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Kevin Ayers - Sweet Deceiver CD (album) cover


Kevin Ayers

Canterbury Scene

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Easy Livin
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Contains some Goodies

Kevin Ayers first few albums are considered by his followers to be his best. There is a general feeling that after he left the Harvest label and moved to Island, his output become more mainstream, and therefore less worthy. He is regularly accused of becoming lazy, and underachieving.

Such criticism does in some instances have a certain validity, but in general terms it is blinkered and unfair. There's no denying that albums such as "Sweet deceiver", his last recording for Island before returning to Harvest, are lighter and more accessible than his SOFT MACHINE related work, but seen for what they are they are still valid works.

A cursory look at the line up here will reveal that a certain Elton John plays piano on three of the tracks, although it must be remembered that while his star was rapidly rising, he was far from being the superstar he subsequently became.

"Sweet deceiver" consists of nine diverse tracks. Side one of the LP is slightly the more progressive, with four tracks. The opening "Observations" immediately features Ayers' rich distinctive voice, some modest changes of pace, and a decent guitar break. "Toujours la voyage" is a slower ballad with gentle lyrics and another fine vocal performance. Elton John's piano work here contrasts well with Ayers' guitar. The other tracks which feature Elton are "Guru banana", which sounds extremely similar to THE GOODIES "Funky Gibbon" single released the same year, and "Circular letter" where John's piano is the dominant feature of a lightweight, throwaway number.

"Once upon an ocean" continues the frivolity with a "Dreadlock holiday" (10CC) like calypso, but the closing track "Farewell again" restores order in a smooth, singer- songwriter sort of way.

Had Ayers' had enough material to make side two of the LP match the quality of the first, we could have been talking of a superior album here. As it is, we have a reasonably entertaining if unchallenging album, which is worthy of investigation but is far from essential.

Report this review (#78210)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars SWEET DECEIVER contains some of Kevin Ayers' most delightful songs, as well a number of forgettable ditties.

The cabaret-like "Guru Banana" must be one of the jolliest critiques of 1960s-1970s counterculture ever conceived. As so often with Kevin, the lyrics are fun and highly perceptive, e.g. "Who's the one with the smile on his face / says he's gonna save all the human race / He laughs a lot as he climbs to fame / Now what's his name? / Guru Banana! / Yeah, that's me and I'll show you the light / I know the answers and they're all right / 'cause I'm divine and you could be the same / Now what's my name? / Guru Banana!" Beatles freaks will notice the song is similar in theme to "Sexy Sadie", but with Ayers you can at least sing along - a great advantage!

"Toujours le voyage" is a lush ballad, somewhat similar to the gorgeous title track of WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING. It's one of Kevin's most seductive odes to a beautiful and adorable woman, featuring a first-rate piano solo by no other than Mr. Elton John!

"Once upon an ocean" (about partying on a sinking ship) is a cheerful faux-calypso tune; probably the only Canterbury Scene song that was covered in French by a Flemish singer (Johan Verminnen) in the late 1970s. I wonder if that cover version is still available, but anyway, Verminnen's conventional voice can't hold a candle to Ayers' rich bass...

Finally, "Farewell again" shows you a rather pensive Kevin in samba mood: incredibly charming, and with great acoustic guitar by Ollie Halsall.

The remainder of SWEET DECEIVER may not be first rate, but it's definitely not irritating either. So if you like Kevin, and you happen to come across this album in any shape (it has appeared, I believe, as part of a 2-disc Island collection), snap it up - you won't regret it.

Report this review (#125315)
Posted Sunday, June 10, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

Even if THE CONFESSIONS OF DR DREAM garnered some critical acclaim and praise from the fans and the ''specialized '' press, the album once again failed to chart.Island records tried to help KEVIN AYERS the best they could with the JUNE 1, 1974 concert LP release but the commercial results were rather disappointing.A last attempt would be made to reverse the fortunes of Kevin and everybody concerned from the artist to the Island records staff would try their best to finally succeed.

And then, came SWEET DECEIVER!! Let's be honest! this is not AYERS at his artistic best! I won't say thisi is blatant commercialism as it seems nothing from the ex-SOFT MACHINE member can be remotely commercial as Kevin songs are so particular and would never be suited for the tastes of a mass audience. However, SWEET DECEIVER is the closest attempt at presenting a more polished version of KEVIN AYERS trying to sound a little bit more mainstream.

