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Dondestan (Revisited)

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Album Review

The original issue of Dondestan, one of Robert Wyatt's later, signature recordings, ran over budget, prompting him to release the album without an authoritative final mix. Wyatt, unlike many of the artists of his era, has often been in the unenviable position of having the original unmixed tapes of his records either disappear or get erased. Dondestan was the lone exception and he took full advantage. Where the original recording was a seamless whole, full of spare, haunting, keyboard and percussive textures, Revisited showcases the collaborations with his wife, poet Alfreda Benge, his own songs, and a collaboration with former Soft Machine bandmate Hugh Hopper, as separate entities, standing on their own as songs, rather than as episodes in a drifting non-narrative of poetics ("Sight of the Wind"), communism ("C.P. Jeebies"), and abstract reflections on postmodern life ("N.I.O."). It's fitting that, even though the original order of the songs hasn't been changed, his and Benge's songs being placed squarely in the middle of the recording act as bridges to Wyatt's political notions. It humanizes the ideology, rather than the other way around. Also, on certain tracks, such as "Sight of the Wind" and "Worship," as well as "Lisp Service," Wyatt was able to bring the ambient textures that were all but inaudible on the original, into prominent hearing, changing, in effect, the timbre and flavor of these songs and others, making something already somewhat ethereal — if very humorous in places — into a work almost ghostly with its hovering presence. When this project was first announced, many of Wyatt's faithful were apprehensive, this writer included — after all, why tamper with a masterpiece? There was no need for concern. The result made a great work of art a sublime one.


Born: 28 January 1945 in Bristol, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An enduring figure who came to prominence in the early days of the English art rock scene, Robert Wyatt has produced a significant body of work, both as the original drummer for art rockers Soft Machine and as a radical political singer/songwriter. Born in Bristol, England, Wyatt came to Soft Machine during the exciting, slightly post-psychedelic Canterbury Scene of the mid-'60s that produced bands like Gong and Pink Floyd. Unlike many of the art rock bands that would come later (Jethro Tull, Yes,...
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Dondestan (Revisited), Robert Wyatt
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