ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


North Sea Radio Orchestra - 2019 - "Folly Bololey"

(56:49; Dark Companion)


The complete title of this album is ‘Folly Bololey: Songs from Robert Wyatt’s Rock Bottom’ and it is by The North Sea Radio Orchestra feat. John Greaves & Annie Barbazza. Greaves was a long-time collaborator of Wyatt and was a founder of the legendary Henry Cow, and here he provides bass guitar and vocals, while singer Annie Barbazza has been making waves since she was discovered in 2012 by Greg Lake and often performs with Greaves. North Sea Radio Orchestra are an experimental chamber group led by Craig Fortnam, and this collaboration is an attempt to pay homage to one of the most important albums of all times, ‘Rock Bottom’. It is virtually guaranteed that if you have ever come across Wyatt in one of his many bands then you will have also checked his solo career, and if you have just one album in your collection it is going to be this one. Released in 1974, it was Wyatt’s first release since he fell out of a window and was confined to a wheelchair, and he put everything into it. It is a brave band indeed who take an album like that and try to create a new version of it – for those who may not know Wyatt, to put that into context it would be like re-recording ‘Foxtrot’ or ‘Fragile’. But this isn’t a band, it is a group of eight classical musicians along with a guitarist/bassist widely known for his work in the RIO movement with a female singer who wasn’t even born when the original album was released. I must confess that I am working away from home, so don’t have access to my collection, so couldn’t easily compare this to the original if I wanted but I decided not to search it out online as it doesn’t matter if this is true to the original as that actually doesn’t matter. Does this stand up in its own right as a collection of music? Well, the answer to that has to be a definite “yes”. We have the original album extended with some additional Wyatt tracks, including the one which has always been my personal favourite, ‘Shipbuilding”. I can’t imagine that song being performed by anyone other than Wyatt, yet the combination of strident guitar and Greaves’ vocals with superb harmonies by Barbazza rally brings it into a modern age, yet still with passion and emotion of a time gone by. That is the one time where the duo leave the classical musicians to have a break and do it all on their own, and the additional space in the arrangement definitely works for that number, but the rest of the time the use of classically-trained musicians providing strings, woodwind and keyboards adds to the effect. I am not sure what hardcore Wyatt fans may think of this, but I believe it to be a wonderful interpretation of his most famous work. One that fans of progressive classical music can enjoy on face value, while it should also be sought out by those who know the original. This has had a limited release on both CD and vinyl so seek it out while you still can.

Progtector: October 2019

Related Links:

North Sea Radio Orchestra Dark Companion


ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages