Most Expressive Voice Ever
Mike B. | 03/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It's my long-standing belief that Robert Wyatt has the most expressive voice I've ever heard. Even when he's singing made-up nonsense syllables (as he frequently does on this album), the effect is like Italian opera. You don't understand the words, but the emotion is clearly conveyed - and it's not difficult to figure out what's going on. Longing, loss, anger, acceptance - Wyatt's quavery vocal timbre captures it all.
My favorite example of this is "Alifib", on which he pleads and remonstrates with his "larder" Alifib (translation: his lover Alfreda). By turns touching and funny as all-get-out, it has to be heard to be believed. The whole record is like that.
Backed by the premier jazz/rock players of the era, every song is a distinctive dreamscape. Nick Mason of Pink Floyd produced wonderfully. The two veteran drummers understand each other, and Wyatt's drumming is typically stunning. As great a musician as he is - still I come back to the voice. It's unusual for one band (Soft Machine) to produce two such unique singers (the other being Kevin Ayers). Neither Robert or Kevin could ever be mistaken for anyone else once you've heard them.
Many avant-atrocities have been released over the years - enough to give experimentalism a bad name. I'd say "Rock Bottom" is by far the most listenable and entertaining of the bunch. Though sad at times, it's also a very trippy and fun aural experience. Yes, I'll say it again - the album is fun! Enjoy."
Bill Your 'Free Form FM Handi Cyber | Mahwah, NJ USA | 11/15/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rock Bottom is one of the most underplayed and unknown materpieces of the rock era. Unqualified.
The album was made about a year after Robert Wyatt fell from a window and was paralyzed from the waist down. The drummer who could no longer drum picked up the peices, and turned them into the highest of art.
On one, small level, this is not a complete departure from Wyatt's Soft Machine work. The simple frames and jazz impulses are still very much here. But Wyatt condenced glacial improvasation formats into extemely personal songs.
Ironically, Rock Bottom was made during what is absurdly labeled as the "singer songwriter " era. But the words on this album slice darker and deeper than any James Taylor FM moaning about Fire and Rain ever could. Taylor and Carly Simon and Carol King--all those "sensative" people, are playing tiddly winks next to Rock Bottom.
From the start, Wyatt says he can only relate to his lover when she is drunk. He is trying to connect to himself, her, and the world from a fractured body. A young jazz upstart has been forced to become a man overnight, a man whose legs no longer work
This is extremely powerful, and the stacked chords and cloudy piles of keybords perfectly convey Wyatt's stuggle: to pick up the peices of his body and his life, and find some context that makes sense, that he can live in.
It is not that the jazz reflexes of Wyatt fell out of that window with him. There is plenty of great improvsation on Rock Bottom. Wyatt only put the picture in a new frame: a frame denser, more layered, and far more musically and emotionaly complex than he was using with the Softs.
That is what the whole album is about. There are few rock starts with major physical disabilities, and Wyatt's view of his life on Rock Bottom in unique, comprehensive, and complex. This is powerful matertial, more emotionally deep and individualized than 99.9% of what you hear in most rock. Offhand, Lennon's Plastic Ono Band and Nirvana's In Utero are the only two that can give Rock Bottom a run for its money. If you like 70s singer songwritter albums, listen as Wyatt the master grinds Sweet Baby James into that rock bottom ground