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KEVIN AYERS

Canterbury Scene • United Kingdom


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Kevin Ayers biography
A gifted songwriter, guitarist, bassist and singer, Kevin Ayers (16 August 1944 - 18 February 2013) has been flitting in and out of prog throughout his long, languid career. Present at the very beginning of the Canterbury Scene as a key member of the WILDE FLOWERS alongside such Canterbury veterans as Robert Wyatt, Richard Sinclair and Hugh Hopper in 1963, Kevin Ayers was already secured a place in Canterbury history. By 1966 SOFT MACHINE was born, and Kevin Ayers was recruited as a bassist and vocalist for the group. He lasted but one album before deciding he couldn't take the pace of touring, preferring to concentrate on solo efforts. In 1970 a somewhat formal band (The Whole World) was formed to help with Ayers' solo efforts which featured the likes of saxophonist Lol Coxhill and a certain young Mike Oldfield on guitar. Alas, the band was no more by the end of 1971. Ayers continues to play informal gigs as and when and may even swagger into the studio once more, but maintains as much of a laid-back attitude to these activities as his music itself exudes.

For prog fans, the albums "Joy of a Toy", "Shooting at the Moon", "Whatevershebringswesing" and "The Confessions of Dr Dream" are of most interest as they contain reworkings of Ayers' early SOFT MACHINE material as well as copious very proggy pieces ranging drastically in style from lazy ditties to avant-garde sound explorations. After these albums Ayers' work became increasingly song-orientated and acoustic and may hold little fascination for the average progger.

Highly recommended to all Canterbury enthusiasts and lovers of creative and finely crafted songs.


Why this artist must be listed in www.progarchives.com :
The obvious Canterbury connections and excellent progressive material on several albums.


Discography:
Joy of a Toy, studio album (1969)
Shooting at the Moon (With "The Whole World"), studio album (1970)
Whatevershebringswesing, studio album (1972)
Bananamour, studio album (1973)
The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories, studio album (1974)
June 1st, studio album (1974)
Sweet Deciever, studio album (1975)
Odd Ditties, compilation of unreleased material (1976)
Yes We Have No Mananas, studio album (1976)
Rainbow Takeaway, studio album (1978)
That's What You Get Babe, studio album (1980)
Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain, studio album (1983)
As Close As You Think, studio album (1986)
Falling Up, studio album...
read more

Kevin Ayers official website

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Original Album Series - Kevin AyersOriginal Album Series - Kevin Ayers
Import
original album series 2015
Audio CD$9.99
$12.81 (used)
Joy Of A Toy (180 Gram Vinyl)Joy Of A Toy (180 Gram Vinyl)
4 Men With Beards 2012
Vinyl$19.89
$39.99 (used)
Rainbow Takeaway/That's What You Get BabeRainbow Takeaway/That's What You Get Babe
Import
Beat Goes On (BGO) 2011
Audio CD$10.04
$10.03 (used)
The Harvest Years 1969 - 1974The Harvest Years 1969 - 1974
Box set · Remastered · Import
Harvest 2012
Audio CD$12.51
$49.99 (used)
UnfairgroundUnfairground
Import
Lo-Max 2007
Audio CD$17.87
$20.93 (used)
Confessions of Doctor Dream & Other StoriesConfessions of Doctor Dream & Other Stories
Import · Remastered
EMI France 2009
Audio CD$2.65
$2.64 (used)
Yes We Have No MananasYes We Have No Mananas
Import · Remastered
EMI France 2009
Audio CD$4.42
$5.56 (used)
Whatevershebringswesing + 3 Bonus TracksWhatevershebringswesing + 3 Bonus Tracks
Import
Parlophone 2016
Audio CD$8.95
$40.99 (used)
June 1, 1974 (USA 1st pressing vinyl LP)June 1, 1974 (USA 1st pressing vinyl LP)
Island
Vinyl$75.00 (used)
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KEVIN AYERS discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

KEVIN AYERS top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.60 | 91 ratings
Joy of a Toy
1969
3.64 | 63 ratings
Shooting at the Moon
1970
3.61 | 59 ratings
Whatevershebringswesing
1972
3.17 | 44 ratings
Bananamour
1973
3.33 | 39 ratings
The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories
1974
2.80 | 19 ratings
Sweet Deceiver
1975
2.63 | 18 ratings
Yes We Have No Mananas
1976
2.64 | 9 ratings
Rainbow Takeaway
1978
2.22 | 8 ratings
That's What You Get Babe
1980
2.40 | 6 ratings
Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain
1983
3.08 | 3 ratings
Deiā...Vu
1984
3.25 | 4 ratings
As Close As You Think
1986
3.07 | 9 ratings
Falling Up
1988
3.04 | 9 ratings
Still Life With Guitar
1992
2.89 | 15 ratings
The Unfairground
2007

KEVIN AYERS Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.03 | 26 ratings
June 1st,1974
1974
4.04 | 8 ratings
BBC Radio 1 Live In Concert-Kevin Ayers
1992
3.80 | 5 ratings
Singing The Bruise
1996
4.00 | 6 ratings
Too Old To Die Young
1998
3.87 | 4 ratings
Turn The Lights Down!
2000
4.17 | 6 ratings
The BBC Sessions-1970-1976
2005

KEVIN AYERS Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

KEVIN AYERS Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.42 | 7 ratings
Odd Ditties
1976
3.13 | 7 ratings
The Best Of Kevin Ayers
1989
3.10 | 2 ratings
Document Series: Kevin Ayers
1992
4.12 | 6 ratings
Songs For The Insane Times - An Anthology 1969 - 1980
2008

KEVIN AYERS Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

KEVIN AYERS Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Deiā...Vu by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1984
3.08 | 3 ratings

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Deiā...Vu
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

3 stars One of Kevin's most rocking albums (the others being That's What You Get Babe and Yes We Have No Mananas). It's not hard rock or anything, and not prog, but it does show that he could cut loose at times. I think guitarist Ollie Halsall helped contribute towards that.

The fastest song is My Speeding Heart. It kicks the pants off anything from his laid back and slow releases (including The Unfairground). There are several songs with a Caribbean and reggae feel, as is one of his strong points. There's also some humor there as in his earlier career, though it's in a more adult and slightly jaded manner.

Decent rock, with tropical influences.

 Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1983
2.40 | 6 ratings

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Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Boojieboy

2 stars Definitely NOT progressive rock, more like new wave. This is one of Kevin's strangest albums. The album was commissioned by someone else, and Kevin basically had to turn over control to the producer (his musicians, his production, his ways, his ideas). The biggest offense is using an early drum machine, keyboard bass, and sometimes electronic drums in place of real instruments and a real rhythm section. They sound quite cheesy at times, and sort of like Devo in areas, which is so not Kevin Ayers. This is almost like 180 degrees away from what he was about.

There are some decent songs on this, including 1) the heavier lead-off track Madame Butterfly, 2) probably his best version of Ollie Halsall's song Steppin' Out, and 3) Lay Lady Lay. There are several versions of those last two songs on other albums, but these might be the best. Probably the oddest song here is Who's Still Crazy? It's such a synthesized departure of Kevin's music, that he kind of rambles on in the vocal booth, obviously trashed and drugged, probably the only way to deal with the difficult situation.

I understand now why this album is so hard to find. I wouldn't be surprised if even some fans have even hidden it or removed them from circulation. There's probably a fear of giving people totally the wrong impression about Kevin.

Despite the criticism, it's still a stronger album than the last two bland duds that he released (Still Life With Guitar and The Unfairground). There's still some energy there and some life, even though it stuffed under a synthesized mess. There's more rock and drunkenness too, which is missing from his later albums.

I gave it 2-stars for the prog and rock community at large. For Ayers fans though - those who get him - I'd give it 3 stars.

 Joy of a Toy by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.60 | 91 ratings

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Joy of a Toy
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE Team

3 stars If you ever wondered what Soft Machine would have sounded like if they'd continued down the path of their debut album, then i think you need look no further than the debut album of KEVIN AYERS. After one album with the Softs and an extensive tour opening for Jimi Hendrix, all proved too much for AYERS and he exited stage left but spent a while in Ibiza, Spain with his partner in crime Daevid Allen who had much earlier split from the Softs not jiving with the more serious jazzy instrumental direction that Wyatt, Ratledge and Hopper were conjuring up.

JOY OF A TOY is actually a logical followup to the psychedelic pop masterpieces of the early Softs with that wild and woolly Canterbury Scene whimsy and instantly addictive hooks. KEVIN AYERS displays his ability to expand his palette on his debut however and has a nice expanse of eclectic tastes that range from the festive Sgt Peppers-esque "Joy Of A Toy Continued" opener to more serious melancholy laced cello soaked cuts like "Town Feeling." More Beatles inspired influences appear in "The Clarietta Rag" and tackles ethnic exoticnesses by rocking out on a Malay folk song with "Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong."

While this album lacks a cohesive feel, it is a nice collection of tracks with some being stronger than the others. I absolutely adore the cute little "Girl On A Swing," the intense time warping "Stop This Train (Again Doing It), "Oleh" and the Bob Dylan sounding "All This Crazy Gift Of Time" but i find the other tracks such as "Eleanor's Cake (Which Ate Her)" not as captivating. While if find this to be a pretty cool debut album, it doesn't quite match the psychedelic and addictive properties of the early Soft Machine album or even the better AYERS albums to come. While i love a few tracks on this one, i am indifferent to just as many. Nice start to a solo career and AYERS finds a nice home for his instantly recognizable baritone voice.

3.5 rounded down

 The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.33 | 39 ratings

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The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

2 stars Moving to Island Records, Kevin Ayers features on this album a dizzying variety of guest artists and a slick, polished sound which I suspect will divide a lot of Ayers listeners. Those who found his earlier material maddeningly sloppy and inconsistent might find the higher production values and more cohesive sound to be a plus; for my part, though, Ayers' rough- around-the-edges sloppiness was part of his charm, and the album is a little too neat and tidy to scratch the itch that's scratched by, say, whatevershebringswesing or Joy of a Toy. It's a decent mid-1970s pop album with occasional progressive sensibilities that are kept on a tight leash, in short, and that's a rather drab and unambitious thing for an Ayers album to be.
 Joy of a Toy by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.60 | 91 ratings

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Joy of a Toy
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars After recording the Soft Machine debut (1968) with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge in New York amidst the long US tour, Kevin Ayers left the band and went to have a nice time in Ibiza. There he wrote songs and after returning to England made demos that led to his solo debut Joy of a Toy (named after a song in the SM album). It was recorded in Abbey Road studios with the help of his former bandmates plus several other musicians, most notably David Bedford who had his other foot in the art music field. Bedford played keyboards and wrote some chamber music arrangements that to me are essential in the album's personal charm. The songs themselves - for example 'Town Feeling' or 'Eleanor's Cake (Which Ate Her)' - are more or less simple, carefree in nature, but in a beautiful way. Here and there you sense the slightly jazzy Canterbury atmosphere, perhaps most clearly in 'Song for Insane Times'.

Not really a prog classic, but a nice addition to the solo works of Canterbury. Only two Canterbury artists have more notable solo careers: Steve Hillage and Robert Wyatt. Ayers (who sadly died earlier this year) will be fondly remembered by the prog community. This is to me his best album. 3― stars.

 The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1974
3.33 | 39 ratings

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The Confessions of Dr Dream and Other Stories
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Andrea Cortese
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars In my opinion, The Confessions of Dr. Dream (and Other Stories) marks Kevin's move to a more cohesive form of music. And that's why this is not a real favourite of mine... strange... the record is considered to be his most ambitious work to date. Unfortunately, it isn't his most elegant or surrealistic one.

It features the GREAT rock number "It Begins with a Blessing / Once I Awakened / But it Ends with a Curse", which, yes, is one of his classics but it's somehow more othodox, not at the very same level of previous unconventional gems such as "Song from the Bottom of the Well" (wow!) or "Decadence" (wow!). Moreover, quieter moments maybe are too quiet; you have to turn up the volume and then turn it down again as the louder parts get in.

All in all, an album to have and an artist to reappraise.

P.S. Yes, Patto's Ollie Halsall is a great guitarist.

 Joy of a Toy by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.60 | 91 ratings

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Joy of a Toy
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Einsetumadur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 12/15P. Kevin Ayers' grand masterpiece. He'd never record an album as colorful, frantic and consistent as this one again. No dull avant-garde noodling, a lot of delicate arrangements and only one strange country song to sit through. Essential!

Kevin Ayers has recorded quite a lot of solo albums over the years. Many of them include brilliant songs, but nearly all of them are marred by some really strange Vaudeville tunes or insipid free-form improvisations. Joy of A Toy, however, along with the really good Bananamour album of 1972, can be listened through without any earache or anger about Kevin's laziness in terms of songwriting.

