For the Ghosts WithinAlbum | Robert Wyatt By Jim Allen
Spectral but strangely welcoming.
Art-rock legend Robert Wyatt seems to have been in a bit of a collaborative mood lately. In 2009, he worked on Around Robert Wyatt, where he and other artists sang classics from his songbook rearranged for jazz orchestra. A year later he’s teamed up with saxophonist Gilad Atzmon – a notorious Holocaust denier, but let’s keep politics out of this – and violinist Ros Stephen on For the Ghosts Within. The album is dominated by covers--mostly standards, plus Chic’s “At Last I Am Free"--but also features four original tunes. Atop everything except the title track (sung by the saxophonist's wife Tali Atzmon) is that irreplaceable golden shiver of a voice that’s been one of the most distinctive sounds in rock for over four decades. At its core, Ghosts is about the interaction between Wyatt’s singing, Atzmon’s sax, and Stephen’s string arrangements, creating an appropriately spectral but strangely welcoming feel. Wyatt’s no stranger to covers or to standards, and at this point in history he’s probably one of the few vocalists capable of bringing something new to ubiquitous songs like “Lush Life” and “What’s New?” But his most moving interpretation is that of the Chic tune, which he first recorded much more straightforwardly on 1982’s Nothing Can Stop Us, but revisits here in a shimmering, evanescent arrangement, based around a chorus that could easily stand as Wyatt’s own artistic ethos: “At last I am free, I can hardly see in front of me.”