Thursday, October 10, 2013

Robert Wyatt - '68 (Cuneiform, 2013)

In the summer and fall of 1968, Soft Machine drummer and vocalist Robert Wyatt stayed in America after his band had toured in support of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix bequeathed some of his extra studio time to Wyatt, who produced these demos, lost to this mists of time until just recently. In a lengthy interview contained in the liner notes, Wyatt stated that he would start by laying down a drumbeat and then overdubbing piano, vocals and organ in turn. The music has a quaint psychedelic feel reinforced by Wyatt’s wistful vocals and lyrics. “Chelsea” opens the album with a relatively short song where organ and drums and whispery vocals drift in and out. “Rivmic Melodies” is the first of two epics, a collage of song fragments that would later be recorded by Soft Machine as the first side of their second LP. It is wistful and sly fun, very British, literally reciting the alphabet backwards and then forward. Overdubbing vocals upon vocals give the music a hallucinatory manner of being. From there, Wyatt drifts into Spanish before moving into double time on piano and drums for the conclusion. Jimi Hendrix has a guest spot playing bass on “Slow Walkin’ Talk” which is a jaunty shorter tune with a flavor of rhythm and blues. Hendrix’s strong electric bass meshes well the soulful organ. “Moon in June” would go on to be the centerpiece of Soft Machine’s Third LP and band members Hugh Hopper on bass and Mike Ratledge on organ sit in on the second half of this twenty minute epic. Stream of consciousness lyrics and Wyatt’s yearning voice make for an affecting sound backed by some piano and light cymbals. When Hopper and Ratledge kick in the music moves into a higher gear developing an improvised jam and wordless scat singing. They eventually slow to a quieter section ending the album on a mysterious note. This was a very interesting album, far from a historical curio, it stands on its own as a very enjoyable piece of jazzy psychedelica. The seeds of later Soft Machine and Wyatt solo albums are contained within. Robert Wyatt '68 - amazon.com

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