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Robert Wyatt - Rock Bottom CD (album) cover

ROCK BOTTOM

Robert Wyatt

 

Canterbury Scene

4.30 | 723 ratings

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Matti
Prog Reviewer
4 stars (This is my amateurish translation of a chapter from my Finnish-language prog book published in 2013. "Aforementioned" refers to a chapter on MATCHING MOLE. Now I must confront the question of rating. I believe it would be 4½ stars, but because in the end I haven't listened to this album so often, I round it down. To be changed later if I come to realize how wonderful this album really is.)

Matching Mole collapsed after two albums mainly because of the lack of leadership. The winter of '72-'73 Robert Wyatt spent in Venice where his girlfriend participated in making of the film Don't Look Back. Unaccustomed to have nothing to do, he passed his time writing songs with a tiny keyboard, and after the return to London gathered a new version of Matching Mole (featuring e.g. Francis Monkman who had left Curved Air). The day before starting the rehearsals occurred the aforementioned accident, with a consequence of Wyatt being hospitalized for eight months. After three months of lying in bed he was given a wheel chair, and rather than participating in therapeutic activities he spent some time on the piano in the guest room and continued shaping the songs he had started in Venice.

The paralysis from the waist below brought inevitable changes into the musician's career, but the optimistic Wyatt turned them to a freedom: without gigging he could concentrate on album-making and use various musicians on each track if he wanted to. Rock Bottom, recorded early in 1974, was released the very same day when Robert Wyatt married Alfreda "Alfie" Benge, who was also responsible of the cover art. [Side note: there are two versions of the cover, the other one is a colour-drawing of a dive.]

Wyatt's ethearal keyboard and vocal style is accompanied on two tracks ('Sea Song' and 'Alifib') by a bass guitar only, whereas other tracks feature a variable cast of musicians and articulators. Laurie Allan's plentiful use of hi-hat underlines the jazzy esthetics of 'A Last Straw', and the fast-tempo 'Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road' gives a central role to a trumpet. On 'Alife' that starts with slightly dissonant bass clarinet sounds, Wyatt's word play is affectionately answered by the love song's object herself. On the intense final track Wyatt's lyrics are articulated by a Scottish poet Ivor Cutler sounding like a loonie. This album produced by the Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason is by far the most appreciated classic in Wyatt's long and respected solo career. it was met with a fairly good reception, even though Wyatt's only hit was the Neil Diamond cover 'I'm a Believer' two months later.

In 1975 appeared rather uneven Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard, after which the discography expanded in the 80's with politically coloured albums Nothing Can Stop Us (1982; covers only) and Old Rottenhat (1985). Recommended albums for those who enjoy Wyatt's airy and chamber-jazzy style might include Shleep (1997), Cuckooland (2003) and Comicopera (2007).

Matti | 4/5 |

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