14 December 2007

Robert Wyatt - 'Just As You Are'

Is it fair to say I've always liked the idea of Robert Wyatt more than I've felt a pressing need to listen to his records much? Sure, the odd tune of his has, at times, really settled under my skin: The Duchess from his record Shleep back in the John Peel days, Shipbuilding of course, and from before my time his insane, inspired cover of I'm a Believer. But in the main I take his work in small doses. It's perhaps the significant jazz influences you hear that deter me, jazz being one of those things I haven't made room for yet. I'm sort of saving jazz up for my fifties. (And classical for my sixties, if I make it that far. Then I'll like everything.)

Ah, but this, from his recent LP Comicopera, is purely gorgeous. I have no resistance. It melts me. I love the way he doesn't start singing on his own tune until about half way through. I love the confidence of that. Now, never one for letting knowledge get in the way of passion, I haven't remotely done my research here; I've no idea who the woman is who sings the first half of this, but lord, she has a lovely, Latin-accented voice. And then Robert himself comes in and he's never sounded better, reminding you that he's one of the greatest of all singers who can't sing, as well as one of our finest beard wearers. It's fragile, beautiful and perfectly weighted. It utterly works, with no hint of the self indulgence that you could sometimes accuse him of.

This is a song about acceptance and forgiveness, about love in the face of repeated failure and imperfection, and correspondingly about wanting to become a better person because you are loved and you know you keep letting someone down. There are, of course, days when I can barely stand to listen to this.

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