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Kevin Ayers - The Unfairground CD (album) cover


Kevin Ayers


Canterbury Scene

2.90 | 17 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars After a hiatus of I don't know how many years, Kevin Ayers returned, to the delight of all Canterbury freaks (not to mention those from Whitstable!) with an intriguing, and at times very strong, solo album. THE UNFAIRGROUND was praised to the skies in the music mag MOJO and the remainder of the British press, but as a long-time Ayers fan I cannot help feeling a little disappointed. While I would still urge any Ayers lover to acquire a copy, the album never reaches the celestial heights of WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING or THE CONFESSIONS OF DR DREAM.

It's one thing to write songs about old age (an admirable thing; far too many rockers present themselves as perpetual adolescents) but it's another when your voice simply lacks the energy (and fails to reach the high notes) to perform the material with which you're trying to wow the listener! Of the first four tunes on THE UNFAIRGROUND, at least three fail to make much of an impression. On both "Only heaven knows" and "Friends and strangers" Ayers sounds tired and uninspired. Moreover, the tunes themselves merely recycle familiar Ayers ditties from the past. On "Cold Shoulder" Robert Wyatt appears to deliver some rather random background vocals (back in the 1970s, all Ayers-Wyatt duets were heavenly) but, strangely enough, this hardly has any impact.

Fortunately, from the fifth track onwards things start looking up, and the album then remains strong, all the way to the end. "Shine a light" is a charming lovesong, and "Wide awake" an urgent uptempo song (Ayers finally catches fire!) while "Baby come home" is an instant classic: a beguiling duet with the gorgeous Bridget St. John, who last appeared on an Ayers album three decades ago, and who will be familiar to Floyd fans as well. On "Brainstorm" Kevin captures the mood of classic English psychedelia, on "Unfairground" he 'does' a Lou Reed (very convincingly, too!) and "Run, run, run" is yet another catchy pop song with a superb and irresistible chorus.

Make no mistake: Kevin Ayers was always the "pop" element in Soft Machine, and on THE UNFAIRGROUND he reaffirms himself as an elegant balladeer. You simply can't expect sophisticated twenty-minute suites from him anymore. This album provides just six short tracks of truly exceptional quality, but if you care for Kevin and really want to know how he's doing, that's probably sufficient.

fuxi | 3/5 |


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