In fact it features a couple of brilliant art pop songs which could be called essential to the Canterbury Scene. The lyrics range from friendly to slightly melancholic, David Bedford's orchestra arrangements profit a lot both from his British restrainedness and his refreshing avant-garde training - and both Bedford and Ayers are responsible for the glorious madness created by a plethora of effects, details, little melodies and fragments which are inserted everywhere. Lots of subtleties to explore here, and all this material is kept together tightly by Ayers' deep bass voice.

An obvious highlight is Song for Insane Times, unique in its Soft Machine line-up of Hugh Hopper, Mike Ratledge, Robert Wyatt and Kevin Ayers. It's the one and only example of the Soft Machine playing a soft jazz-inspired pop song, and curiously it sounds a lot like early Caravan with Ratledge providing both soft organ washes, jazz soloing and some fine flute playing as well. Wyatt sets a tight, but fluffy beat for the band to rely on. Another obvious highlight is Town Feeling, a critically acclaimed song which is most successful in fusioning Bedford's baroque orchestra arrangements, Ayers' slightly Cohenish songwriting and the rootsy R&B influences of Wyatt on drums and Ayers on guitar/bass. So why does it work a lot better than many of the late 1960s pop songs which featured orchestral elements? It's because Ayers himself is part of the arrangement with a gorgeous double-tracked guitar melody which is perfectly geared to the loping oboe tracks which dominate this piece. Otherwise you may enjoy tuneful lyrics about walking through a British town with a slightly ironical and simplifying choice of words. The less obvious highlight is Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong, Kevin Ayers' only adaptation of traditional folk music, in fact Malayian folk music since Ayers spent many years of his childhood in Malaysia. It is clearly the rhythmically most challenging experiment Kevin Ayers has ever made, an ominous chant in 7/4 with a melody and phrasing which occidental listeners can look through after fifteen listens at the earliest. Confusingly Ayers has the singers of the Benny Hill Show, the Ladybirds, sing the chorus (in fact, this track only consists of this one chorus) again and again over this very stiff rhythm. I'm pretty sure you can imagine how totally weird this sounds, but the combination comes out positively uneven. An essential listen for everyone interested in the intersection of the Canterbury Sound and the London Underground. At some time psychedelic tape effects and slightly detuned Hammond organ notes take the lead until the last half of this composition features David Bedford on grand piano. He really gets caught up in a frenetic jazz piano solo which fans of Dave Stewart's work with Egg will appreciate as well; to me this solo is the highlight on the original album because it effortlessly wanders on the ridge between playfulness and mayhem. On Ayers' next album Shooting At The Moon this tightrope walk would be less successful. The piano solo finally trickles away in a free cacophony of piano, some treated violins and feedback noises. Then gradually All This Crazy Gift Of Time is faded in, a sluggish ode to wine, partying and life borrowing heavily from American country music and featuring two shrieking blues harps which are played even more gruffly than on Bob Dylan records. The similarities to the decadent and anarchistic rock'n'roll of the glam/art rock scene of the mid-1970s is hard to deny. Ayers' vocals are double-tracked, and nothing is synchronal or in tune, it seems as if Ayers doesn't care at all about all that. It's a tough song to stand through, but this lazy attitude is an integral part of Kevin Ayers' songwriting, and as a winking last dance on a very good record I really don't object to it a lot.

Lady Rachel, in its original studio version, is exhaustingly fast and gets extremely surreal with the monotonous electric guitar strumming, threatening clarinet flutters and tinkling organ effects. Maybe that's what Syd Barrett might have sounded like on his solo albums if he had been able to communicate his ideas better to his studio musicians. The lyrics send shivers down my spine as well, I'd never have thought that Kevin could pull off such psychological verses. Although this version is interesting and extremely haunting, I do admit that I listen to the 1972 recording by far more frequently. This 7 minute version is added as a bonus track, is played by a whole band and is enhanced by outstanding brass arrangements by David Bedford, very much in the vein of his work on There Is Loving/Among Us, but as melodic and majestic as Ron Geesin's Atom Heart Mother score for Pink Floyd. Instead of simply adding some brass chords in the background Bedford develops really catchy melodies from Ayers' rough basic track and works with these phrases in an extremely playful and polyphonic way. If you know the Cockney Rebel song Sebastian with its shimmering Hammond organ, the ghostly female backing vocals and the emotional orchestra backing - this is the Baroque hipster pendant to it! Forget the 1972 single version - it's shortened to hardly 5 minutes, it's got a strange flanger effect on the guitar track and is inferior to the longer track.

