The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons

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The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons
Live album by The Unthanks
Released 28 November 2011 (UK)
Length 1:07:44
Label Rabble Rouser RRM009
Producer Adrian McNally
The Unthanks chronology
Last (2011) The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons (2011) The Unthanks with Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band (2012)
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[1]
Allmusic 4/5 stars[2]
musicOMH 4/5 stars[3]
The Observer 4/5 stars[4]
The Independent 3/5 stars[5]

The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons, the fifth album by English folk group The Unthanks and the first to be recorded live, was released on 28 November 2011. Its extended title is: Diversions, Vol. 1: The Songs of Robert Wyatt and Antony & the Johnsons – Live from the Union Chapel, London.

The album, which consists entirely of songs by Robert Wyatt and by Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons, was recorded at the Union Chapel, Islington, London, on 8 and 9 December 2010. It received a 4.5-starred review from David Fricke in Rolling Stone, a four-starred review from Neil Spencer in The Observer and a four-starred ratings from AllMusic and MusicOMH.

Reception[edit]

David Fricke, in a 4.5-starred review for Rolling Stone magazine, said there was "a silvery deceptive spine running through the sisters' Earth-angel voices".[1] In a four-starred review, Neil Spencer of The Observer called the album "A triumphant excursion", adding that "...the Unthanks' intertwining voices – cadent, mournful, tender – never falter and the between-songs banter ('There will be clog dancing!') grounds an ethereal atmosphere."[4] Reviewing the album for BBC Music, Martin Aston was struck by "hearing You Are My Sister sung to each other by sisters in blood as well as spirit, the arrangement and tone touching rather than cloying".[6]

Writing in The Independent on 27 November 2011, Nick Coleman said that "The Hegarty songs respond slightly better to the treatment than do Wyatt's, with the exception of 'Sea Song'."[5] In a four-starred review for MusicOMH, Chris White said: "In a largely flawless set, the Antony & The Johnsons songs in particular are luminously beautiful, perfectly suited to the sisters’ passionate, breathy vocals and McNally’s elegant arrangements" but felt that The Unthanks are "at their best when providing a mixed palette of the centuries-old music of their native county and their own unique takes on the work of some of today’s most interesting performers. Just focusing on the latter, they’re marginally less interesting."[3]

In a four-starred review for AllMusic, James Christopher Monger described it as "one of the more riveting and idiosyncratic tribute albums of the past ten years".[2]

Track listing[edit]

Antony and the Johnsons

  1. Bird Guhl (3:57)
  2. Man is the Baby (5:43)
  3. You Are My Sister (5:56)
  4. For Today I Am a Boy (4:06)
  5. Paddy's Gone (4:13)
  6. Spiralling (4:41)

Robert Wyatt

  1. Stay Tuned (Anja Garbarek) from Comicopera (4:43)
  2. Dondestan (Robert Wyatt) from Dondestan (Revisited) (3:18)
  3. Lullaby for Hamza (Robert Wyatt/Alfreda Benge) from Cuckooland (3:44)
  4. Lisp Service (Hugh Hopper/Robert Wyatt) from Dondestan (Revisited) (3:11)
  5. Free Will and Testament (Wyatt/Kramer) from Shleep (5:03)
  6. Out of the Blue (Wyatt/Elfriede Ellidge) from Comicopera (4:11)
  7. Cuckoo Madame (Wyatt/Benge) from Cuckooland (5:13)
  8. Sea Song (Wyatt) from Rock Bottom (6:59)
  9. Forest (excerpt) from Cuckooland (2:51)

Total album length = 1:07:44

Personnel[edit]

The Unthanks
  • Rachel Unthank – voice, feet, dulcitone
  • Becky Unthank – voice, feet
  • Adrian McNally – piano on Robert Wyatt set, drums on Antony set, harmonium, voice
  • Chris Price – drums on Robert Wyatt set, electric bass on Antony set, voice
  • Niopha Keegan – violin, accordion, voice
Additional musicians
  • Ros Stephen – violin, voice
  • Becca Spencer – viola, voice
  • Jo Silverston – cello, voice
  • Lizzie Jones – trumpet, voice
  • Dean Ravera – double bass
  • Jonny Kearney – piano on Antony set

Arrangements[edit]

  • Strings on Antony set transcribed by Niopha Keegan
  • Strings on "Lisp Service" by Jo Silverston
  • Strings on "Out of the Blue" by Becca Spencer and Lizzie Jones
  • Strings on "Stay Tuned" by Niopha Keegan

Design[edit]

The album cover, designed by Steven Wainwright, incorporates illustrations by Becky Unthank and photographs by Mark Winpenny.

Notes and references[edit]