Robert Wyatt | Box Set

Domino (2009)
By JONATHAN DONALDSON  |  December 9, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


Emerging from the progressive cradle of Soft Machine and the late 1960s Canterbury scene, Robert Wyatt began his career as a solo artist after a freak accident left him paralyzed from the waist down in 1973. It was out of this tragedy that he left the drums as his primary instrument and began focusing on the vocal and keyboard music that has made him one of the most distinctive of living voices — if not for his forlorn and trumpet-like tone, then for his singular juxtaposition of jazz and pop forces.

Squatting at less than $60, Box Set compiles Wyatt's seven individual proper albums, his 1981 singles collection, a recording of his most significant live performance, and (the best part) a box set within a box set of his magnificent EPs. Signposts of greatness pop up right away with the fearless pitting of wordless improvisation against an alternately soothing and angular backdrop in "Sea Song" (from 1974's Rock Bottom). Later, we have the sparse, elegiac 1980 single "At Last I Am Free" (a Chic cover), which conjures the aural/emotional effect of polished glass stones creating ripples on a lake.

Better yet is the whole of 1997's Shleep, which ranked on many year-end lists. Collecting the œuvre of this purposeful, individualist artist, Box Set (despite its lack of true "extras") is recommended for anyone who knows and loves even one of Wyatt's works. If you know one, you don't know them all.

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