Robert Wyatt - Greatest Misses (5 stars)

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Robert Wyatt - Greatest Misses

(Domino)

Its title may be a wry acknowledgment of Robert Wyatt’s enduring cult status, but Greatest Misses stands as a fine introduction to a truly great artist. As the drummer in Soft Machine, Wyatt was at the forefront of English psychedelia, but in 1973 a fall left him paralysed from the waist down, forcing him to rethink his approach to making music. In collaboration with his partner Alfie, and musicians as diverse as Brian Eno, Ivor Cutler and Paul Weller, Wyatt has created some of the most idiosyncratic and brilliant music of our times, infused with the liberated spirt of jazz and art-rock, and the soul of blues and Latin-American folk.

Ryuichi Sakamoto has described Wyatt’s voice as the saddest in the world, but this fails to do justice to such a beautiful instrument. Wyatt’s wavering tenor can sound mournful, not least on Elvis Costello and Clive Langer’s peerless anti-Falklands War song ‘Shipbuilding’, but no matter how bleak things get, Wyatt refuses to let the bastards grind him down. Never preachy, his songs are inspiring in their dignity and humanity. ‘Free Will and Testament’ is as gorgeous a meditation on what it is to be alive as any, while his love songs are all the more moving for their honesty. His masterpiece, ‘Sea Song’ explores the joy and fear of falling in love through aquatic imagery. ‘Am I yours, are you mine to play with?’, he asks of Alfie, before concluding, quite beautifully, ‘Your madness fits in neatly with my own.’ Sublime.

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