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Kevin Ayers - Joy Of A Toy CD (album) cover


Kevin Ayers


Canterbury Scene

3.64 | 121 ratings

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Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator / In Memoriam

JOY OF A TOY is the first solo album of KEVIN AYERS after he left the band SOFT MACHINE he founded following the release of their first album. KEVIN AYERS is an oddity in the music scene, be it prog or rock! He is a musician who just followed his own rules (or maybe sometimes the lack of them) while having an interesting artistic career albeit never really successful. Kevin was never a real prog artist, neither could he be mainstream. He tried at some period of his career to hit big time, but to no success. Words like lazy, underachieving, whimsical, eccentric, wine and cheese, have been used with just reason to describe KEVIN AYERS world.

NONE of his albums deserves a 5 star rating; there are NO K. AYERS masterpiece as wonderful gems are always mixed with silly songs that could have used more serious treatment or other ''tropical'' songs. However, all of his albums have a unique character, a charm that can be addictive. Even the biggest prog fan can always find something of his liking on a AYERS recording, as long it doesn't take life too seriously.

KEVIN AYERS left SOFT MACHINE, not because of conflicts within the band, but because at age 25, he couldn't take the constant touring and business obligations anymore. He retired for a while on the gorgeous island of IBIZA in Spain, an island frequented at the time by hippies and other free spirits. DAEVID ALLEN also enjoyed this place quite a lot then; it gives you an idea, i hope.

I read some comparisons made between SYD BARRETT and AYERS and in a way, they are right; they made one album with their respective bands, AYERS being influential albeit not as much as BARRETT in the creation of the sound of SOFT MACHINE. We were at the height of the psychedelic era with a lot of smoke in the air and a lot of pills , not necessarilly vitamines, being swallowed. But when the lights turned off, our 2 guys got something like a hang over, BARRETT would never even recover from. They both released solo albums like this one for AYERS and the MADCAP LAUGHS for BARRETT, but they were hardly prog.BARRETT and AYERS would never released anything experimental,they sometimes would border on prog, but they were mainly songwriters, creating simple tunes, yes some weird and strange ones as well, but basically nothing that can be called adventurous.

KEVIN AYERS will always be linked to the Canterbury scene as he was one of its founder, but don't try to find in his recordings anything close to SOFT MACHINE 'THIRD' period, HATFIELD AND THE NORTH or other GONG; but he will share the same deprecative sense of humor than his former band mate DAEVID ALLEN; not taking life seriously, having fun, enjoy a good bottle of wine and of course for these 2 souls...the cult of the banana!

Even if KEVIN AYERS left SOFT MACHINE....for personal reasons, one can guess somehow, problems would have occured later on had he stayed on. ROBERT WYATT and especially MIKE RATLEDGE wanted to abandon the pop/psychedelic sound to go for a VERY serious jazzy direction. I don't think it would have matched the musical sensibilities of KEVIN and he would have left the band somehow, knowing that roadie-wanting to be bassist- HUGH HOPPER was just behind his neck. Frankly, can you imagine KEVIN AYERS jamming with ELTON DEAN??? 2 different worlds!

I would describe KEVIN AYERS as a minstrel, kind of a medieval troubadour, coming to your home with his acoustic guitar singing precious delicate songs or.....silly carribean ditties, but always with fun and good humor; just have a glass of good wine and a tray of cheese handy waiting for him and you are sure to enjoy a warm evening. KEVIN AYERS is a unique artist with a strong personal artistic approach, also has a lot of shortcomings, but that's what makes him unique. Mention KEVIN AYERS name to anyone knowing his music in the prog world and you will always get a friendly grin in return.

JOY OF A TOY is a pefect example of a typical imbalanced album from KEVIN. It opens with a kind of silly march, circus athmosphere JOY OF A TOY CONTINUED (a link to the same song from the first album of SOFT MACHINE) ''sung'' by Kevin and 3 other people together. It has ABSOLUTELY not artistical value, but it is just plain fun (as long as it doesn't last too long) . But next, you are entering the beautiful world of KEVIN with such gems like TOWN FEELING or GIRL ON THE SWING, very sweet intimate songs that warm you with their great arrangements usually done by DAVID BEDFORD. They are the songs , i mentioned earlier, that border on prog. Those ones are very well thought, well arranged with sounds of oboe, cello, flute or trombone. This is AYERS at his best when he tries hard.

His voice is also one of its kind, very deep but clear, very warm more suited for the lounge athmosphere than the arena madness! Cozy would be the right word to describe and his music and his voice. Listening to KEVIN AYERS is like a personal encounter, almost like an old friend singing only for you!

Other great songs can be found here like SONG OF INSANE TIMES, another beautiful melody played with the help of the whole SOFT MACHINE members including HOPPER. That's a way to imagine how SOFT MACHINE coud have sounded if Kevin had stayed with them. Mike RATLEDGE plays great with his trademark organ sounding: a real early SF treat! The best of the best is of course the magnificent THE LADY RACHEL which showcases the greatness of AYERS when he wants to. This is one of his most enduring song he is still playing nowadays every night he is on a stage . Beautiful melody, beautiful singing, luxurious refined arrangements, a song for the ages.

On the other side, you have tracks that are not very mesmerizing like the one line bass played at nauseam STOP THIS TRAIN with a very ,very simple melody which last too long or the malaysian influenced OLEH OLEH BANDU BANDONG mixing tropical flavor with avant guarde Jazz piano a la ALLADIN SANE from BOWIE.Quite a mixture! (Kevin AYERS spent a lot of his childhood in Malaysia as his family was based there for a while)

JOY OF A TOY is an album that goes in very different musical directions but in a way sound homogeneous due to the particular voice of our artist and its intimate athmosphere. You don't feel good one day? just play some KEVIN AYERS and life will look better. You'll see!! Now about a rating! No, it's not essential! Now, is it good or an excellent addition? i think it's a worthy album to own ; at least that's something different and rather unique. There is only one KEVIN AYERS.

3.5 STARS.

febus | 4/5 |


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