Girl on A Swing and Eleanor's Cake are similar to each other in their folk-inspired and a wee bit medieval atmosphere whilst the former, stuffed with fragile electric harpsichord sounds and an occasional Mellotron fanfare, glitters and shines a bit more than the darker Eleanor's Cake, highlighting Ayers' dark harmonies and a lilting flute accompanying his own lead voice. The incredible sophistication of production is audible on Girl on A Swing in which treated tape snippets of solmisation (= the sung do-re-mi-fa... scale) follow irregularly vibrating electric guitars and a Schubert-ian Romantic piano backing. I don't want to deconstruct the whole song, but you can guess how much is happening during the course of this album.

Joy Of A Toy Continued and Clarietta Rag are the two fun numbers, and both of them aren't merely silly, but also an enjoyable listen. Joy Of A Toy Continued, featuring elaborate trombone and piccolo flute arrangements, sounds like the title melody to a circus show or a TV series for children. There's no similarity to the creepy and dark Soft Machine track of the same title, but rather to Manfred Mann's late 1960s output (Sweet Pea, Ha Ha Said the Clown), with the difference that Ayers sings something inintellegible about tigers, elephants and kangaroos in the very background. I couldn't think of a better way to begin this album, and the subsequent oboe intro of song two (Town Feeling) ... well, you have to listen to it yourself! Clarietta Rag comes dangerously close to the insipid ragtime sound of Ayers' own Oh My, but Robert Wyatt's relentless drum playing and a hilarious trombone/fuzz guitar-duo give it a pretty peculiar momentum. You don't notice any stanza or chorus here because this song swings in a hectic pace, backed by Bedford's jazzy Mellotron MkII strings which wouldn't sound out of place on The Moody Blues' Another Morning.

Lyrically most haunting, Stop This Train is the most psychedelic - in the truest sense of the word - recording on Joy Of A Toy, a song about a frightening journey on a train with equally frightening sound effects. Rob Tait is on drums on this track, and the same R&B-like drum rhythm stays the same for the complete 6 minutes, giving this track a relentless groove similar to the German band Can. This would be quite boring had it not been for Mike Ratledge who is aboard again and duels with pianist David Bedford on his Lowrey Organ in the second half of the song, both using the harshly humming and the softly bubbling tones of this all-transistor home organ. Emulating the sound of a train gaining momentum the speed of the tape player is gradually increased in the beginning and the ending of Stop This Train. Although Mike Ratledge has a stunning performance in this track and the ambience is pretty unique, too, the track is a bit too long. It's not a major flaw, but one aspect which gets in the way of a full rating for this album.

## THE BONUS TRACKS ##

One of the bonus tracks I have not yet reviewed is Soon Soon Soon, a reworked version of the Soft Machine number We Know What You Mean. In the space of three minutes Kevin Ayers moves around an acid mixture of modal jazz (in the complex intro part), soul (in the stanzas) and pop (in the chorus), passing by the short meditative soon soon soon part in the middle which is a possible predecessor of the multi-tracked vocal part in There Is Loving/Among Us. The Ladybirds are part of the arrangement again, singing on top of a fierce fuzz guitar and jolly Mozart-like string arrangements. Again, not only the music with its unexpected variety and the accomplished polyphonic combination of motives used stands out, but also the lyrics which are conflictive in their confrontation of sarcastic stanzas ('you sell yourself so you can buy more') and the soothing Ladybirds-sung chorus (we know what you mean, we understand).

## THE SYD BARRETT MYTH ## http://forum.neptunepinkfloyd.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=16833

Singing A Song In The Morning, the single accompanying the album, is featured in three versions and is a song which comes around extremely powerful and tight in spite of not having any compositional substance - it deserves great talent to pull off such a song! (Another example would be Neanderthal Man, a Godley/Creme song published as The Hotlegs, which is really similar in its carefree attitude.) Singing A Song In The Morning, in a way, is a happy mantra on four ever-repeated verses which gets all of its diversion from strangely ominous 'ostrich'-style guitar lines and the Caravan rhythm section of Richard Coughlan and Richard Sinclair, the former providing his typical semiquaver-fills.

