on 14 May 2000
This is a superb collection. It's not just an outtakes/alternate takes/odds'n'sods set. It brilliantly catalogues Robert's history, compressing it into 5 short, absolutely essential CDs gorgeously packaged by Alfreda Benge and stacked inside a lovely plasticised blue box. After this, you really hardly need anything else. CDs 1-3 are uniformly excellent, documenting Robert's sophisticated pop period ('I'm A Believer'; 'Shipbuilding'), followed by some of his overtly political material. 'Pigs... (In There)' is a short docu-drama of animal rights outrage, done without any hectoring or proselytising; just an innocently human, incredulous 'Pigs?... In THERE?' repeated over and over. Simple, unassuming, but deeply, deeply affecting. CD 4 presents the eerie, disoriented music of 'The Animals Film': thinly produced, solarized, insomniac, frazzled. There is real suffering here. After all this, though, it's Disc 5 that really drops your jaw. This is - wait for it - a set of techno remixes of some key tracks from 'Schleep'. 'Schleep' is already the best progressive rock record of the last 20 years; but these tracks, ProTooled to perfection with dark ambient textures, dubscapes, and sophisticated beats, boost Wyatt the Artist straight into the stratosphere, as far as I am concerned. This CD reinvents the progressive rock genre, showing with absolute grace how current forms can reframe mature concerns for modern consumption. Robert would probably shrug and tell us it was just an experiment and anyway he didn't have much to do with it. How Robert Wyatt. How... refreshing. Buy this CD, because only Robert Wyatt (a genius who would look at his shoes if you said so) Can Do This.
on 11 November 2005
This swanky package is a delightful indulgence. It is testimony to Robert Wyatt's determination to do things the right way, even if that means doing them all wrong. He could easily have consigned the songs on this five CD box to the ends of other albums or squeezed them onto a double disc roundup. But doing it this way ensures the maintainance of the sequential integrity of the EPs from which these songs originally came.
No other release spans the breadth of Wyatt's solo career so well. It begins with his sublimely joyous cover of the Monkees' "I'm A Believer" (which obtained the sole UK chart hit of his career) and ends with a disc of remixes of material from his 1998 album Shleep. In between are poignant protest songs from the early 80s (especially "Shipbuilding" and "Biko"), graceful Spanish-language material that affirms Wyatt's solidarity with liberation struggles around the world, and a Doctor Who-ish instrumental soundtrack to "The Animals' Film."
A couple duds are hidden amongst the gems; "Calyx," which was recorded live in 1974, is marred by badly dated prog-rock noodling, and the remixes shed no new light on songs that were simply perfect in their original form. But that still leaves plenty of dignified, open-hearted music wrapped around Wyatt's delicate, gorgeous voice.
on 19 February 2010
You either love this music or you hate it, there probably isn't much in between. The earlier reviews cover the music, but the presentation of this set is just fantastic - not a bit of plastic in sight for a start. The music would very nearly fit onto 1 CD ( less than 100 minutes or so ) but has been presented on 5 broadly themed CDs in 5 individual card sleeves with lovely art work and a booklet all within a quality hinged thick card box. It's just a pleasure to own. In the same post I received a double CD in one of those huge plastic double CD boxes, which seems big enough to hold about 6 discs and almost immediately cracks, falls to bits or spills one of the discs out onto the floor - come on chaps, do it like this !!!
on 21 January 2015
Uneven in aesthetics and quality, nevertheless this is a fond reminder of the creative spaces that have opened up, from time to time, in popular music since the 70's and how artists with imagination, vision and daring such as Wyatt have occupied these spaces with flair.