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Kevin Ayers - Joy of a Toy CD (album) cover

JOY OF A TOY

Kevin Ayers

 

Canterbury Scene

3.61 | 71 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars Never able to follow-up the constant touring of Soft Machine , Kevin Ayers quit after a US tour an d the release of the debut album (on which he wrote most notably Why Are We Sleeping and Joy Of A Toy) , he retreated to Ibiza, which was a high point of the Hippie life at the time, and wrote some songs that were to become his first solo album, although more than 18 months interval between the album and the Soft Machine album. Ayers was never a strong workhorse and he will often resort to the easy way out in his career and will miss a chance of really exploiting his talent correctly: all of his albums contains two or three excellent tracks, but also many weaker ones, and I always felt this was the case because he never tried hard enough.

What the first run of albums develops music-wise is some sort of pop that in many case feel a bit shallow, but once in a while, there are tracks that can easily qualify as progressive, and can be called art rock. Shame such tracks are so few, but Kevin can only blame himself. His pop writing skills did earn him a lot of attention and somehow he can be considered the equivalent of the Floyd's Syd Barret in Soft Machine. But for us progheads , the most interest lies in those rarer and proggier tracks, but this album is also one of the earliest released by the ever-important Harvest label and was recorded at the Abbey Road studios. As with Barret's debut album, Ayers benefits from the support of his old group as well as a few stellar guest appearances Tait (From Pete Brown's Battered Ornaments) and David Bedford who arranged the album. An impressive array of instruments were used for the album including piccolos, celeste, oboes, kazoos and cellos, but the whole thing remains quite popish.

The album takes its name from the SM track on the debut album, but the opening track on this album does hold the same charm, as does most of the first side of the album - although Town Feeling and Song For Insane Times are interesting. One must wait until Stop This Train (Again Doing It) - Ratledge pulls in some excellent organ lines - and then a first version of one of his most enduring track Lady Rachel, for us progheads to raise an eyebrow and take notice. Honourable mention for Oleh, Oleh Bandu, also with its offbeat piano.

The album now under its remastered version hold a few bonus tracks (one with Barret helping out on vocals) but except for very interesting later versions of Lady Rachel, they hold few interest as they are repeated over and most have been released on his Odd Ditties 76 compilation album. A historically important album, this is maybe the only reason why I round up this debut album to the upper third star, but it is hardly essential for progheads - as is usual for most of Ayers's solo albums.

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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