Robert Wyatt

Robert Wyatt & Opinions on Britney Spears

Robert Wyatt has been making music for five decades, but he's as much of an innovator now as he was when he was a member of the pioneering English psychedelic band The Soft Machine. Tune in to hear his conversation with Jim and Greg and get a taste of his new album, Comicopera.

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Music News

Jim and Greg start off the show by updating a couple of news stories they've been talking about recently. The first is the sad state of album sales this season. When fall first kicked off, industry insiders had high hopes for big releases from people like Kanye West, 50 Cent, and The Foo Fighters. And now albums by Bruce Springsteen, the cast of High School Musical 2 and Rascal Flatts have been added to the mix. But, despite the big names, sales have not been soaring. In fact, in this week's chart, not even one album has approached six figures.

So what does the music industry do to appease its shrinking customer base? Answer: Sue them. Last week the RIAA sent its ninth wave of pre-litigation letters to administrators at 19 universities. A couple of weeks ago Jim and Greg discussed the trial of Jammie Thomas, a woman from Minnesota who was found guilty of copyright infringement to the tune of $220,000. It seems that trial left a taste of victory in the RIAA's mouth, because they are continuing their crackdown on music“theft”among college students. It seems these members of the industry missed the "Radiohead" memo.

reviewBlackout (Bonus Track Version)Blackout available on iTunes

Britney Spears Blackout

Another big name album this fall is from Britney Spears, though these days she makes more headlines for her personal problems than for music. But, while everyone is analyzing her abilities as a mother (and live performer), Jim and Greg focus on the music. As they say — they listen so you don't have to. Though, according to Greg, maybe you should. Blackout is Britney's fifth album, but the first that Greg thinks isn‘t half bad. The production is first-rate, and Britney’s voice is almost unrecognizable and inconsequential (that's a good thing). Jive put a lot of money into this project hiring multiple producers and writers for individual tracks. And, on the production side, Greg thinks that was money well spent. He gives Blackout a Try It — but for Jim, it's a clear Trash It.

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Robert Wyatt

Jim and Greg are joined by Robert Wyatt in the next segment. While he may not be a household name, Wyatt is one of the most influential musicians of the rock era. As a drummer with 1960s group Soft Machine, Wyatt reinvented prog rock, and was a pioneer of jazz-rock fusion. He was later ousted from Soft Machine, and in 1973 a terrible fall rendered him a paraplegic. But, as his interview with Jim and Greg reveals, Wyatt never ceased to be an innovator. Jim explains that Wyatt's been having a career resurgence in recent years. He was not only up for the prestigious Mercury Prize in England in 2003, but he is releasing a new album, Comicopera, on Domino Records, the label that is also home to Franz Ferdinand and the Arctic Monkeys.

Greg begins by asking Wyatt about his appeal to a younger generation of musicians, including Thom Yorke and Alexis Taylor of Hot Chip. Wyatt can‘t explain this phenomenon, but he imagines that people respect how he does his own thing and makes music for music’s sake. It's inspirational for young musicians to see that you can maintain artistic integrity and, at the same time, longevity.

Wyatt formed the Soft Machine with three other schoolmates, and he never imagined that they'd eventually be opening up for Jimi Hendrix on his 1968 tour. The music of that time influenced his politics as well as his sound. But while contemporaries like The Rolling Stones looked to the blues, Wyatt and the Soft Machine looked to jazz. After his accident, though, Wyatt was forced to approach drumming differently than other jazz musicians. By eliminating the element of acrobatic virtuosity that jazz drummers often focus on, Wyatt was free to focus on the beats and the sounds. But, listeners shouldn‘t confuse Wyatt’s experimentalism with an anti-pop attitude. He says, "Pop music is the folk music of the post-industrial era, and folk music is the most important music in the world."

