interesting that this album sounds a lot better than Third released the same year. Third has better music however. If you want to get into Wyatt, I would suggest Rock Bottom or the first two Soft Machine albums instead of this. Overall I would give this 3 stars.

Review by Warthur
3 stars Robert Wyatt's End of an Ear isn't a serious attempt to kick off a solo career - Rock Bottom would play that role four years later - so much as it represents Wyatt letting off a bit of steam. The Soft Machine had just recorded Third, an album on which Wyatt's drumming naturally played an essential role but on which his vocals were limited to one song - his own Moon In June, a composition the rest of the band were so disinterested in he had to perform most of it himself. This was all part of a general tendency in the Machine to veer away from the inclusion of vocals after the release of Volume Two (in which Wyatt's singing played a major role), which would culminate in their fourth album being released without any singing from Wyatt being included whatsoever.

The fact that Wyatt lists "Mouth" under his portfolio of musical instruments on the liner notes is a hint as to the point of this album - to give him a chance to express his unique style of scat singing and his use of his voice as his most delicate and diverse musical instrument in a way which he simply was no longer allowed to do in the Soft Machine. It's a stinging rebuke to Messrs. Ratledge and Hopper, who had been driving the Machine in a firmly instrumental direction at this point, as far as free jazz goes there's a delicate, shimmering beauty to the album which when it comes through clearly is quite delightful. The album doesn't soar to heights of supreme excellence, but it is a skilled reminder of just what the human voice can achieve, and in that sense more than exonerates itself as a showcase for Wyatt's vocal talents. Personally, I think the Soft Machine's decision to sideline Wyatt's singing was absolutely shameful, a waste of a wonderful talent. Fortunately, on Matching Mole's albums and in his solo career, Wyatt would not be silenced.

Review by siLLy puPPy
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.

Latest members reviews

2 stars While I love Robert Wyatt's music, including some on this album, and I love jazz (including avant-garde free jazz), it doesn't always work. I admire the spirit of innovation and exploration, and the great thing about improvisation is that it could succeed or fail spectacularly. This album contains s ... (read more)

Report this review (#1697086) | Posted by Walkscore | Sunday, February 26, 2017 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Good musicianship disguises the emptiness. Robert Wyatt was on leave from Soft Machine because he thought they became too much of a jazz band.......... and he recorded this album. I am confused. This album, his debut album, is an avant-garde free jazz album where ideas are thrown together wi ... (read more)

Report this review (#251521) | Posted by toroddfuglesteg | Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Review Permanlink

2 stars 2.5 stars I love Robert Wyatt to death, but I can't see very many people (even here at PA) really liking this album. It's experimental, free-form, weird and off-the-wall...but it's also discordant, noisy, and half-baked. Whatever his reasons, Wyatt wanted to show everyone he was willing to go ... (read more)

Report this review (#176473) | Posted by peskypesky | Thursday, July 10, 2008 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I might be wrong, but I think this is really the best Wyatt solo work. I listened to Rock Bottom, and I tried to understand what was so great about it (because lots of people say it is the best Canterbury scene album), but I couldn't. Yeah, Rock Bottom is really good, but "End of an ear" is real ... (read more)

Report this review (#143705) | Posted by paloz | Thursday, October 11, 2007 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Add another half star if you're a fan of the jazzier end of Canterbury....subtract half a star if you're only midly for the hills if you don't like jazz. Wyatt's open ended jams - tough to call 'em "jams" though, more like avant-mood pieces - outjazz the Soft Machine's Fourt ... (read more)

Report this review (#114525) | Posted by Intruder | Thursday, March 8, 2007 | Review Permanlink

3 stars I really like Robert Wyatt, as a songwriter and as a drummer, but I found this album very very difficult to listen to because of his free-jazz sound. I really prefer Rock bottom or Ruth is Stranger than Richard. ... (read more)

Report this review (#79722) | Posted by Kord | Monday, May 29, 2006 | Review Permanlink

5 stars I think few albums like "The end of an ear" can divide reviewers opinions, and also think the word "review" is not the most appropriate approaching this incredible work: nothing wronger infact than trying to analyze track by track this extraordinary,visionary, absolutely experimental trip that Ro ... (read more)

Report this review (#55626) | Posted by magog | Wednesday, November 9, 2005 | Review Permanlink

5 stars It is the first solo work produced before Robert Wyatt secedes SOFT MACHINE. I have not listened to music progressive like this before. It is a record of a lot of experiments that it is in this album. There is a rash ambition like starting trying to make music from 0 again.If this work did not ... (read more)

Report this review (#48296) | Posted by braindamage | Sunday, September 25, 2005 | Review Permanlink

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