First, let's start with the cover! The physical looks of Kevin could never been mistaken with the ones from HUGH HOPPER or ELTON DEAN for example as he is represented on the cover as some kind of Appolo who would melt the hearts of every teenage girl passing by.We were at the time when ''Glam'' music was very popular, BRYAN FERRY , DAVID BOWIE or MARC BOLAN ruling the charts with their good looks,chic clothes singing nice refined art rock songs.

So why not KEVIN AYERS? He had the looks, an assuming personality and was able to compose all these nice 'chic' songs which could put him on top of the glam scene as well with the others. Sadly it would never happened as SWEET DECEIVER still won't leave a mark on the market, thus sadly ending the collaboration between AYERS and Island records .

As usual as on any AYERS records we have the good and the inconsequential. I don't use the word bad, because there are really no bad songs, but rather silly ditties or a very simplistic approach at composing some of them. SWEET DECEIVER is a perfect example of that with songs shooting at so many different directions with no unity whatsoever except for the voice of K.AYERS .

The album opens by some kind of part-hard-rocking ,part ballad tune OBSERVATIONS, very typical nice AYERS melody cut by a very aggressive, but great guitar solo from his new pal OLLIE HALSHALL. The odd ditties starts with the next track GURU BANANA. The title gives you an idea what to expect; a funny song KEVIN has composed so many this kind in the past, sure to put a smile on your face but that stops here.

CITY WALTZ showcases very well the 2 sides of the artistic creativity of KEVIN: the good one with a beautiful melody RAY DAVIES from the KINKS would have been proud of with also a beautiful guitar theme and nice accordion, but it has to be destroyed by rather very childish , silly choruses which break the nice flow of this song

TOUJOURS LA VOYAGE is a .....long, very long ballad; this is nice, very sweet ,good piano playing, great fluid guitar solos,but i think the melody is kind of average, very ''crooner' style,you know like these guys singing in a a chic lounge with a bow-tie and a pianist behind them.And at over 8mns it drags quite a bit at the end!!

Side 2 opens with the upbeat title track, which i am sure was possibly seen as a potential ''hit'' by the people at Island records but sadly to no result. Pleasant tune MCCARTNEY could have come up with, but we are far from LADY RACHEL!. DIMINISHED BUT NOT FINISHED is one of those short sweet typical AYERS ballad, very romantic and enjoyable. The KEVIN AYERS we like, the charming troubadour.

CIRCULAR LETTER is just a track you forget as soon it's over! as i said earlier, it's not bad but rather a non-descript tune with no particular melody. Next once again, we go back to the islands KEVIN loves so much, this time will be a real calypso making you feel you are in the carribeans indeed. Need some sun in your grey environment?? play ONCE UPON AN OCEAN! Definitely nothing prog here. The last song FAREWELL AGAIN is rather uneventful, nothing close to the great songs AYERS could come up with in the past.

I haven't mentioned yet the presence of a big superstar playing on this album as everything was planned to make sure this album would succeed. ELTON JOHN, no less guests on many tracks with his piano and i have to admit he helps a lot to save the album from mediocrity. His playing is very creative, just listen to him on TOUJOURS LA VOYAGE or CIRCULAR LETTER for example, he is the one who make these songs listenable, not great but at least he is the one who provides the goodies and the patience to go through.

If you are new to KEVIN AYERS, please don't start with SWEET DECEIVER; this is an attempt from Kevin and the staff from Island records at becoming 'mainstream' or at least closer, but once again that was meant not to be.SWEET DECEIVER is only for collectors, guys like me, i guess!


Report this review (#138600)
Posted Sunday, September 16, 2007 | Review Permalink
3 stars Sweet Deceiver is another whole story.....perhaps one of his most mis-understood albums. Without question this is a bizzarre album with very little continuity and does feel like it spans a wide range of themes, moods and ideas. But that is what Ayers actually intended and what makes this album so effective for me. The beauty in kevin Ayers music is that it works on two levels...the immediate and then at a depth that you wont get from many artists. Listen carefully to the slightly Franco-tinged "Toujours La Voyage" will hear lots of Pink Floyd mixed with Leonard Cohen. Completely amazing ....
Report this review (#223937)
Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 | Review Permalink

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