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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover


Robert Wyatt


Canterbury Scene

4.28 | 903 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Great canterbury album, or greatest canterbury album? Robert Wyatt's second work goes much deeper than many plowing the same musical furrow, both in terms of invention and drama - "Rock Bottom" demonstrates how a feeling of intimacy can bring extra warmth and life to a great set of songs.

Wyatt's voice is personal and much more compulsive than that of a polished rock singer under these circumstances, and whether he's delivering emotional words in a matter-of-fact way, performing his own vocal trumpet solo or just harmonizing gently, his technically flawed yet charming and irresistible style is the only one appropriate for "Rock Bottom."

Despite that, this album isn't all that gentle - most of the songs here are mixed loud, busy and dense, with - dare I say it? - a little pomp to the proceedings. Again, Wyatt's voice is like gravity here, anchoring the songs no matter how ambitious they become. All the songs are a little repetitious (naturally, as each is at least five minutes long) and none unfolds delicately - most begin suddenly and remain at an energetic level throughout. The lack of "light and shade" on side A doesn't seem to do the album a disservice, and instead gives it a vaguely hypnotic atmosphere. (Perhaps this can be attributed to Nick Mason's production? I hear he was once a member of a cult psychedelic outfit...) "Alifib" becoming "Alifie" represents the album's moment of calm, at least in terms of sheer pitch, though it has a textural, counterpointed quality, because after all, this is a progressive rock album of a much higher quality than many of the symphonic bands could ever have attained; inactivity is not mistaken for beauty, here - beauty is captured directly onto the record! If side A is intense, side B is still that much more poignant.

Happily, one of the smallest elements of "Rock Bottom" is the guitar playing which remains subdued (you won't hear many riffs or licks, and there's no gallop to any of the songs, but there is a great, shining, Oldfieldian solo on the closing piece) and although the album is often layered, you won't hear waves of distorted or chorus-y guitar filling the soundspace with sludge. Perhaps Wyatt, being an appreciator of avant-garde and contemporary music himself, preferred to give the traditional, "erudite" instruments more bearing and focus. This reviewer applauds the decision and regards this album as another sign that the guitar's presence in no way relates to heavyness.

A lot of what takes place does so in a minor key, and sometimes in a modal way - some of the above reviews have referred to "Rock Bottom" as being calm or else whimsical, and this reviewer has to disagree; this is a tense record, and although you could mistake Wyatt's lyrical style for being light-hearted and silly, every song bears a sense of sadness, of regret and of unresolved tragedy.

This has to be heard to believed. The circumstances of the album's origin aside (and to find out about these, just read every previous review - morbid, isn't it!) "Rock Bottom" is in any case a collection of life-changing songs. I'll recommend this to symph-heads, metal-heads and jazzmen alike; buy, buy, buy!

laplace | 5/5 |


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