Kevin Ayers: Bananamour

KEVIN AYERS has never been known for his musical steadiness. This is Kevin’s fourth solo album (second U.S. release), and it continues to present him as an artist without the forceful direction from whence stars emerge.

After helping to form the Soft Machine in the mid-sixties, Kevin soon parted from the group after deciding that their new space and jazz forms were not his cup of tea. Shortly thereafter, he released his first solo album, Joy Of A Toy. Despite being produced on a miniscule budget, it managed to showcase the marvelous Ayers talent. If one needs a reference point, Kevin resides comfortably as a hybrid of Syd Barrett, Leonard Cohen, Lol Coxhill, Nico, the Battered Ornaments, and Bridget St. John.

His second album, Shooting At The Moon, featured his band The Whole World, who both helped and hindered him. On the plus side they produced a unified sound, creating masterpieces like ‘Oysters And The Flying Fish’, ‘May I’, and ‘Rhinehart And Geraldine’. They hindered him by exhibiting a great fascination for electronics and “freakout” sounds. The third album, Whatevershebringswesing, cut down on gimmickry, but also suffered from a paucity of material. But still there were new Ayers treats like the fabulous ‘Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes’, so all was not lost.

Bananamour exhibits a major change in direction for Kevin Ayers. Firstly, he has ceased his hermit-like existence. He is doing live concerts more frequently, and is even doing interviews with the weekly music press. Tongue in cheek humor has blossomed more forcefully, and Kevin has even released three singles in the last six months!!! A label switch from Harvest to Island (in England) might indicate that commercial acceptance will be forthcoming. Yet for some reason I feel that Kevin will rise above it all and continue to be a musical “cult-hero” of sorts.

Bananamour starts off brilliantly with two fine tracks, ‘Don’t Let It Get You Down’ and ‘Shouting In A Bucket Blues’. Here Kevin combines fine melodies with lovely lyrics and tasty production. But the closing two tracks are fairly pedestrian and bassist Archie Legget does the lead vocal on the bluesy ‘When Your Parents Go To Sleep’ – I would’ve liked to hear Kevin warble this in a drunken revelry.

Side two opens with Kevin’s tribute to Nico, ‘Decadence’. Then Kevin presents his song for Syd. Sung in a Barrettish voice, ‘Oh Wot A Dream’ has a superfine production and equally outstanding lyrics. Then it’s off to the islands for Kevin’s reggae-rocker, ‘Caribbean Moon’. The closing ‘Hymn’ again recalls Nico with its hypnotically alluring melody and thoughtful lyrics.

What can I say about Kevin Ayers? He makes some of the finest music around today, writes some of the nicest lyrics, and sings in a most delightfully distinctive fashion. All his work floats me up to a higher level, and on my next flight I hope to see you up there, gliding by.

© Alan BetrockPhonograph Record, November 1973

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