Robert Wyatt — Cuckooland
(Hannibal HNCD1468, 2003, CD)
by Jon Davis, Published 2004-04-01
Robert Wyatt is so much an entity unto himself that comparisons to anyone else are more or less useless. Most listeners with a rock background would probably peg his music as jazz, though I suspect most mainstream jazz fans would not know what to make of him. A lot of listeners of all stripes have difficulty with his singing voice – if you’re in this camp, I urge you to keep listening. It will grow on you. In spite of his distinctive thin tone and heavy accent, his intonation and expressiveness are impeccable. For me, the most endearing factors in Wyatt’s music are his combination of earnest sincerity and puckish humor, and his adventurous taste in arrangement. And his ability to pick just the right musicians to accompany him. And his refusal to honor conventional genre boundaries. And... well, enough of that. For his fans, this is an outstanding addition to the oeuvre; for the uninitiated, it’s an excellent starting point. Somehow, amid all the genre-melding, this set of tunes manages a simple charm that’s hard to resist. There are hints of New Orleans jazz, Tin Pan Alley, the Middle East, ambient electronics, French café music, warped Beat Poetry, 20th Century minimalism, and more, all smeared seamlessly together. Trumpet and trombone are the most common foils to Wyatt’s voice, maintaining the jazz feel even when electronic instruments provide some of the backing. If you’re looking for interesting music that won’t necessarily rock your socks off, you could hardly do better than this.
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