Thursday, July 19, 2007

325. Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom (1974)

Track Listing

1. Sea Song
2. A Last Straw
3. Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road
4. Alifib
5. Alife
6. Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road


And now for something completely different. Wow this is a strange album, but fortunately also a strangely compelling one. It is at the same time very weird and very beautiful, very abstract and very affecting. Although there seem to be 6 tracks here there are only really 4 independent songs, the Alifib and Alifie are really the same song only performed in very different ways which are complementary and the Robin and Riding Hood are two faces of the same coin again.

Actually the album revels in its strangeness so much that the weirder the track the better it is here, the first two tracks are the most "poppy" if you could call any of this pop, and even though they are beautiful they are also the weakest tracks in the bunch. For the rest of the album Wyatt manages to do something almost impossible, marry almost nonsensical lyrics to music derived from Krautrock and Miles Davis' Bitches Brew and make something beautiful.

Wyatt makes one of the most perfect art-rock-jazz-experimentalia albums in here, light years form anything done with Soft Machine, he has grown as a person, ditched the pretentious lyrics for gibberish and toned down the sound into the sublime. A truly innovative and beautiful album, which is something you don't get everyday. So get it from Amazon UK or US.

Track Highlights

1. Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road
2. Alifib
3. Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road
4. Alifie

Final Grade



From Wikipedia:

Preparations were under way for a third Matching Mole album — probably featuring earlier versions of some songs which ended up on this record, such as "Sea Song" — when, during the course of a raucous party on the night of 1 July 1973, Wyatt drunkenly fell from a fourth-floor window and was seriously injured, permanently losing the use of his legs. Forced by the accident to give up the drums, Wyatt abandoned the Matching Mole project and instead changed the project into a solo album featuring more vocals from Wyatt himself; his time in hospital recuperating from the accident was spent refining and completing the songs which would form the Rock Bottom album. Although the music itself is intense and often harrowing, and the lyrics to the songs are dense and obviously deeply personal, Wyatt has denied that this was a result of the accident and the long period of recuperation. Indeed, much of the album had been written in Venice in early 1973, where his partner and future wife the poet Alfreda Benge was working as an assistant editor on Nicolas Roeg's similarly haunting and intense film "Don't Look Now".[2]

Enlisting friends and luminaries such as Fred Frith, Ivor Cutler and Pink Floyd's Nick Mason (who would end up producing the album), Wyatt recorded the bulk of the album shortly after his release from hospital and it was released to great critical acclaim in the summer of 1974. Cutler's performance (reciting a semi-nonsensical narrative halfway through "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road" and intoning the same poem in a flat baritone voice at the end of "Little Red Robin Hood Hit the Road" to close the album) was marked out for particular acclaim, and resulted in his being offered a three-album deal with Virgin Records.

The finished album contained six songs, some of which have more traditional song structures (for instance the opening "Sea Song" or "Alifib"), while others are less defined, more expressionist pieces showing more of a jazz influence (as in "Alife", or the album's centrepiece "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road"); the latter, featuring an insistent uptempo rhythm, jazz trumpet and reversed tape effects, is reminiscent in places of the Miles Davis album Bitches Brew. Side two starts with a medley of sorts ("Alifib/Alife"), with Wyatt first singing and then disjointedly reciting a set of lyrics apparently dedicated to Alfreda Benge, who herself replies with her own vocal retort at the end of "Alifib". The LP closer, "Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road", is divided into two parts; the first is a melodic progressive rock song featuring prominent electric guitars and a chant-like vocal refrain, while the second part — bearing no resemblance to the first — features only a droning harmonium, harshly-scraped violin and guest vocalist Ivor Cutler flatly reciting bizarre lyrics.

Sea Song:

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