Robert Wyatt & Friends

Theatre Royal Drury Lane

The lineup Robert Wyatt utilized for this rare live performance in '74 is a who's who of the mid-'70s English progressive-rock scene. There is Wyatt himself (a founding member of Soft Machine) on synthesizer and vocals, Laurie Allan and Nick Mason (of Pink Floyd fame) on drums, Mike "Mr. Tubular Bells" Oldfield and his noodling axe, Fred Frith (of prog legends Henry Cow) with an assortment of stringed instruments, Dave Stewart (of the obscure classical-rock outfit Egg) on keyboards, as well as Wyatt's old bass-playing pal from his Soft Machine days, Hugh Popper. And boy do these dudes wail -- for over an hour, in fact -- flowing through the kind of gorgeously melancholic pop melodies heard on Wyatt's cult classic Rock Bottom, physical yet intricate grooves, moody electronic soundscapes, and extended stretches of jazz- and classical-based improv, with Wyatt often slipping into fits of wild synth-scree, twisted scatting, and emotive falsetto cries. The highlight is a muscular rendition of the Wyatt chestnut "Little Red Riding Hood Hit the Road." It's a totally pulsating jam that's a product of this outfit's ambitious fusion of acid-laced sonic experimentation, conservatory-bred musicianship, and will to smash pop-music convention, which is why Wyatt is one of those rare musicians loved by hippies, tech-heads, and punks.

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