This presentation of Robert Wyatt's 1974 concert, which is basically his live version of Rock Bottom, is a touching and poinent experiance. This is not too long after his paralsys, and Wyatt's gang of Cantaberry join this wonderful bugger to help him mount one hell of a show.
At one point, Wyatt talks about one of the band helping him adjust his keyboard so he could preform. In 1974, there was almost no adaptive equiptment for people with disabilities. Things were very different than today. People like Wyatt were thought of as pity cases. Wyatt, in his matter-of-fact referances to his state, deflates this garbage, and the music proves him the master he is.
More small messages on this topic are herein: the album starts with an announcer joking that the band is sober, unable to get into the bar backstage. Wyatt was paralyzed from a drunken window fall. The alcohol jokes take on a black humor. So does the cover, which fetures Wyatt with an innane pair of toy legs. He also mentions the person adjusting his keyboard screwed up his thumb, and now HE is playing disabled. The jokes here are revealing and reassuring: despite what has happened, we can joke about it. Everything is alright.
I have to digress. I have Cerebral Palsy. Wyatt's way of referring to his disability so we can FORGET IT is right in line with the way I live, and it works. It is the way to be, and with luck, you can get very good at it.
ENOUGH OF THAT! Like Wyatt, I am here for the music, so let's cut the bollocks and get down to it.
This is glorious jazz rock, with shimmering and shining 1970s Fender Keybords, trumpets, violins, and many other wonderful and warm sounds. This is not the dada of Soft Mahcine, but finely written music in which the master and his crew can exploit both compositional and improvising skills. There is tons of beatuful soloing on here, and it absolutely has the reflex of free jazz. But it is in the contex of impecable compositions. Wyatt writes ballads and meloncholly pieces, but his use of chord progressions is so unique, you feel you are listening to music from another world. Wyatt's world.
But a question does arise? Any fan of Rock Bottom--and any music fan in his right mind should be--knows on the studio album, the tracks segue into a seemless concept piece. It is a perfect play on Wyatt's experiance. Here, the tracks are divided. This is not without merit: having Wyatt's monolauges interspursed creates the warm family affair atmosphere this concert feels like it was. But musically, it works better when the tracks glide together; it is like a graceful movie. Given the choice, however, I like the almost "hanging with friends" feeling this show offers.
Whatever the case, do not miss this album.