reviewRaising SandRaising Sand available on iTunes

Alison Krauss & Robert Plant Raising Sand

The next segment also focuses on the melding of pop and folk music. Led Zeppelin front man Robert Plant has collaborated with bluegrass virtuoso Alison Krauss on a new album called Raising Sand. Fans of Led Zeppelin III won‘t be surprised by Plant’s interest in American roots music; it's closely linked with Celtic folkmusic. But, Jim was surpised by the lack of chemistry between Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. Both are phenomenal singer, and both were backed by a phenomenal band, but Jim just found himself getting sleepy. He can only give the album a Burn It. Greg admits that the record is subtle, and doesn't lend itself to all kinds of listening, but he was amazed by the harmonies Plant gives. He also thinks their song choices, which include Allen Toussaint and Gene Clark covers, were perfect. Greg gives Raising Sand a Buy It.

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“Tangerine”Led Zeppelin

According to Greg, Jim hit the nail on the head with his Led Zeppelin III reference. That's exactly where he went for this week's Desert Island Jukebox pick. The band was often misunderstood and merely a hyper-masculine rock act. They had a substantial reflective side, and that's evident on III. Plant was also wrongly categorized as simply a“banshee screamer.”He could also be subtle, conversational and moving. You can hear the softer side of Led Zeppelin in Greg's DIJ choice, "Tangerine."

Featured Songs

  1. Bruce Springsteen, Radio Nowhere, Magic, Columbia, 2007
  2. Britney Spears, Gimme More, Blackout, Jive, 2007
  3. Britney Spears, Piece of Me, Blackout, Jive, 2007
  4. The Soft Machine, Hope for Happiness, Volume One, ABC Probe, 1968
  5. Cecil Taylor, Nona's Blues, At Newport, Verve, 1957
  6. The Soft Machine, Save Yourself, Volume One, ABC Probe, 1968
  7. Jimi Hendrix, Purple Haze, Are You Experienced, Track, 1967
  8. Elvin Jones, Four and Six, Elvin!, Riverside, 1961
  9. The Soft Machine, Pig, Volume Two, ABC Probe, 1969
  10. Robert Wyatt, Sea Song, Rock Bottom, Virgin, 1974
  11. Robert Wyatt, I'm a Believer, Sea Song, Virgin, 1981
  12. Robert Wyatt, Just As You Are, Comicopera, Domino, 2007
  13. Robert Wyatt, Out of the Blue, Comicopera, Domino, 2007
  14. Robert Wyatt, A Beautiful War, Comicopera, Domino, 2007
  15. Robert Wyatt, Anachronist, Comicopera, Domino, 2007
  16. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Through the Morning, Through the Night, Raising Sand, Rounder, 2007
  17. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Fortune Teller, Raising Sand, Rounder, 2007
  18. Robert Plant, Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us, Raising Sand, Rounder, 2007
  19. Led Zeppelin, Tangerine, Led Zeppelin III, Atlantic, 1970
  20. Steve Earle, Days Aren't Long Enough, Washington Square Serenade, New West, 2007
  21. The Drifters, Answer the Phone, I‘ll Take You Where the Music’s Playing, Rhino Atlantic, 1965
  22. Gladys Knight & the Pips, Money, The Best of Gladys Knight, Vol. 2, n/a, 1974

Footnotes

wired.com Estimates: Radiohead Made Up To $10 Million on Initial Album Sales britneyspears.com Britney Spears msn.com Britney and Kevin reunite… in parenting class youtube.com Britney Spears VMA 2007 performance of“Gimme More” jimdero.com Jim reviews Cornicopera allmusic.com Robert Wyatt nationwidemercurys.com The Mercury Prize metacritic.com Comicopera dominorecordco.com Domino Records guardian.co.uk Where are the heirs to ‘awkward buggers’ like Robert Wyatt? jimihendrix.com Jimi Hendrix ledzeppelin.com Led Zeppelin robertplant.com Robert Plant robertplant.com Alison Krauss chicagotribune.com Greg on Raising Sand songfacts.com“Tangerine”