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Kevin Ayers - Bananamour CD (album) cover


Kevin Ayers


Canterbury Scene

3.18 | 46 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars This Kevin Ayers album is not quite as gorgeous as the two it's sandwiched between (WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING and THE CONFESSIONS OF DR DREAM) but it's definitely worth hearing and contains some superb moments. I'd place it roughly on the same level as SWEET DECEIVER from 1975.

"Don't let it get you down", the opening track, lacks a striking melody, but it is mainly of interest because of its great horn section and the enthusiastic vocals by Doris Troy, Liza Strike and Barry St.John - three names that will sound familiar to anyone who's read the liner notes to THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON.

"Shouting in a bucket blues" is somewhat more original, and lifted to an altogether higher plane by the guitar solos of one Steve Hillage, who was playing lead in Ayers' band at the time. (Mike Oldfield had just left our Kevin to record TUBULAR BELLS).

Things get even more exciting with "When your parents go to sleep", in which the horn section strongly reminds me of Dexy's Midnight Runners, while the lead vocal is taken by Kevin's bass player, Archie Legget, since Kevin (with his warm bass voice) needed someone to sing in the style of Ray Charles.

"Interview" sounds like a foreshadowing of the trippiest moments of DR DREAM. Once again, the sung melody isn't very gripping, but Mike Ratledge's fuzz box organ (with lots of echo), combined with the excellent rhythm section, produces some of the most hallucinatory moments on the album.

The eight-minute "Decadence" is a masterpiece, beyond doubt. On top of delightful guitar arpeggios Kevin sings his ode to Nico, one-time chanteuse with the Velvet Underground, and creator of wonderful albums like CHELSEA GIRLS and DESERTSHORE. To my regret Kevin decides to address Nico as Marlene, 'because it sounds better', something which simply happens to be untrue in my part of the world... But it's interesting to realise that the OTHER great Kevin active in the 1970s (Mr Coyne) also wrote a marvellous song about someone called Marlene, AND collaborated with Robert Wyatt (on Michael Mantler's SILENCE).

Robert Wyatt himself duets with his former bandmate on "Hymn", BANANAMOUR's second highlight. You don't often come across songs as lovely as this one.

"Oh! Wot a Dream", on the other hand, is a not paticularly memorable tribute to Syd Barrett.

The bonus tracks are fun, as long as you don't have objections against "psychedelic reggae" ("Connie on a rubber band") or cod-calypso ("Carribean Moon"). The 2003 re-master includes all the artwork from the original album, including Bob Lawrie's superb banana drawings.

I first discovered Kevin Ayers' music two or three years after BANANAMOUR was released, and I first saw him live in 1980, at Rock Werchter, one of continental Europe's greatest annual festivals. At the start of the concert, Kevin must have felt unsure how his music would go down with such a large audience, but he seemed totally reassured when ardent fans threw bananas on the stage! On that particular occasion, Neil Innes (of Bonzo Dog Band fame) was playing piano for him, and Ollie Halsall lead.

I dedicate this review to the multi-talented Mr. Legget, who died a few years ago.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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