Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard
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|Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard|
|Studio album by Robert Wyatt|
|Recorded||October 1974 – March 1975 at The Manor Studio|
|Robert Wyatt chronology|
Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard is the third solo album by Robert Wyatt.
The follow-up to Rock Bottom, for which Wyatt had written all of the music and lyrics, Ruth... consisted of Wyatt's adaptations and arrangements of other people's music (either friends – Phil Manzanera, Fred Frith, Mongezi Feza, former Wilde Flowers bandmate Brian Hopper – or influences – Charlie Haden) with Wyatt adding his own lyrics in much the same way as he had done on Matching Mole's Little Red Record. Apart from "Sonia", recorded for the shelved "Yesterday Man" single in October 1974 (again with Nick Mason as producer), the entire album was recorded and mixed at Virgin's The Manor Studio with Wyatt himself handling production duties. Much of the album features Wyatt (on lead vocals and keyboards) backed by a "band" consisting of bassist Bill MacCormick, drummer Laurie Allan and saxophonists George Khan and Gary Windo, with Brian Eno adding his own idiosyncratic "anti-jazz" touch.
Two years earlier Wyatt had provided the hypnotic soundtrack to the experienental flim Solar Flares by Arthur Johns. The nine minute film, "a personal essay on colour effects", had been produced by Nick Mason and recorded at his home studio. Wyatt had been involved at an early stage and his music became an integral part of the project. The music itself would reappear on his 1975 album "in a more 'digestible' form".
The album contains several pieces which recall the complexity and despair of Rock Bottom, but much of the record echoes the relaxed, almost silly feel of earlier Wyatt efforts such as The End of an Ear or his work with Matching Mole. This becomes evident from the choice of title (a pun on "truth is stranger than fiction") onwards; the two sides of the original LP release were not labelled "Side A" and "Side B", but rather "Side Ruth" and "Side Richard" respectively.
The songs on Side Ruth all have more traditional structures; the rollicking "Soup Song" (derived from the Wilde Flowers song "Slow Walking Talk", of which Wyatt had recorded a version with Jimi Hendrix) has the air of a pub singalong. The remaining songs are all covers or collaborations; the Mongezi Feza trumpet piece "Sonia", featuring a guest appearance by Feza himself (as do a number of other songs on the album) in the last year of his life, "Team Spirit" (written with Phil Manzanera, who would record the same song on his album Diamond Head under the title "Frontera") and a cover of "Song for Che" by Charlie Haden round off the album.
The three "serious" pieces on Side Richard – the ballad "Solar Flares", "5 Black Notes And 1 White Note" (a funeral instrumental, supposedly a cover of Jacques Offenbach's Barcarolle from The Tales of Hoffmann, which degenerates into a series of noises somewhere between free jazz and electronic noise) and the piano-led Rock Bottom-esque Fred Frith collaboration "Muddy Mouth"—with a series of brief, nonsensical interludes featuring only sparse piano accompaniment and some very strange high-pitched yelping vocals under the collective title "Muddy Mouse".
|Pitchfork Media||(7.7/10.0) link|
Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard was released in May 1975. Unlike its predecessor Rock Bottom, it received a mixed critical and public response; not counting 1982's Nothing Can Stop Us (which brought together a series of previously released single A and B sides, most of which were cover versions), Ruth... would be Wyatt's last solo studio album until 1985's Old Rottenhat.
Side Ruth (Side One)
- (Ru1) "Soup Song" (Brian Hopper, Robert Wyatt) – 4:03
- (Ru2) "Sonia" (Mongezi Feza) – 4:18
- (Ru3) "Team Spirit" (Bill MacCormick, Phil Manzanera, Robert Wyatt) – 8:33
- (Ru4) "Song For Che" (Charlie Haden) – 3:42
Side Richard (Side Two)
- (Ri1) "Muddy Mouse (a)" (Fred Frith, Robert Wyatt) – 0:49
- (Ri2) "Solar Flares" (Robert Wyatt) – 5:36
- (Ri3) "Muddy Mouse (b)" (Fred Frith, Robert Wyatt) – 0:50
- (Ri4) "5 Black Notes And 1 White Note" (Jacques Offenbach arr. Robert Wyatt) – 5:00
- (Ri5) "Muddy Mouse (c) Which in Turn Leads To Muddy Mouth" (Fred Frith, Robert Wyatt) – 6:15
- Robert Wyatt – vocals, piano, imitation electric piano (Ri4), organ (Ri2), drums (Ru2, Ri2)
- Brian Eno – guitar (Ri4), synthesizer (Ri4), direct inject anti-jazz ray gun (Ru3)
- Gary Windo – bass clarinet (Ri2, Ru2), tenor saxophone (Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4), alto saxophone (Ri4, Ru2, Ru4)
- Nisar Ahmad "George" Khan – tenor saxophone (Ri4, Ru4), baritone saxophone (Ru1, Ru4)
- Mongezi Feza – trumpet (Ru2)
- Fred Frith – piano (Ri1, Ri3, Ri5)
- Bill MacCormick – bass guitar (Ri2, Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4)
- John Greaves – bass guitar (Ru2)
- Laurie Allan – drums (Ri4, Ru1, Ru3, Ru4)
The artwork for the cover of the album was by Wyatt's wife Alfreda Benge.