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Album Review

Only Robert Wyatt could put together a project like this and not have punters sneering it down as a rake for cash. Issued by Ryko/Hannibal in 1999 and stateside by Thirsty Ear, EPs contains five short discs documenting various periods in Wyatt's long solo career. There are singles, odd B-sides, live cuts, alternate versions, and remixes. While it's true this could have come out as a tidier double disc, or had its tracks spread thin as bonus material over remastered reissues, Wyatt's far too sensitive to his fans to rake together something so haphazardly. So here with a detailed sessionography and Wyatt's own humorous liners are the tracks, presented in the order in which they were originally recorded and released. Disc one, Bits, features material from 1974, and contains an unreleased extended take of the single "I'm a Believer" — with Fred Frith, Richard Sinclair, Nick Mason, and Dave MacRae accompanying — and its flip, "Memories." Then there's the A-side cover of Chris Andrews' "Yesterday Man" along with an alternate of its backing track, "Sonia." This disc is topped off with a rather indulgent version of "Calyx," recorded live at Drury Lane in the same year — and it reeks of proggish wankery. At least it's at the end of the disc. Pieces is the second platter here; it begins in 1982 with Wyatt's awesome cover of Elvis Costello's "Shipbuilding" and contains both flips for the 12" version, Eubie Blake's "Memories of You" (which was also on the 7") and Thelonious Monk's "'Round Midnight." This disc is rounded out with a couple of compilation offerings: "Pigs...(In There)" from the Liberator: Artists for Animals set from 1988, and "Chairman Mao," once available on an ReR Quarterly edition. Disc three is comprised of the four-song Work in Progress, released by Rough Trade in 1984. The fourth disc is Wyatt's soundtrack for Victor Schonfield's 1982 The Animals Film, a harrowing documentary depicting humankind's horrific treatment of other members of the animal kingdom. Assembled of bits and pieces, it feels rather ragged, but is still essential for anyone who collects Wyatt's material. The final disc is a weird delight, containing four remixes of tunes from the artist's 1998 comeback album, Shleep. But these aren't just remixes doled out to a bedroom beat producer. They were done by Nigel Butler and Angie Dial from the unfinished masters as the album itself was being recorded. In sum, then, for the price, this is a gentle, untidy heap of Wyatt's odd 'n' sods, but given its packaging and designed order to be taken piecemeal one disc at a time, it's positively infectious.


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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