Kevin Ayers – [Album]

Wednesday, 08 October 2008

The biggest detriment to the career of Kevin Ayers is the fact that he is still alive. If he had shrugged off this mortal coil via a combination of Dr. Robert's finest and scotch in, say, 1971, well then…we'd have another doomed visionary in which to pour all of our hopes and dreams of limitless possibilities in. But Ayers kept it clean and had the astronomical, unflappable nerve to keep on living and to keep on producing. Kevin Ayers, alongside fellow long-of-tooth maverick Robert Wyatt, were founding members of the Soft Machine—an ambitious, art-school-skewed take on British Psychedelia—who also led the uneven (yet equal oft of rewards) path to progressive Brit jazz-rock fusion (see Third for the high water mark of said genre). Wyatt famously took a drunken tumble and was paralyzed in 1973, leaving him to compose the majority of his songs on piano. Ayers, ever the thoughtful, bucolic, yet weirdly sinister wordsmith, left the group also and began fashioning most of his songs on a guitar. The early sketches and almost-finished demos make up the material on What More Can I Say…—a collection gathered from a series of reel-to-reel tapes Ayers reportedly found in his attic.

Ayers was a friend of Syd Barrett (who appears on 1969's Joy of a Toy) and it's Barrett's mixture of madness and whimsy that seems a good starting point for describing Ayers' sound. Anchored by the deep tones of his singular voice, his songs sound like the curious musings of an outsider, one who has seen a more enlightened life and wishes to carry the message—no matter its strange complexity or sheer oddness. These demos don't do the man justice, but the spark of narrative brilliance is lying underneath in bits and pieces in tellingly scattered titles like "Unfinished" and "This Song Isn't Called Anything" (later to become "Hymn" on Bananamour). The instrumentation on some of the others is rougher, a bit more naked than usual, unfinished basically. But "What More Can Anyone Say…" where he croons in that low moan of his, singing to the "blues-colored moon" is like an illuminated sketchbook, working out with his acoustic guitar and spoken asides to the producer at how his as-yet-untitled 1974 batshit opus, The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories will sound—well, that's the kind of code-cracking, Manna-falling insight by which all archival releases should be judged.


What More Can I Say… is out November 1, 2008, on Reel Recordings.

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