Robert's first solo album is one of the crazier you'll get to hear on this site, especially so early in the chronology of the prog movement. Outside some Experimental Zappa albums in the late 60's, you'll be hard pressed to find a rock persona that managed such a "difficult" album especially for a debut album. This album is to be approached with great care, and must only be listened to when in the mood for some really depressive music ala Rock Bottom. If I speak of Robert's second album, that happened after his accident, TEOAE was released as he was still in Soft Machine (between Third and 4) some three years before RB.
With TEOAE, his music was certainly a step ahead of the group "that was making him so miserable", partly because on this album, Robert gets to exercise his scat vocals as much as he pleases (not the case in SM), and believe he catches up on lost time, as he signs: "out of work pop singer, currently on drums with SM". Self produced (with a quite interesting artwork), very aptly-titled and issued on the same Columbia label as SM, you can bet these piques did not smooth out the difference with his other partners. Robert speaks in all admiration of almost pure jazz avant-gardist in the liner notes, such as McGregor, Keith Tippet, Mongezi Fiza and friend Gary Windo, and his music goes to some point as far as these people's works. He might have mentioned Colemen or the post-Ascension Coltrane as well.
Recorded with some "Canterbury" friends (most well known, but some lesser family members: Cyril Ayers, Marl Ellidge as well), TEOAE is a really difficult album to get into, because of the nature of the dissonant music developed everywhere on the album, an early sign of Robert's future lunacy in his music some three years later.
Starting on the LV Tango (a Gil Evans "tune"), Robert gives his voice the full work-over over crazy un-metered percussions, his brother's dissonant piano (I think Mark Ellidge is his brother), and he lets his voice run wildly all over and around your brains while drumming up a storm. While there are completely nutty moments, the music keeps a certain beauty behind its chaotic nature and the track ends superbly after well over 8 mins of madness. The short Can-like Mark Everywhere track drives a crazy rhythm and ends in space whispers. Equally short and strange is Saintly Bridget (the folk singer B. St John), driven over an inventive Giles-like drum pace, cornetist Mark Charig and saxman Elton dean pull out mad horn sounds, while Whitehead would silence-out most Hopper unconditionals on bass. The next track is dedicated to Gongheads Daevid and Gilly (called Oz aliens), while the closing To Nick Everyone (Evans, former SM) sounds like a taunt, and this might be the album's most difficult track and it's overstaying its welcome by four or five minutes. On the flipside, the opener is dedicated to Caravan and Brother Jim, and it proves to be the album's more conventional track, a welcome rest through the exhausting trip in Wyatt's brains. The binary rhythm has a hypnotic quality that allows the piano shooting its note from the machine gun. Old World is a bizarre ambient percussion track, while Carla, Marsha And (the infamous) Caroline is a weird minimalist trip with the piano and organ keeping the whole thing sane, because the percussions, devices and other affects are certainly not doing it. Closing on a reprise of the LV Tango, where Robert not only matches the madness on the first version, but easily surpasses himself in this second part. While the album can't be reduced to a Las Vegas Tango sandwich (the album's centre pieces are just as worthy), it is clear that they do represent Robert's vengeance to SM's imposition on his hushing up.
Certainly this is the kind of album that fell upon the ears of future-RIO kings across the planet of rock music, this album is definitely not for everyone, but every RIO-head should get a load of it. And if rock Bottom was an easy digestion, TEOAE shouldn't be that much more difficult, even if the musical dimension is very different, but the madness and lunacy are the same. Essential and influential.