Once drummer and vocalist with avant-rock ensemble The Soft Machine, Robert Wyatt is a rare exception to the rule that artists never produce their best work after departing their former employers. With a soft, sad voice he actually sounded older than he really was. Never forgetting his jazz roots, which became prominent in his group material, Wyatt crucially learned how to write and develop on strong material combined with some unique production techniques which made him more influential than he was originally given credit for. Despite this, Wyatt's best known work remains his interpretations of others. Happily, critical recognition has been all but secured now as he became curator of the recent Meltdown festival; taking over from last year's similarly revered incumbent Scott Walker.
Robert Wyatt's follow-up to 'Rock Bottom' was expedient, arriving in 1975, just a year after its predecessor. It uses the same jazz-rock template but is an altogether more structured work; a kind of more sensible, older brother to Rock Bottom's uncontrollable younger sibling. Given its more conventional arrangements 'Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard' offers fewer surprises. It boasts once again fine keyboard work from Wyatt (particular excellent on 'Solar Flares' and the trumpet-assisted '5 Black Notes And 1 White Note') and his endearingly flawed attempts at high-pitched vocals. 'Soup Song' indicates a more commercial leaning; but its good-time piano can lead to horrible nightmarish visions of Jools Holland nodding his head in approval. Put simply, this is the record to listen to if a diluted form of 'Rock Bottom' is required.