A cover version by an elder statesman of never overly popular music arguably best known for his interpretation of Costello's Shipbuilding was unlikely to be troubling the higher reaches of the festive charts. 'What A Wonderful Life' is Robert Wyatt, Gilad Atzmon and Ros Stephen's take on the classic Louis Armstrong standard. Taken from last years album 'For The Ghost Within' it sees Wyatt don a Santa outfit for the yuletide offering, although for my money he'd probably do a better Uncle Jesse! (Dukes Of Hazard for those in need of a reminder)
'What A Wonderful Life' is a difficult song to cover, so deeply associated it is with the 'one', the 'only' true, real, great version. It's almost sacrilegious to even attempt or consider such a venture, is it not? Wyatt has undoubtedly one of the most individual, recognisable and emotive voices in music. His sad, melancholic agonies are joyous in their depths of despair. It is probably because of this that Wyatt himself points out that..'Our 'Wonderful World' is not sarcastic, ironic or even just sentimental. It's Social Realism: not the WHOLE truth, but nevertheless The truth.'
Continue reading: Wyatt, Atzmon and Stephen, What A Wonderful World Single Review
Robert Wyatt has an extraordinary voice. It is difficult to think of many contemporary singers with his natural talent, let alone singers with a background in popular music. BjÃ¶rk, who collaborated with Wyatt on her under-appreciated a cappella album Medulla, has spoken enthusiastically (if also inaccurately) of his 'five or six octave' vocal range. Unlike so many big-lunged pop singers of recent years, however, Wyatt is uninterested in bludgeoning the listener to death with the sheer force of his vocals. Rather than marching up to the listener and confronting them, his voice hangs back, beckoning, enticing, luring them in. His greatest strength is this restraint, which allows us to appreciate every subtlety and every emotional nuance; and boy, Wyatt is great at nuance. This is amply demonstrated by his most powerful performances, his star turns on the moving Elvis Costello collaboration 'Shipbuilding' and the Chic cover 'At Last I Am Free', both of which convey the sound of a man grappling with and trying to master deeply felt sadness. On both tracks, Wyatt manages to sound simultaneously despairing and desperate to maintain his composure. It is easy to imagine that were either song to last any longer, he would burst into tears.
Continue reading: Wyatt, Atzmon and Stephen, For The Ghosts Within Album Review