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Robert Wyatt – Rock Bottom

Release Date: July 26, 1974
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Sea Song
Bass Guitar Richard Sinclair
Voice, Keyboards, Percussion [James’ Drum] Robert Wyatt

A Last Straw
Bass Guitar Hugh Hopper
Drums Laurie Allan
Voice, Keyboards, Guitar, Percussion [Delfina’s Wineglass] Robert Wyatt

Little Red Riding Hood Hit The Road
Bass Guitar Richard Sinclair
Trumpet Mongezi Feza
Voice Ivor Cutler
Voice, Keyboards, Percussion [James’ Drum, Delfina’s Tray, Small Battery] Robert Wyatt

Bass Guitar Hugh Hopper
Voice, Keyboards Robert Wyatt

Bass Clarinet, Alto Clarinet [Tenor] Gary Windo
Bass Guitar Hugh Hopper
Voice Alfreda Benge
Voice, Keyboards, Percussion [James’ Drum] Robert Wyatt

Little Red Robin Hood Hit The Road
Bass Guitar Richard Sinclair
Drums Laurie Allan
Guitar Mike Oldfield
Viola Fred Frith
Voice, Concertina [Baritone] Ivor Cutler
Voice, Keyboards Robert Wyatt

Engineer Dick Palmer, Steve Cox
Engineer [Assistant] Toby Bird
Illustration Alfreda Benge
Liner Notes Robert Wyatt
Photography By Pennie Smith
Producer Nick Mason
Typography, Layout Phil Smee
Written-by [Drones And Songs] Robert Wyatt

Album Review

Robert Wyatt makes friendlier records than anyone else I can think of. From the first Soft Machine album through Matching Mole and the CBS solo venture 'End Of An Ear', everything's that Robert's been involved in has seemed both immediate and warm.
Much of this quality I'm sure is rooted in the nature of that absolutely unaffected, if determinedly uncultured voice. Anyone who sings with dropped aitches can't be all bad, and with Robert this serves only to underline the honesty and straightforwardness of his lyrics matter. Indeed, Wyatt's near total lack of pretension leads one to overlook the fact that he does tend to wear his heart on his sleeve to an extent unmatched by even the most egocentric of Laurel Canyon singer/songwriters. Historically, we know that Robert's "Got a yellow suit that's made by Pam" (Soft Machine Volume One), and that he "Love(s) you still Caroline" (Matching Mole). Most of this album is for Robert's current material partner,
Alfreda Ellidge (nee Benge), who designed the sleeve of 'Rock Bottom', who talks on side two track two, 'Alifie', and who's sung about specifically on and generally just about everywhere else.

'Sea Song' is one of those classic Wyatt love songs, as beautiful as 'Oh Caroline', and ought to be a number one single throughout the world, but probably will not. Certainly the line "When you're drunk, you're terrific" shames most of our world-be poet laureats Stylistically, I suppose 'Rock Bottom' falls mid-way between the Giorgio Gomelsky "bootleg" Rock Generation albums and 'End Of An Ear' in as much as it is the most songful album that Wyatt has done in seven years. Musically, it has much of that gently creeping seductive quality that characterised the best bits of 'Ear', especially "Las Vegas Tango, Part II".
What's strange is that with only the most primitive of percussion instruments - a tray, a battery (?) and a kind of "tourist bongo", the old Wyatt drum style is still somehow there if only by implication. There's still that same sense of space, as , on "Alife", a tape loop of a sigh sounding like backward hi-hat cymbals serves to punctuate the song.

On keyboards, Wyatt is progressing in leaps and bounds. Robert's also surrounded himself with a bunch of great back up musicians.

Most of the spade-work is done by Hugh Hopper, of Isotope, and Richard Sinclair of Hatfield And The North, England's premier bassists and long-time Wyatt associates. There is also brief but valuable appearances by Henry Cow's Fred Frith, hot from his MM Jazz Poll triumphs on viola, Mongezi Feza (pocket cornet), Gary Windo (tenor sax and bass clarinet), Laurie Allan (drums) and Mike Oldfield (guitar).
The final track climaxes with a recitation by Ivor Cutler of a poem by Robert that's almost as silly as Cutler's own verse, and a fittingly light-hearted way to wind up the proceedings.

'Rock Bottom' isn't an album that will pin you to the wall with dazzling pyrotechnics, but it is one that you'll be playing again and again, long after most of '74's superheroes have proved to be mere transient fads. Invest wisely.
- Steve Lake, Melody Maker, August 3, 1974