Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & The Johnsons

Live From The Union Chapel, London

Diversions Vol 1.

Rough Trade

Taken from two sold out shows at Union Chapel in December 2010, The Unthanks, two sisters named Becky and Rachel Unthank, (their real name,) and their band, tackled the songs of Antony and the Johnsons, and Robert Wyatt, two excellent artists in their own right. The results are wonderful. By using only acoustic guitars, a snare drum, a violin, and a trumpet, letting the sisters voices shine. They get to the cores of the songs, and their emotions are felt even more than they were on the originals.

Antony’s music and lyrics, stripped of subtle camp and melodrama, and sung with ringing sadness by the Unthanks, make the pain of those who suffer unjustly just because they are transgendered, or struggle with AIDS, into universal truth. The truth of battling a hostile world that can’t and won’t understand them. It is a truth that needs to be heard, over and over. The sisters are straight allies in this fight, the more the better with interpretations this great and precise.

Robert Wyatt’s soft singing/lyrics and his partner Alfie’s lyrics also ring with truth of another sort, a very left wing one, of oppressed people fighting for their rights, set to ambient drones, reproduced here on acoustic instruments, the sisters quietly outraged singing make the songs shine, and throw light on some dark corners, such as civilians being bombed for no reason.

Overall, this album could loosely be taken as folk/prog, and very modern prog at that. And what a triumph this album is too. Totally live, with no overdubs, gives the feeling of being in the audience as this outstanding concert/album was being recorded. []

Andrea Weiss

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