There are two widespread myths about Singing A Song In The Morning. The first one is that the early version of it (named Religious Experience, rec.11/1969) features Syd Barrett on lead guitar and/or backing vocals. When you listen to Barrett's The Madcap Laughs, recorded in April 1969 (=two months earlier), you won't find a solo guitar track which stays in time for more than a few seconds; in fact, the participating musicians of Soft Machine and Pink Floyd had to record everything around Barrett's eccentric demos. Because all the guitar tracks in Religious Experience are pretty much in time, and because credible sources (q.v. the link above) state that Barrett wasn't participating in the 11/1969 sessions, I'm pretty sure that all the guitars are played by Ayers.

But, interestingly, the third version Take 103 (rec.12/1969) includes a really demented and ferocious guitar solo at 1:22 - and this solo unmistakably has Syd's handwriting. And this is the session in which Syd actually participated - he is simply mislabelled on the album reissue. If you trace this solo track back and forth through the song, you'll see that in fact it's one constant guitar sound stretching from the beginning to the end. To me it's impossible to imagine that Ayers recorded this electric 6-string track; he, for sure, was responsible for the Barrett-ish electric 12-string raga licks in the left channel, but the savage shredding in the right channel is definitely Syd Barrett.

And the vocals? There are indeed certain places where you hear a voice sounding seemingly different to Ayers'. But due to a tape blackout at 4:25 you hear one of these backing voices singing solo, and it sounds a lot like Richard Sinclair of Caravan - who definitely played on this session. The second myth is that Dave Sinclair of Caravan plays organ on the finished single version. To put it short - there's no organ to be heard anywhere.

## OVERALL ##

Taken together this album is highly recommendable to every listener of sophisticated pop music with lots of experimental twists. There are only minor flaws which still make me just give a really good 4 star rating. It really comes close to a masterpiece, it includes utterly good bonus tracks and stands out as a pretty unique album of its own - a melancholic, thoroughly British and sometimes downright absurd blueprint for the kind of album which lots of today's bands try but fail to recreate.

 June 1st,1974 by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Live, 1974
3.03 | 26 ratings

BUY
June 1st,1974
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

2 stars Spots of ACNE

A month after the release of 'The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories', Kevin Ayers gathered together a small group of friends and friends of friends for a one off gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London, UK. These friends happened to be well known musicians in their own right, thus creating significant interest among fans. The other musicians credited here are Nico, Brian Eno and John Cale (The album is actually by the four artists collectively), but Mike Oldfield, Robert Wyatt (only recently returned to drumming following an accident which left him paralysed from the waste down; he could no longer use his feet when playing drums), Rabbit, and several others also played. That the gig went ahead at all is in retrospect quite surprising, with Ayers having reportedly been caught in bed with Cale's wife the night before!

For the purposes of the album, the set is split into two halves, with the latter part being assigned to five songs written by Ayers. The Ayers songs are taken in chronological order from his releases up to that point, including two from the current album. One further Ayers song, 'I've Got A Hard-On For You Baby" was played live but not included on the album (perhaps withdrawn at the last minute?).

Before we reach the Ayers led set though, we have a couple of Brian Eno songs and a couple of cover versions. The Eno songs are not from his Ambient catalogue, but from his first solo album 'Here come the warm jets'. '"Driving Me Backwards" is a slow, tedious tuneless dirge of questionable musical integrity. 'Baby's on fire' is rather tastelessly about a baby on fire during a photographic session. Musically, the song has the tones of Roxy Music, but here it is devoid of the Robert Fripp guitar solo on the studio album.

John Cale takes lead vocals for the cover of Elvis's 'Heartbreak hotel', which turns the song into a plodding and rather disturbing affair. Nico's time in the limelight is heading up a nine minute performance of The Doors 'The end'. Given that the song is really a vehicle for the late Jim Morrison's personal indulgences, this seems an odd choice here, and despite Nico's fine voice tends to outstay its welcome by some distance.

The Ayers' set kicks off with 'May I' from his second album 'Shooting at the moon'. For me, the highlight of the track is the keyboards contribution of John "Rabbit" Bundrick, who plays on all the Ayers songs here. Ayers is in full Leonard Cohen style vocally, but sounds good nonetheless. 'Shouting in a bucket of blues' (bizarrely mis-titled 'Standing in a bucket of blues' on the CD cover) is the first song on the entire album to give the audience something to move to. "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes" is in a similar vein, the two tracks being at odds with the mood of rest of the album.

