Robert Wyatt – Solar Flares Burn For You

There's a great moment in Don't Look Back where Dylan informs a disbelieving reporter that he's as good a singer as Caruso, qualifying the claim by stating he hits all the notes that he wants to hit. Robert Wyatt is of exactly the same mould. That quavery high pitch and childlike annunciation spring from one of contemporary music's most original voices. Much of Solar Flares documents an artist in transition.

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There’s a great moment in Don’t Look Back where Dylan informs a disbelieving reporter that he’s as good a singer as Caruso, qualifying the claim by stating he hits all the notes that he wants to hit. Robert Wyatt is of exactly the same mould. That quavery high pitch and childlike annunciation spring from one of contemporary music’s most original voices.

Much of Solar Flares documents an artist in transition. “Fol De Rol” and “We Got An Arts Council Grant” from a 1972 Peel session capture Wyatt, fussily augmented by Francis Monkman on keyboards, in Portrait Of The Artist As An Undisciplined Pisshead mode. The Pythonesque indulgence hasn’t worn well. “God Song” and “Little Child”, on the other hand, are inspirational. “Alifib” and “Sea Song” from a 1974 Peel session are stripped-down versions of tracks from Rock Bottom.

He once told me that the photographer at an interview session had remarked: “I see you as a wise buddha.” “No, I’m not,” responded Wyatt. “I’m a punk in a wheelchair!” That restless intellect pulsates through the albums more recent tracks. “Blimey O’Reilly” and “Twas Brillig”, two new collaborations with former colleague Hugh Hopper, suggest there’s plenty of life left in that partnership. “The Verb”, meanwhile, sounds like work in progress. Wyatt’s entire creative life does.

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