Robert Wyatt: His Greatest Misses (Ryko/EMI)

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Robert Wyatt: Sea Songs
Robert Wyatt: His Greatest Misses (Ryko/EMI)

The story of this lifelong Marxist, musician, essayist and British intellectual is perhaps too complex too go into here, but here is the short-hand.

Drummer in the innovative jazz-rock outfit Soft Machine in the late Sixties; formed the short-lived Matching Mole in the early Seventies; fell from a window in '73 and has been in a wheelcahir since; musical allies include Pink Floyd, Brian Eno, Roxy Music's Phil Manzanera; recorded a definitive version of Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding at the height of the Falklands War; has released a series of idiosyncratic albums (he writes, sings, plays keyboards and percussion); and in 2001 curated the Meltdown festival in London.

His '03 album Cuckooland was nominated for the Mercury Prize. 

And of course there is much more, but let's also note his unusual or unexpected covers (the Monkees' I'm A Believer among them).

This beautifully presented import of his '04 Japanese compilation (with drawings he did age 6) is an excellent introduction to his fragile and high voice, his slightly slippery jazz phrasing and melodies, and interesting lyrics ("Given free will but within certain limitiations, I cannot will myself to limitless mutations").

These 17 tracks include Heaps of Sheeps (with Eno), Free Will and Testament (with Paul Weller), I'm a Believer (Fred Frith, Nick Mason of Pink Floyd), Little Red Ridin Hood Hit the Road, the '98 remastered version of Shipbuilding . . . 

Robert Wyatt has always been an Elsewhere favourite so after this the recommended journey starts with his '74 album Rock Bottom (think about that title, he's got a sense of humour) and the follow-up Ruth is Stranger Than Richard, the excellent five-disc EPs set (with a soundtrack and a remix disc) and then Cuckooland.

Check this out too . . . 

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Strong Comet - Jun 14, 2010


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