Robert Wyatt
Solar Flares Burn For You


Though to the uninitiated it will probably appear like a puzzle that's almost impossible to put together - which obviously doesn't mean that it makes for difficult listening - Solar Flares Burn For You is an album that longtime fans of the music of Robert Wyatt (those who can trace the thread which runs through his work) will find absolutely indispensable. Newcomers are invited to begin the exploration starting with The End Of An Ear (1971), for the more jazz-related side of Wyatt's solo career, or with Rock Bottom (1974), his superb album of songs.

The opening tracks come from some very good BBC Radio sessions which were recorded not too long after the acclaimed release of Rock Bottom and which had been previously released in the Peel Sessions series by Strange Fruit on a vinyl EP in 1987. Just a little bit of overdubbing (piano, organ, vocals) for some excellent songs, presented here with a very good sound: Alifib and Sea Song off Rock Bottom, a solo version of Soup Song - which in a different arrangement was to come out the following year on Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (1975) - and the joyous version of the Neil Diamond-penned classic I'm A Believer, then a surprise success single for Wyatt.

The long-standing collaboration with former bandmate Hugh Hopper gets a new chapter with two new tracks - Blimey O' Riley and 'Twas Brillig: loops, bass, keyboards and cornet - recorded in 2002/2003 and which can be considered to be like a P.S. to Hopper's recent Jazzloops CD.

Solar Flares Burn For You is the soundtrack to an experimental movie by Arthur Johns. The piece was recorded at Nick Mason's studio during the Spring of 1973. For once, the listeners can judge for themselves whether this was a successful marriage: the movie itself, in fact, having been included on the CD.

I had never listened to the other BBC sessions included here, which date from 1972. Here we have a very rare coupling indeed: Wyatt's voice(s) and the piano and VCS3 synthesizer of Francis Monkman - the former member of Curved Air (and future member of Phil Manzanera's 801) who could have been the keyboard player in the new Matching Mole line-up. Here they play a new version of the famous God Song, which gets a new arrangement that's pretty dissimilar from the one that had previously appeared on the group's Little Red Record (1972). The same is true for Fol De Rol, Richard Sinclair's fragmental theme which had appeared on Hatfield And The North's first album (and it's curious how the piano accompaniment here makes this theme to sound quite similar to a composition by Kerry Minnear). The other tracks from this session are in my opinion not much more than just curios: Little Child from Danny Kaye's repertory, We Got An Arts Council Grant and a fragment from Righteous Rhumba, this one also a Matching Mole tune.

In closing, a beautiful, new song by Robert Wyatt: The Verb.

Then we have a comprehensive booklet, nice interviews with all those involved, accurate and stimulating liner notes... What more could we ask for?

Beppe Colli

© Beppe Colli 2003 | Nov. 10, 2003