Exposé Online banner

Robert Wyatt — Cuckooland
(Hannibal HNCD1468, 2003, CD)

by Jeff Melton, 2004-04-01:

Cuckooland Cover art

Robert Wyatt’s first release of new songs in eight years is a milestone for the composer. From the outset there is a lyrical optimism overshadowed by his preoccupation with bleak world activities. This wonderful collection of 16 tracks is a sincere, refined statement from a singer who is now familiar with his surroundings both in the studio and around the world. Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, David Gilmour, and Paul Weller are the usual suspects making notable cameo roles, same as on Wyatt’s last endeavor, Shleep. Sax player Gilad Atzmon is the melodic hub on four pieces, and his fluid style reminds me of Mel Collins’ quality work on many a Camel and Crimson album. The centerpiece on the disc is entitled “Forest” where Eno’s vocal carries the backing verse while Gilmour’s subtle slide guitar glides across a queasy backdrop. An endearing solo piano piece, “Raining in My Heart,” leads into the most disturbing track on the disc, “Lullaby for Hamza,” an ode to a newborn on the eve of the first bombings on Baghdad – a sobering image indeed. Half the disc is designated as ”Neither Here...” that is separated by a thirty-second track entitled “Silence” (simulating the end of side one on vinyl before part two “...Nor There.” Overall it’s a masterful collaboration for Hannibal’s most revered artist. Highly recommended and on my top of the list for 2003.


by Mac Beaulieu, 2004-04-01:

With Cuckooland Robert Wyatt changes direction once again, this time toward jazz. Perhaps “Old Europe” is an early clue to the disc’s orientation, with its lyrical jazz references to a Paris record shop, jazz club, and Miles Davis. Still following in his “full band” direction, the disc is chock full of musicians from hugely varying backgrounds, each of them lending their own expertise while leaving Wyatt’s signature intact. One never knows what combination of instruments he’ll use from song to song, which is part of the delight: drums, bass, cornet, keyboards, trombone, guitar, accordion, etc. Alfreda Benge’s simple yet telling lyrics, as always, are the perfect match to Wyatt’s voice, music, and stark arrangements: “When the bombers bomb again, I need your lullaby... Night is long, and sleep’s just a dream.” Notes accompanying many of the songs describe the story behind them, giving more poignant meaning to them, such as the meaning behind “Lullaby for Hamza” above, explaining that during the recent war, “Many children in [Baghdad] were taking valium to calm their fears.” As always, Wyatt manages to evoke that pivotal, somnolent moment of quasi-awareness, when you can’t quite figure out if your warped thoughts are real or dreams. Cuckooland is finding itself noticed in many more circles than anything Wyatt’s done in years due to Rykodisc’s distribution, which is immensely gratifying. It seems that whatever he touches, he manages to make it sparkle, and if anyone can be revered as a solitary presence, it’s Wyatt.


by Jon Davis, 2004-04-01:

Robert Wyatt is so much an entity unto himself that comparisons to anyone else are more or less useless. Most listeners with a rock background would probably peg his music as jazz, though I suspect most mainstream jazz fans would not know what to make of him. A lot of listeners of all stripes have difficulty with his singing voice – if you’re in this camp, I urge you to keep listening. It will grow on you. In spite of his distinctive thin tone and heavy accent, his intonation and expressiveness are impeccable. For me, the most endearing factors in Wyatt’s music are his combination of earnest sincerity and puckish humor, and his adventurous taste in arrangement. And his ability to pick just the right musicians to accompany him. And his refusal to honor conventional genre boundaries. And... well, enough of that. For his fans, this is an outstanding addition to the oeuvre; for the uninitiated, it’s an excellent starting point. Somehow, amid all the genre-melding, this set of tunes manages a simple charm that’s hard to resist. There are hints of New Orleans jazz, Tin Pan Alley, the Middle East, ambient electronics, French café music, warped Beat Poetry, 20th Century minimalism, and more, all smeared seamlessly together. Trumpet and trombone are the most common foils to Wyatt’s voice, maintaining the jazz feel even when electronic instruments provide some of the backing. If you’re looking for interesting music that won’t necessarily rock your socks off, you could hardly do better than this.


Filed under: New releases , Issue 29 , 2003 releases

Related artist(s): Brian Eno, David Gilmour, Robert Wyatt, Gilad Atzmon, Annie Whitehead, Yaron Stavi

More info

Latest news

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the ago of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Patrick Gauthier - Sur les Flots Verticaux – It's been a while since we've heard from Patrick Gauthier (ex-Heldon, Weidorje, Magma) in a solo capacity, maybe ten years or more since he cut his now-legendary Bébé Godzilla. What we find here has...  (1994) » Read more

Simon Dupree & the Big Sound - Part of My Past - The Simon Dupree and the Big Sound Anthology – There’s no doubt that a complete collection of the recordings of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound has historical value. Aside from being a curious footnote in the story of the psychedelic 60s with...  (2005) » Read more

Bill Nelson - Buddha Head & Weird Critters – Since disbanding BeBop Deluxe more than twenty years ago, Bill Nelson has released more than thirty solo albums ranging from engaging progressive pop to long ambient works written for art...  (2001) » Read more

Espíritu - Espíritu & Live en Obras '82 – This Argentine band are best-known for their classic Crisálida, an album of complex guitar / synth prog in the Italian style a la Semiramis. The self-titled album was made several years and...  (1997) » Read more

Saga - The Human Condition – The Human Condition is Saga’s debut release with new vocalist Rob Moratti. Not surprisingly, the group’s sound has changed with Moratti’s addition. After all, in addition to being...  (2010) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues