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Kevin Ayers - Shooting at the Moon CD (album) cover

SHOOTING AT THE MOON

Kevin Ayers

Canterbury Scene


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5 stars This man is a genius (altough he likes to spend a lot of his time in sunny islands, with a glass of good wine!). In the begining he was a founding member of the Wilde Flowers (the "e" is a tribute to Oscar) and Soft Machine, then he left, after only an album..and the influences of that period are clearly still present in this album, "Shooting at the moon" . There's almost no connection between the songs, and you can find a huge variety of different moods on this album.

1. May I? - Maybe the most famous song of KA, it's a romantic ballad, with a great bass line, it's about a meeting with a beautiful lady. "You don't have to say a thing You're the song without the sing". There is also a nice French version in the Bonus Tracks, and this language fits perfectly the words of the song. You feel like you are walking on a traditional French road, with a man playing the accordion and a small cafè to relax. A classic and elegant song.

2. Rheinhardt & Geraldine/Colores Para Delores - A good song, with some digressions in the middle, like radio noises, but then you are back in the rhythm of the song.Great drumming by Fincher. Outstanding song.

3. Lunatics Lament - It is a parody of a Rock 'n' Roll song (first line: "Rock and roll !! Rrrrrrrrrr!!").You can strongly hear the acid guitar played by a very young Mike Oldfield. All the instruments are well played, especially bass and guitar (fantastic guitar solo, one of the best ever, nice work Mike). One of the outstanding tracks.

4. Pisser Dans un Violon - What can I say more than experimentation? Sometimes it becomes a bit boring. Noisy and dissonant sounds all along the track. Relaxing and interesting, anyway.

5. The Oyster and the Flying Fish - A funny and lively song, with an enjoyable and catchy refrain. "Ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, La la la la la la la la". Beautiful vocals by Ayers and Bridget St. John.

6. Underwater - Same story as "Pisser dans un violon". That's what I mean when I said "huge variety of different moods". Happy and pleasant songs in contrast with "sad" experimentation. You really feel like you are under the sea.

7. Clarence in Wonderland - Here we find some references to 2 subjects: "having a good time" and "wine", wich would be praised also in "Whatevershebringswesing" . The song itself is quite good, and it makes you think about the sea and the sand. Nice rhythm.

8. Red Green and You Blue - Beautiful prog song with great saxes by Lol Coxhill (really a nice sax solo), one of the best song on the album.

9. Shooting at the Moon - The title track is fantastic (and very "prog"). It has some reminesciences of a Soft Machine track, "Jet Propelled Photograph", or better to say it is the same song revisited in a better and longer way. The first part is short and consists a few words sung by Ayers, the second part is almost a main jig played by all the instruments, bass guitar, sax, guitar.. It's very evocative, fast and sometimes "dark". The third part is a reprise of the beginning, with Ayers voice filtered and "acid". At the end of the song there is a big and endless SHOT (like a sound of GUNSHOT) . The song is full of Canterbury elements.

P.S. : The Bonus Track version is very good, and contains some Ayers classics, like the romantic Jolie Madame or the speedy Butterfly Dance (good song really).

Kevin Ayers was the soul of the first nucleus of Soft Machine, he embodies the English "dandy" spirit of those time, he is THE music Bohémien. On this album, and in general, his voice is warm, romantic and melodic, and he his a great composer. This album is an excellent addition to your collection, a must have and a masterpiece of the Canterbury scene. On this album Ayers plays with The Whole World, in which there are some of the best future musicians ever (Mike Oldfield, David Bedford). Five stars.

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Send comments to CrazyDiamond (BETA) | Report this review (#44369)
Posted Friday, August 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
4 stars Kevin's second solo album is clearly his best album as far as progheads should be concerned , but it is also maybe the best attempt he made at forming a group. What a line-up also: David Bedford, Mike Oldfield, Lol Coxhill (one of those real weird and crazy figures of the early 70's on sax) and Fincher might really have felt like the Whole World. Sadly after a few tours, this line-up would not last until the next album.

Even if there are ten song titles and just four tracks on this album (although some are more collages of tracks rather suites), it will be easy to see for progheads, that this is where Ayers lived up the his Soft Machine Heritage best even if it is also the only one of his early albums where he got no help from his old mates (if you do not count Wyatt's chorus contribution on one song). The first track (a 9 min affair) holds two of his most enduring tracks May I and Colores Para Dolores separated by some seriously weird but inventive studio doodlings and a no-less inventive Reinhardt bit which might be Ayers's most Canterbury-esque moments since he left the Machine. The second track, the almost 13 min Lunatic Lament with its crazed guitar lines (you never heard Oldfield this rough before or since) and Kevin's madman yellings is a real stunner and IMHO, Ayer's career apex. Coxhill and Bedford shows us a thing or two in the following few atonal minutes (I suspect that this is where Bedford made his biggest impact on this group - listen to his album Star's End for a quick peek into his musically forays) in Pisser Dans Un Violon (Piss in A Violin), which actually hold no violin, but sounds like one achingly complaining about the treatment the title suggests.

The 4-part third track (12 min+) starts with one of those silly ditties Ayers is so reputed for before plunging Underwater with Oldfield and Coxhill bon the verge of sanity, before returning to a Syd Barret-like tune before digressing into a sax- dominated parade of colors. Truly a worthy listening experience although not suitable for the fragile minds. The title track is the only self-standing track on the album, but it does not need any help to be the highlight of the album, as it is simply a stunning close to a stunning album

It seems as though at this point, that Ayers was on the verge of forming a solid group base that would make musical groundbreaking a second nature, but sadly for characterial reasons, the group would implode before they recorded the next studio album, even if Bedford and Oldfield would help out further. There is a BBC recording of this line-up in concert, and to this reviewer, it might just be the best Ayers album coupled with this studio.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#62646)
Posted Sunday, January 01, 2006 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Out of character

Of all Kevin Ayers albums this is by far the most difficult to pin down, as it is much more diverse and challenging than the rest of his output. The reason for this is however obvious, this is not a Kevin Ayers album, it is by a band called Kevin Ayers and the Whole World. When you realise that The Whole World consists of David Bedford, Lol Coxhill, Mick Fincher and a certain Mike Oldfield, it starts to make sense why this album should be unique.

While Ayers is credited as the songwriter throughout, a number of the tracks or sections here are clearly band collaborations. I say "sections" since there are just four tracks in total on the album, with three of those tracks being made up of two or more distinctive sections. In reality, there is little to hold these sections together, and the album could have consisted of 10 separate tracks.

A couple of those sections fall neatly into line with the folky whimsical material which dominates most of Ayers' albums. " The Oyster and the Flying Fish", which features harmony vocals by the wonderful Bridget St John, and "Clarence in Wonderland" are both part of the same track and fall into this category.

On the other side of the fence, we have the freeform noises and sounds of "Pisser Dans un Violin" and "Underwater". These may help to give the album the progressive tag it undoubtedly warrants, but they are very much an acquired taste, and do not satisfy my palate. The first part of the track which concludes with "Pisser Dans un Violin", entitled "Lunatics Lament", however is a loud stonking rock track, which sees a youthful Mike Oldfield savaging his guitar in a way he has never really done since.

The final (title) track at first appears to be another "Lunatic lament" with distorted vocals, and hard lead guitar, but it quickly wanders off into SOFT MACHINE (Thirds) territory. The various lead instruments appear to be doing their own thing independently while an annoyingly repetitive theme drags them along. After the rock theme returns, a more orthodox keyboards passage restores order, and the album closes with a dramatic explosion.

For many, this is Kevin Ayers finest album. There is no denying that he is at his most experimental and eclectic here, but for me the results are something of a mixed bag. The uninitiated should approach with caution.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#87182)
Posted Monday, August 14, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars #1 May I::::::::: Samples of cars; rythm guitar fades in, strong bass with Ayers deep voice. Very mellow way to start the album off. Great horns throughout the song. Samples of cars once again to end the song.

#2 Rheinhardt & Geraldine::::::::::: The first thing that struck me about this song is the bass; incredible. The best part of the song is when ayers voice comes in. The lyrics are good, and the horns are good as well. Then there are song cool effects that come out of nowhere sounds kinda like Revolution #9 On The Beatles 1968 White Album. Then after things come back to normal, there is song great jamming, and strong lyrics once again. The song is 5:43min.

#3 Lunatics Lament:::::::::: Pretty good rock'n'roll song, sounds like Ayers voice is distorted. Some good keyboard action as well. Great guitar solo during the song also. The end is pretty crazy.

#4 Pisser Dans Un Violon::::::::::::8mins of pure psychedelic psychosis. One of the highlights of the album, for me anyway.

#5 The Oyster & The Flying Fish:::::::::::: A Duet with Bridget St. John (Songs for the Gentle Man). I think Kevin Ayers voice in a it's best in this song.

#6 Underwater:::::::::::4mins of pure psychedelic psychosis. Another highlight on the album.

#7 Clarence In Wonderland::::::::::: Short & weird is how I would decribe this song,makes direct references to drinking wine , great horns too.

#8 Red Green & You Blue:::::::::::::: Soft mellow. Great sax (Lol Coxhill) , and bass. Jazzy drums and soft tender voice. I also like the keyboards that you can hear softly in the background as well.

#9 Shooting At The Moon:::::::::::::: This songs pretty much takes off and starts fairly quick. Good song, very weird, might even be considered "trippy". Once again great saxophone playing by Lol Coxhill, who is known as a free improvising saxophonist who also played on 1984 by Hugh Hopper. This song has a good Canterbury feel to it.

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Send comments to Jake E. (BETA) | Report this review (#137471)
Posted Sunday, September 09, 2007 | Review Permalink
febus
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam
3 stars KEVIN AYERS GOING EXPERIMENTAL! SORT OF!

One year after his first solo album the very pastoral old-England JOY OF A TOY, KEVIN AYERS came back with a different band and a different musical formula.The old friends from SOFT MACHINE were quite busy jazzing with THIRD, only ROBERT WYATT would help with some backing vocals on one track. KEVIN decided to assemble his own band THE WHOLE WORLD featuring some CANTERBURY dignitaries such as pianist/great arranger DAVID BEDFORD, saxophonist LOX COXHILL, drummer MICK FINCHER and a totally then unknown 18 years old guitarist named ......-pre-TUBULAR BELLS- MIKE OLDFIELD.

SHOOTING AT THE MOON is regarded as the most progressive album of KEVIN AYERS with just reason as the singer besides his trademark sweet ballads goes into experimental territory bringing back some old psychedelic elements from the good old times of early SOFT MACHINE. Does it mean we are for a real good progressive treat? not really as some of those ''avant guard' trips, maybe they were fun listening to them back then, but i have to admit, it sounds very dated now and i don't see the enjoyment going through the 8 mn-something of''PISSER DANS UN VIOLON''.

This track is just a waste of vinyl (back then )in my opinion as it is just a collage of noise with no theme or melody whatsoever. I know some prog lovers like this kind of disjointed ''music'', but that rather sounds old for me in this new millenium.If we would have only one ''experimental'' track , would be OK, but that's not enough, i guess, because we are treated to another sonic ''exploration'' with UNDERWATER where Kevin let his finger have fun with one of his bass chord and the rest of the band ''plays'' around.

Thanks god, the good moments still overshadows those ''progressive'' moments. KEVIN AYERS came back with some of his typical sweet tender songs, all of them beautifully arranged by the great DAVID BEDFORD! The album opens with one of his greatest songs,the well known ''MAY I"", a delicate ballad with a gorgeous sax solo only Kevin can write. RHEINHARDT & GERALDINE/COLORES PARA DOLORES is a progressive track, but well constructed and a great melody as the opposite of the aforementioned experimental tracks.

LUNATICS LAMENT is a VERY rock song for a guy like KEVIN AYERS. This is where MIKE OLDFIELD really shines with a rather surprising brutal guitar solo when you know the music MIKE OLDFIELD would come up with, a couple of years later. We are getting also these AYERS usual ditties like the sweet but very simplistic CLARENCE IN WONDERLAND, an old song about the good wine KEVIN already sang back then in 1967 with SOFT MACHINE. BRIDGET STJOHN joins Kevin for a duet on THE OYSTER AND THE FLYING FISH, you know,..the ouh!la la song, fun but not essential listening.

The album ends up with the title track which like RHEINHARDT & GERALDINE gets adventurous, but in a good way. At least there is a structure to the song, even if it is a wild one, but pleasant. SHOOTING AT THE MOON is an album going in multiple directions (like any other AYERS releases anyway), sometimes too much making this album not as enjoyable to listen to as much as JOY OF A TOY or the next one WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING!That's only my opinion as SHOOTING AT THE MOON is usually well praised.

This band THE WHOLE WORLD won't last long as their concerts were quite chaotic, KEVIN AYERS not being the least responsible for that as many times he came on stage ''under heavy influence'' and visibly he couldn't perform properly. I witnessed one of those concerts on TV, believe me, it was a total disaster. But those were the times.

My CD version comes with a few bonus tracks including a few pearls like a french-sung version of MAY I ..PUIS JE or another French ditty, the sweet JOLIE MADAME.....AYERS as its best. GEMINI CHILD is also one of his typical great tender ballad. Those bonus tracks saw the light first time on ODDITIES, a never released before-tracks compilation album in 1976. I don't want to talk about the last bonus track, the famous HAT, one of the most silliest song i EVER heard in my entire life:''you like my hat, you like my clothes, but why don't you like me???......) and the music.....oh my god! I can't believe this track found a way to feature on a KEVIN AYERS Best-of album. Unbelievable!! I am sure a great wine party was going on when they decided on what tracks to put on this best-of.

SHOOTING AT THE MOON is an average recording with some highs, but also a few lows, so my rating will be average as well: 2.5 stars plus a half one for the bonus tracks.

3 STARS

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Send comments to febus (BETA) | Report this review (#138247)
Posted Friday, September 14, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars As they point out on the "Wayside Music" site, this album is a mixture of Pop, Free Jazz and Avant-garde, a cocktail that hasn't been mixed this way since. It's wild hearing a young Mike Oldfield just ripping it up on his guitar on "Lunatics Lament". He plays a lot of bass on this album as well. I just find a lot of this music so charming and enjoyable while other songs challenge me as a listener. Some real gems in the bonus tracks as well. This is my favourite Kevin Ayers record.

"May I ?" is one of those charming songs. I just like the way he tells a story as he sings. Words like "May I sit and stare at you for a while." "Rheinhardt & Geraldina / Colores Para Delores" features keys, bass, sax and then drums join in as it builds. I like the first 2 1/2 minutes then it sounds like someone is changing the radio stations really fast for a whole minute ! Annoying. Original melody returns though. "Lunatics Lament" opens with drums as some raw guitar then vocals come in. Sounds great. Oldfield then lets go with a guitar solo 2 minutes in that ends 3 1/2 minutes in ! Vocals and that catchy melody then return. Some yelling and carrying on follow.

"Pisser Dans Un Violon" is an experimental track that lasts for 8 minutes. It starts to get dark and haunting 1 1/2 minutes in. No melody as different sounds come and go until Mike comes in on lead guitar after 7 1/2 minutes lighting it up to end it. "The Oyster And The Flying Fish" opens with male and female vocals with strummed guitar. Percussion comes in. "ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la, ooh la la". "Underwater" opens with some atmosphere. Deep bass sounds before a minute. Some guitar sounds too. The title of this song is fitting. "Clarence In Wonderland" was written by Ayers on a beach when he went on holidays with Daevid Allen in 1966. Another good story telling song. "Red Green And You Blue" is mostly vocals, sax and percussion. Nice sax solo from Coxhill 2 1/2 minutes in. "Shooting At The Moon" has a sixties flavour to it. I like it.Deep Zappa-like vocals a minute in. Sax, bass and drums are prominant(they just jam) until the vocals come back 5 minutes in.

This is an album I will want to hear again and again. It has character.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#178131)
Posted Friday, July 25, 2008 | Review Permalink
fuxi
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Back in the days when there was nothing but LPs and tapes, I didn't play this album very often. Compared to its immediate successors it seemed underwhelming. But the remastered CD (with bonus tracks) from 2002 turns it into something very special. Those old relaxed and easy ditties (e.g. "May I", "The Oyster and the Flying Fish", "Clarence in Wonderland") sound clearer than ever, and Kevin's duet with Bridget St. John on "The Oyster..." is a wonder. On the other hand, the harsher rock tunes shine more brightly as well, since now you can hear all that sonic detail better than ever. The great surprise here is Mike Oldfield's electric guitar solo (mean but masterly) on "Lunatics Lament". Makes you wonder what sparks would have flown if Mike had stayed on, as star soloist in a conventional rock band!

Both "Pisser dans un Violon" and "Underwater" are experimental pieces (without vocals) which would feel right at home on a 1972/1973 King Crimson album. They're rather low key (does Kevin play lead guitar as well as bass?) but now that I can finally hear them without crackle or scratches, I enjoy them just as much as some of those fabled Fripp-Wetton-Cross-Bruford improvs! Perhaps we should finally acknowledge Kevin for being the innovator he was clearly trying to be.

What turns this album into a four star one, though, is the addition of the delightful bonus material. "Puis-je" is identical to "May I", only the vocal is in French this time, and Kevin's ad-libbing during the sax solo always brings a smile to my face: you hear him muttering that he just wants to sit next to the lovely girl in the cafe and admire her beauty; he doesn't want to get "entre tes reins tout de suite". (A mischievous hint at a ballad by a certain S. Gainsbourg which was a huge international hit at the time, despite being banned by the Vatican!) "Butterfly Dance" delightfully foreshadows the opening of WHATEVERSHEBRINGSWESING, and "Jolie Madame" (another duet with Bridget St. John) is one of the loveliest ballads Kevin has ever committed to vinyl.

All in all, SHOOTING AT THE MOON is a near-masterpiece, and in its most recent incarnation I'd call it "not to be missed".

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Send comments to fuxi (BETA) | Report this review (#258602)
Posted Thursday, December 31, 2009 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The sole album featuring Kevin's short-lived touring band, The Whole World, is a dizzy world tour veering through gentle Ayers pop on the one hand (Clarence In Wonderland, May I?) to interesting avant-garde instrumentals such as Underwater and Pisser Dans Un Violon - the instrumentals showing the influence of recent Soft Machine experiments as well as early Floyd and musique concrete. The songs themselves range from recently-composed material to old archival stuff dating from Kevin's time in the Soft Machine (versions of some of which appear on the Jet Propelled Photographs demos from 1967, back when Daevid Allen was in the group). A confident building on the potential of Ayers' debut, this is definitely one for fans of early Soft Machine and 60s psychedelia.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#468878)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2011 | Review Permalink
Einsetumadur
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars 7/15P.: the totally cumbrous sole album of one of the most promising bands of the Canterbury scene, Kevin Ayers & The Whole World. In the end, Ayers' care-free attitude only works when he has a bunch good songs up his sleeve. He has, but you have to find them in a mess of pseudo-avantgarde garbage. Still, the album features Mike Oldfield's most manic guitar solo ever which is a breeze to listen to.

Ayers' debut album Joy of A Toy was quite a consistent affair. Lots of great songs, great sound effects and featuring David Bedford as a competent arranger. Shooting at the Moon features a wonderful band lineup of a young Mike Oldfield on bass guitar and occasional guitar, Lol Coxhill on electronic and acoustic saxophone, David Bedford on Farfisa Compact organ and Mick Fincher on drums. Sadly, the band isn't as good as it should be. One point is that a Farfisa Compact organ, i.e. the organ which Pink Floyd's Rick Wright used in the early days of Pink Floyd, needs a lot of, let's say, suspectibility from the organ player. You need to find the lovely sounding registrations, and you need to know with which effect you can distort or reverberate the awful sounding registrations so that you can at least play some weird solos on it. David Bedford, who relies on the Compact organ quite heavily on that recording, simply took some arbitrary registrations without thinking a lot about the sound, which in most of the cases sounds terrible. Secondly, the production completely destroys the drum sound which is quite upfront, but sallow.

***Lots of shade...***

So, let's at first sort out the twenty minutes which are (more or less) useless. Some reviewers subsumed the pieces to four long tracks, just like it was meant to be by Ayers, but there's nothing which ties the pieces together; they are completely separate, so I just don't bother about that and talk about them all over the place.

Pisser Dans Un Violon is tout à fait awful and boring from the very first to the last second, except for the part from 5:30 to 6:15 in which the 17-year-old Mike Oldfield plays some folk on his electric guitar with his special finger vibrato; but also this part is flawed by the useless noodling in the background of which the whole piece consists. David Bedford presses random buttons and keys on his organ, Lol Coxhill plays random sax notes through a guitar amp, Kevin Ayers scratches the bass guitar strings with a plectrum and Mick Fincher plays nothing, perhaps knowing that even walking the Abbey Road cross-walk back and forth is even more sensible than participating in such a session. Contrary to Rick Wright's avantgarde work in Sysyphus there is, apart from the guitar part, neither a melody nor a structure in this piece, nor an anarchy in the vein of Muir-era King Crimson which could amaze me. A complete failure, but taking 8 minutes of the running time. Underwater at least conveys a certain atmosphere which in fact really sounds like whales singing. The difference to Pisser Dans Un Violon is that both Bedford and Fincher have a tacet part here. Instead, Oldfield slides on the guitar fret to and fro with a bottleneck while Kevin Ayers manipulates the machine head of his bass guitar as if it was the first time he tuned the bass - double-tracked, of course, with one detuned bass left and one detuned bass right. Dreadful - even Yoko Ono's stuff is more inspired.

Clarence In Wonderland, a Soft Machine classic written by Ayers in 1966, is a really nice song which The Whole World enhanced to a pretty neo-classicistic 10 minutes track with a long intro of intertwined scales (quite like the background bells in the first ten seconds of Pink Floyd's High Hopes), followed by nice saxophone solos in the Velvet Underground like vocal part; I especially like the twisted chord progression of the pre-chorus and the chorus. This studio version, however, is completely strange and the worst version of this piece that I know. Mick Fincher and David Bedford add multi-tracked percussion which are perhaps intended to sound caribbean, but especially Bedford's marimbaphone is never quite on the cue. Recording a choir of multi-tracked soprano saxophones is a nice experiment, too, but I couldn't stand this creaking longer than three minutes. At least it's, apart from the bass guitar, the only instrument playing a melody here. And I do enjoy Miles Davis' Bitches Brew a lot, and this is said to be a really tough listen for non-jazzers.

Shooting At The Moon, a new version of Soft Machine's Jet-Propelled Photographs, begins in a promising way with an inventive 5/8-3/8-12/8 metre, the beginning 8 beats accompanying a jazzy melody and the last 12 beats backed by fairly Byrds-ish jangling guitars. But the lead vocals, sung simultaneously by Oldfield and Ayers, are distorted beyond recognition while the Farfisa organ plays the whole mess in a different key. There's this beautiful saxophone line, the drum rhythm and all those instruments, and while listening to it you get a complete picture in your head how great this piece would sound if it was produced with at least a hint of proper taste. But it isn't, it is complete mayhem and wasted talent. After already one minute the vocal part is over, and that's where the instrumental part starts. The underlying idea of this part is simple but utterly inventive, as well: they take the main riff of the song and stack it over and over, sometimes offset, sometimes a bit slower or a bit faster. The melodies float from the left to the right channel, some distortion and some phasing here and there - really psychedelic and it could be tasteful, but they do exactly the same thing for more than four minutes, which is by far too long. This recording sounds just like a sketch of a quality Canterbury song. It contains everything which you need to construct a master recording of it, but from an artistic point of view it's close to insufferableness. If you stand through it, you are at least rewarded with a cool galloping closing part, a fast waltz in ¾ in fact.

Another useless song, but a song which doesn't count, is the cheesy bonus track Butterfly Dance which starts like the Turtles' So Happy Together and quickly becomes a pop song with a rapid Santana groove, a forgettable lead melody and female backing vocals singing the word butterfly over and over. At least this time the song isn't bad due to failed experimentation, but because the commercial intention cannot be ignored.

***...and some light.***

An example of successful avantgarde is the middle part of Rheinhardt&Geraldine/Colores Para Dolores. The whole song is really good with its cool unpredictable riff, played competently by Mike Oldfield on an occasionally distorted bass - he's an awesome bass player, by the way - and David Bedford on the electric piano. The vocal part of Rheinhardt&Geraldine benefits a lot from these powerful drum accents and the deep voice of Ayers, and Coxhill's creative 'rhythm saxophone' work isn't bad either - a forceful piece of music, indeed. After two minutes the band move over to excessive tape fiddling, mixing up a recording of an orchestra with a recording of manic freak-out of the band. An orchestra fanfare here, paranoid organ sounds there, and that whole orgy of sound pervaded by sudden drum strokes. That's the kind of avantgarde I like since finally there's some turmoil going on. Colores Para Dolores, with Oldfield, Ayers, Robert Wyatt and I-don't-know-who-else singing hymnal backing vocals, appears after the free-form interlude and is even slightly balladesque in its bombastic sound. The lyrics are typical Ayers lyrics and deal with colors and what they mean, or whatever. Pretty cool!

Lunatic's Lament is the best cut on this album. I mean, the hard-rocking stanzas are really good and the vocals, distorted nearly as much as in Shooting at the Moon, sound as mad as they should in such a song, but Mike Oldfield's 90-second guitar solo... it's blazing and intoxicating as hell with that biting lead guitar, frantic string bendings and his characteristic hammer-ons which just don't end. It's the genuine Oldfield styling, but this guy's completely out of his head here, and it's also him who does this proto-metal shouting in the vocal part and in the 50-seconds long free form end. Think Andy Summers' guitar solo in The Animals' Coloured Rain and you know the tone of the Oldfield solo. Still, to get a full impression, you have to think the Summers solo some degrees weirder. In any way Lunatic's Lament is both unique in Ayers' and Oldfield's discography and is a good reason to get this record.

May I?, or Puis Je? in French, is one of Ayers' best-known ballads and has everything it needs. Some strange chord progressions, a beautiful melody, Bedford on accordeon and Coxhill playing a warm and pulsating solo on electric saxophone. The most outstanding contribution though is Mike Oldfield's upfront bass guitar; he doesn't merely play the standard tones, but plays inverted chords and tasteful walking bass lines to guide the band into the next part of the song. You decide if the English or the French version is better; musically they're actually quite the same. And, of course, Ayers' favorite fruit is mentioned again during the saxophone solo; I really wondered how rarely it appears during this album.

Red Green And You Blue is a pretty similarly gorgeous tune, featuring an relaxed bossa-nova like rhythm and finally a pretty tasteful and reedy organ sound. Ayers sings in his most comfortable vocal range, but interestingly his voice sounds more ominous than expected in such a light jazz/pop tune. The saxophone solo, albeit without any electric pick-ups involved, is longer and even a tad better than in May I? and inspires Oldfield to some sweeping bass lines around 2:40. I'm sure that everyone listening to Oldfield around that time must have known that he was going to be one of the big ones of art rock music, particularly since he already played the psychedelic guitar part of Tubular Bells Pt.2 in Whole World performances of Soft Machine's Why Are We Sleeping? around 1971. That's classic Canterbury music, and I wouldn't have minded the album to consist of more of such songs, or at least of more rhythmic avantgarde pieces.

The last two pieces are the Bridget St.John collaborations The Oyster and the Flying Fish and Jolie Madame, the latter rather being a bonus track. The Oyster song, an acoustic folkish stomp with occasionally eccentric chord progressions and the awkward harmonizing of Ayers' bass voice and St.John's counter-tenor, is the song on this record with the most similarities to his Joy of A Toy album. The lyrics reflect about the question if oysters should be allowed to become flying fish, as the two speakers in the song (i.e., an oyster and a flying fish) talk to each other. The arrangement is reduced to acoustic guitar, a honky-tonk piano in the background, tambourine and vocals, and in this context this works out really fine. That's the humorous Ayers I like, and I don't object to this tune in any way. Jolie Madame is a French chanson sung by Ayers and St.John, too. It's actually even more Joy of A Toy with Bedford playing the same piano intro as in Girl On A Swing and composing a beautiful oboe arrangement. Delicate, but ultimately not part of the original album.

The bonus piece Hat is the full-length version of Ayers' quasi-classic piece. To sum it up in a few words it consists of a short and absolutely nonsense text, sung upon a simple boogie chord progression - quite kind of the introductory music of 1960a cartoon TV series. But listening to the band playing through the few verses in many different ways is great fun, in special because everyone sings and shouts and screams - utter madness, but really funny. My particular highlight is Bedford doing the Don Alphonso at the request of Ayers; it's a music hall song which Bedford also performed with Coxhill in 1971 and as a single with Oldfield in 1974. Actually he seems to have played this song over and over already before this recording.

Gemini Child, the single A-side that was sold along with the album, is a decent pop song with really effective harmony vocals by Oldfield and a nice part with dissolved chords before each stanza. Oldfield never was a good singer, but he fits in incredibly with Ayers in the you know damn well parts. The Farfisa organ sounds quite alright, the saxophone plays some counterpoints and there's finally a certain feeling throughout the piece - nothing left to desire regarding a 1970 single.

There's one thing I'm pretty sure of: if you want to get this record, get the expanded version because the bonus tracks are of higher quality than big parts of the original album; skipping the bland tracks and listening through the bonus tracks makes at least about thirty-five minutes of good music. The presence of four really good Ayers songs (May I?, Rheinhardt&Geraldine, Lunatic's Lament and Red Green and You Blue) might be worth the trouble, but if you happen to think about the avantgarde part similarly, you won't entirely like this album, too. All in all I'm forced to give a (really strong) two star rating overall; it might as well be a weak three star rating, but since there are not too many really excellent moments on this record I am going to be strict about it and give the weaker rating. This is quite sad since the album has a really good reputation and since it's the only album Ayers did entirely with this superb line-up.

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Posted Tuesday, May 01, 2012 | Review Permalink

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