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File Under 'Individual'.....,
This review is from: Rock Bottom (Audio CD)In troubled times like these, we could all do worse than follow the example set by Robert Wyatt in 1973/4. Consider the story: after being edged out of the Soft Machine, of which he was a founder member, in 1971, Wyatt sets up a new band, Matching Mole, to explore his own free jazz leanings. When M.M. came to an end, he decamped to Venice with his set designer fiancee Aoife, to consider his next move. In idyllic settings, he composes the songs that will make up Rock Bottom. Returning to the UK, he feels energised and ready to embark on the next chapter of his musical life; then disaster strikes - during a party that June, Wyatt falls out of the window of an upstairs room, breaks his spine and is told that he will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
For a percussionist, this would normally have spelled the end of the road: but Wyatt has always been so much more than that. After a period of therapy, he decides to return to the music he composed, a seeming lifetime ago; he calls in some of his 'heavy friends' - Mike Oldfield, Ivor Cutler, Mongezi Fezi, Carvan's Richad Sinclair - and goes about the taping of Rock Bottom: an album that laughs in the face of tragedy by celebrating the good things around him, principally his (by now) wife Aoife.
Rock Bottom is a stunning incorporation of Wyatt's influences up to this point and shows his unique songwriting technique (he always felt song lyrics should be written closer to natural speech) at its most characteristic. The opener, Sea Song, is still probably his most famous composition - a disturbing reflection on unlikley emotional compatability fitted to an appropriately unsettling backing, all weird time signatures and spooky mellotron (this number has more recently been covered - brilliantly! - by the Unthank Sisters). And the old side/album closers, Little Red Riding Hood../Little Red Robin Hood represent the same story told from subtly different angles. Elsewhere, Aoife is a touching, but hardly saccharine, tribute to the woman who did so much to make this stage of Robert's life possible....
To call the music 'jazzy' would not be totally inaccurate, but wouldn't really do justice to the subversive mix of styles that we encounter here. Yes, you'll notice traces of the early Soft Machine sound (the first two albums, in particular) but this really is music without category - file under 'individual' would be the best description!
That said, this is probably not the best introductory album for those seeking a 'way in' to Wyatt/the 'Canterbury Sound': for that, go for Soft Machine 1-3, or any of the early albums by Caravan. But make sure you eventually get to Rock Bottom: it really is one of the essential albums of the 1970s.
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Initial post: 25 Aug 2013 21:41:13 BDT
End of an ear is another early wyatt gem and after these two albums for me his music got silly and bland.
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