The last two songs are from 'The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories'. "Everybody's Sometime and Some People's All the Time Blues" features a fine lead guitar solo by Mike Oldfield (who receives a name check), the song being a melancholy blues. The album closes with the brief but atmospheric "Two Goes into Four", a songe featuring Ayers voice and acoustic guitar only, prior to the big ending

In summary, an album which fails to live up to the expectations placed upon it by the all star line up. Kevin's set is adequate but brief, while the other four tracks are largely forgettable.

 The Unfairground by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2007
2.89 | 15 ratings

BUY
The Unfairground
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Fair

Following his mainly acoustic release "Still life with guitar" in 1992, Kevin Ayers pretty much retired from recording albums. He made occasional live appearances, and relocated from Spain to France to live, but apart from that he all but vanished.

In 2005, Ayers began to write songs in earnest again, finding an eager audience awaiting further output from him. Some two years later, this album finally appeared. One glance at the artist credits reveals that Ayers was far from alone in his work, with contributors including such noted artists as Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, Phil Manzanera and many more. Members of bands such as Teenage Fanclub, Gorkys Zygotic Mynci and the Trash Can Sinatras also make appearances.

With such an impressive cast list, it is perhaps surprising that the album runs to a mere 34 minutes, the tracks all coming in at between 2― and 4― minutes. As might be assumed, this therefore means that we have another album of pop songs, gentle croons (ballads), and whimsical melodies. Ayers himself describes this as "very much a reflective album: lost love, lost feelings, lost sensibilities". The opening "Only heaven knows" belies this however, being a rather positive number both melodically and lyrically.

The following "Cold shoulder" is the first of the melancholy numbers, featuring the "Wyattron" of Robert Wyatt. "Walk on water" is nicely orchestrated while featuring some of Ayers strongest vocals in many a year.

"Baby please come home" sees Ayers reuniting with Bridget St John for a fine vocal duet. This simply arranged number was released as a single off the album, but in hindsight the upbeat B-side ("Walk on water") may have been the better choice. The low point of the album in my view is the title track. The funky staccato beat alternating with intrusive orchestration comes across as messy and unconvincing. Others may find the track appealing, with its very slight prog leanings, but it is not for me.

Overall, while it took Kevin many years to release this album, he seems to be running on half power here. The songs are pleasant but largely undemanding. The plethora of contributing artists do what is asked of them well, but they are hardly challenged. An album which is enjoyable but for an artist of Ayers ability, we are perhaps looking for more.

 Still Life With Guitar by AYERS, KEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.04 | 9 ratings

BUY
Still Life With Guitar
Kevin Ayers Canterbury Scene

Review by Easy Livin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin

3 stars Time passages, Ollie's swansong

Shortly after the death of his writing partner Ollie (Peter) Halsall, Kevin Ayers released this album. It is not clear (to me at least) what the relative timing was, and how much involvement Halsall has in this album but on the face of it, it would appear he is involved in just one song ("Ghost train"). A number of guests are present however, including members of the pop folk band Fairground Attraction, BJ Cole, and Mike Oldfield (playing guitar). The album is almost exclusively acoustic, the focus throughout being on Ayers' vocals.

Those vocals stand up well here, Ayers singing with an assuredness which is in turn reassuring to us. He still tends to have a natural croon, mixed with a Leonard Cohen like melancholy. Songs such as "Something in Between" are sparse and downbeat, a mood which is even more noticeable on the soft shuffle of "Thank you very much".

There are upbeat songs though, the jaunty "There goes Johnny" and the aforementioned "Ghost train" both offering a perceptive beat. On the latter, there is something of an Al Stewart feel (Stewart is still absent from PA I notice!). "I Don't Depend on You" is one of the better tracks on the album, the slow drawl giving the feel of a reflective alcohol inspired soliloquy.

The acoustic style of the this album means that the tracks are short and to the point. There is nothing remotely progressive here, just some fine vocal performances backed by a plethora of talented musicians. Fans of Kevin Ayers may well consider this to be something of a return to form. Personally I am rather take it or leave it, I find the album musically impressive but overall a bit dull and unexciting.

Thanks to Trouserpress for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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