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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 174 - 11/21/10

Robert Wyatt, Gilad Atzmon & Ros Stephen
'....For The Ghosts Within'
Domino Recording Co.

This is not the new Robert Wyatt solo album. Despite being released on his regular label nowadays, despite his wife Alfie Benge has contributed lyrics to a couple of songs and artwork for the album and despite four of the songs have been recorded by Robert earlier. Instead, this is an album by the trio Wyatt, Atzmon and Stephen. In fact the two latter started the project in the first place and then approached Robert.

Robert Wyatt is an old hero at the Luna Kafé headquarters both musically and as a human being. When the old grey-haired, ex-Soft Machinist, ex-communist in the wheel-chair opens his mouth, it's always worth listening. Gilad Atzmon is an Israeli jazz musician with strong opinions on the politics in the Middle East. I guess he is considered an enemy of the state by Israeli fundamentalists. He participated on Wyatt's last two albums Cuckooland and Comicopera. Ros Stephen is a classically scholared violin and viola player, composer and arranger, a musical teacher and member of the Sigamos String Quartet represented on severeal tracks on this album.

'....For The Ghosts Within' might be divided into three groups of songs: the political ones concerned with the Palestinians, soft old American jazz standards and a couple in between. The jazz standards dominate. Some of them are a bit too soft for my liking, culminating with "What A Wonderful World" at the end if the album. Gilad Atzmon's alto sax is not my favourite, somewhat stereotype here and there. Still, with some original arrangements that in particular include the String Quartet, and Wyatt's unique tranquillizing voice, they're very well worth checking out. Especially the version of Billy Strayhorn's "Lush Life" where Robert demonstrates his trumpet playing is still improving and Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood" with great clarinet playing by Gilad and even some vinyl crackling to improve the mood. "What's New?" by Johnny Burke and Bob Haggart has an interesting pretty modern string arrangement. This is a contender for the song with a backing track furthest away from the Wyatt average.

The highlights though, are the three new songs of the album. "Lullaby For Irena" is pure delight, as beautiful as a Wyatt-ballad might get. I'm not sure if the lyrics have anything to do with the Palestinian issue, but Gilad Atzmon's clarinet immediately transfers me to the Middle East. The title track is another beauty, sung by Gilad's wife(?) Tali. It's written by Alfie and Gilad. Robert's only contribution here is backing vocals; still the song has got his stamp all over. "Where Are They Now?" is a completely reworked version of the title track off Robert's 1991-album Dondestan ('Palestine's a country, or at least used to be'). Here it's revamped with jazz-leanings and even an up-tempo rap-part, performed by two young Palestinians. A real shot in the arm! The other songs that Robert's recorded earlier, is "Maryan" by him and Philip Catherine, the highlight of Robert's 1997-classic album Shleep, "At Last I'm Free", Robert's personal interpretation of Chic's 1978 disco hit released on a Rough Trade single a couple of years later, and Thelonius Monk's "Round Midnight", the B-side of Robert's last hit single "Shipbuilding" from 1982. None of them sound as good as Robert's original recordings in my humble opinion. Still, they sound different with all the string and wind instruments. Robert even whistles on the last one instead of singing.

This is not the new Robert Wyatt solo album. However it's an interesting and different addition to the Wyatt canon. Go for the version with an extra DVD disc with the half hour documentary film The Muses Within by Tali Atzmon about the recording of the album. It made it even easier to get into and appreciate '......For The Ghosts Within'.

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