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Kevin Ayers - Songs for the Insane Times - An Anthology 1969-1980 CD (album) cover


Kevin Ayers

Canterbury Scene

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4 stars Kevin Ayers, one of the key figures in the Canterbury scene, formerly of Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine. "His talent is so acute you could perform a major eye surgery with it", John Peel is cited in this anthology. Ayers is known for his careless attitude towards, well, towards everything I guess, and it's said he haven't used his talent to the full. Maybe so, I don't know, but there's hardly a better place to get into his music than this 4-CD set. A lion's share of the contents of his (often very brief) albums, plus single tracks, between 1969 and 1980 is spread over three CD's while the fourth disc is the previously unreleased "After The Show" concert in The Queen Elizabeth Hall in 1973. And the leaflet's essay gives you a clear picture of his career. Also positive is the chronological and informative running of the tracks.

All this is enough to give this a good rating as a compilation, forgiving the fact that some of his music included here too is either irritating cheek-in-tongue thing or boringly overlong. The latter description fits for example to 11 and 16-minute live versions of Soft Machine - originated numbers 'We Did It Again' and 'Why Are We Sleeping'. The whole concert (CD 4) is a bit marred by a strangely slow way of finishing one song and starting the next one. The concert's sound quality and the playing itself are pretty good. For fans it surely makes this package more desirable. For me it wasn't a big deal as the most of the tracks are already included in the compilation.

Ayers' debut album Joy Of A Toy seems to be the best, with six songs included here. 'Religious Experience (Singing a Song in the Morning)' from the same year was recorded with Syd Barrett. Later Ayers dedicated the song 'Oh! Wot a Dream' to Barrett. I noticed that the album Confessions of Dr Dream is better rated in PA than other albums (but Ayers haven't got too many ratings yet); maybe it's the proggiest or something, but the longish - and one 55 seconds long - outtakes from it didn't please me much. In the later albums (such as Rainbow Takeaway or That's What You Get, Babe) the material gets less interesting in general but still offer some fine tracks.

In total, whether or not you have heard Ayers' solo material before, at least as a friend of witty Canterbury scene you'll find lots to enjoy here and maybe get charmed by this highly talented free spirit. His collaborators include e.g. Soft Machine members, David Bedford and young Mike Oldfield. (By the way, Ayers sung the song 'Flying Start' in Oldfield's 1987 album Islands.)

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Posted Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Review Permalink

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