Robert Wyatt - Eps - 1999


Robert Wyatt is one of the best composers and musicians of the last thirty years and his career is without a doubt one of the most representative of the Canterbury school. Their discography includes big classics alone and with other groups (mainly Soft Machine or Matching Mole). However, in the last two decades his activity has diminished considerably, in the nineties he has published more collections of unpublished songs and compilations than new records.


The last of these collections is titled "Eps" as a tribute to this short length record format that Robert loves. But this is too much: a 5 CDs collection of twenty minutes each, which contain pieces of several stages of his career, with the artwork of a Box Set more than what its duration would deserve: a double album (by the way, this also influences the price..). The artwork is not bad, including a small booklet with explanations and interesting comments, but it seems that when conceiving "Eps" someone had a strange sense of humor.. After listening to an excellent studio album in 1997, "Shleep", it is a pity that Bob releases another compilation of unpublished cuts with alternative versions of some pieces of that album. Besides, all his fans acknowledge that a new collection of rarities of the times of "Rock Bottom" (1974) or "Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard" (1975) that includes his musicians of that time (Frith, Sinclair, Feza, Windo... ) is welcome, but I believe that Wyatt still has a great creativity and that he should not fall in the habit of publishing an album with new material for each three compilations. However, as I said it before, being a fan of Robert Wyatt, each album is sacred. So leaving aside the comments with regards to his current career, let speak now of "Eps".

The first CD includes some pieces recorded in 1974 with musicians of Matching Mole, Caravan or Henry Cow amongst others. I would highlight a magnificent version of “Memories” of his time with Wilde Flowers accompanied by the violin of Fred Frith in an unique, quite melancholic way. The classic "Calyx" is also present, in a concert recording. This is definitively the best of the five records. The second CD includes cuts from the eighties, much more political (without comments..), highlighting Elvis Costello's magnificent single “Shipbuilding” and the promotional video of the same song. I do not believe the rest is really the most representative of its music. The third CD includes songs recorded especially by political causes, such as Peter Gabriel's classic "Biko" or some other songs with political themes (again I abstain of all comment..). The fourth CD includes only a piece of 19 minutes that was written for a movie, "The Animals Farm". It is not bad, but as explained in the notes of the album, it would be needed to watch the film to understand it better. Finally, the last CD includes four alternative versions of songs of his last studio album. One can really say that those that were included in the definitive format of "Shleep" in 1997 sound better. This does not mean that the cuts here included are bad, but the best are already in the other album.


Finally, just two more comments: the first being that if not you do not know the work of Wyatt, the best thing would be to acquire the classic albums (mentioned above) or "Shleep"; the second being that if you are already a fan of Bob, you should acquire this collection. In spite of everything, I will continue to admire his sad and expressive voice. This is a collection only for fans.

author - date - rating - label

Enrique Gómez - April 2000 -   - Ryko Disc