Robert Wyatt’s defining musical moment is here. After being the drummer for the legendary Soft Machine group, he left shortly after their initial popularity spike. He fell from a balcony in 1973 and was paralyzed from the waist down, shortly before recording this album, which was no doubt difficult for him to adjust to. It didn’t suffer, mind you. This is his greatest work and a great solo album, produced by Nick Mason of Pink Floyd. Let’s take a listen and see if it still sounds good today.
We kick off with Sea Song which begins with hybrid organ and piano sounds. Shortly into it, Robert Wyatt sings with his definitive falsetto. He sings deeply amongst this basic musical backdrop with some awesome lyrics. The performance is spot on and intricate. After a few minutes, Robert Wyatt stops singing and the musical backdrop speaks for itself. The mixture of far out sounds and melody here is fantastic. Singing resumes shortly after, with some surreal lyrics and gospel harmonies then enter as well. A simple and beautiful piece of melodic music is here. What sounds like a muted wind instrument solo then enters towards the end of this piece, which is definitely odd. A great listening experience, and quite a sonic trip here, the keyboards sound very interesting here. It fades out gently towards the end.
Next is A Last Straw which begins with some bass guitar notes, gentle hi hats and some other spacey electronic textures on top. After about a minute, singing and piano kicks in and another decent tune kicks in. Robert Wyatt sings wonderfully here, and after singing are some mellow drum rolls and a combination of different textures and sounds which are quite good. Singing about the depths of the ocean, Robert Wyatt does a wonderful job of vocal delivery and musical performance here. There are some strange, slide guitar sort of sounds towards the end of this song. The whole thing sounds a little trippy towards the end, where everything gradually fades out. Nice, and different. The piano finishes off this piece very well.
Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road begins with a load of Miles Davis Sketches Of Spain style horns, and some subtle piano parts as well. Shortly into it, some racing bongo beats enter and we are on a strange but good musical trip here. Surprisingly good, this is a fresh and inspired listen. This piece is quite long, at over seven minutes, but is interesting and variable enough to keep you listening. Some good vocal harmonies then enter, and we have an awesome listening experience to go with. Robert Wyatt’s singing is good, but the lyrics are quite odd here. The singing could have been mixed somewhat higher in the mix, but this is largely forgivable. There are some backwards parts that sound really excellent here as well. Towards the end, some recorded speech is here, which is weird. This is very much a Psychedelic listening experience. Towards the end, a prominent bass line propels this along, as everything else fades out in a frenzy. Pretty cool.
Alifib comes next, and is really weird, with the song title chanted throughout and some strange keyboard sounds and bass parts at the start. This is pretty odd sounding music, but nonetheless highly enjoyable. An amazing and different musical experience, it is a calm and soothing listen, with bass guitar being the melodic instrument here, as opposed to the electric guitar doing so. A soothing and wacky piece of textured music, this is awesome. The fragments of sound change somewhat throughout, and this whole piece is a good hybrid of Psychedelic and Progressive Rock. In the middle of the piece, Robert Wyatt sings about his love (his wife) and this is a really odd piece with some gibberish style words about it. A strange love song, it is very minimal throughout. It segues into the next piece.
Following is Alife which has some more interesting textures about it, particularly with bongo drums, piano and what sounds like clarinet. Some strange sounds and some more gibberish enters here, this is clearly a continuation of the previous track. Sounding rather discordant, this is pretty unusual and out there music. The random lyricism and eerie sounds continue, with saxophone entering and playing an unusual sort of solo. A good listen anyway, it is just really different to a lot of what exists in popular music history. The saxophone sounds very weird after some time, as though the player is being strangled whilst playing the instrument. Towards the end, some female singing enters and the rest of the music dies down. Some dark musical textures then enter, right at the end here.
Last here is Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road which begins with Robert Wyatt singing along with keyboards, bass guitar and marching drums. Shortly into it, some trippy electric guitar enters here. It is a strange listen, all right, but good enough to be listenable without being unappealing. Some more repeated singing enters, and we have a good finish to a decent album. After a while, most of the instrumentation falls away and what enters is a violin keyboard patch. This is very good, and quite solidly emotional listen. Some strange spoken word parts are here, which have no real meaning at all in terms of proper English, but it is not supposed to. The violin parts alongside this are very good, and support the music very well. Very odd, with a dramatic finish.
This is just plain weird, although admittedly, it is really good for a weird album. If you dig Psychedelic, Progressive and Experimental Rock, this is totally suitable for you as a listener. A very good listen, for when the mood for this sort of thing strikes.
Weird and wonderful.