Kevin Ayers: Odd Ditties (Harvest) ****

PERHAPS THE most apt album title of this or any year. Kevin Ayers has a great penchant for odd ditties, and these songs are decidedly oddities: A and B sides from all of Kevin’s Harvest singles, plus tracks which never saw the light of day.

A perusal of the meticulous notes reveals the epithets not released, excluded, omitted, eliminated, removed. Eliminated? Removed? Harsh attitudes for songs that are often the equal (and in a couple of cases better) of the tunes that did make the respective platters.

Painstakingly chronological, the tracks reveal over their five years a Summer Of Love commitment to razzing the rubes (‘Selling yourself to buy more’) dissolving into a lyrical commitment to sun, sand and surf, which is probably the most sensible course that could have been taken. The musical content is superb: the only difference between the earliest song, ‘Soon, Soon, Soon’, and ‘Caribbean Moon’, which was a turntable hit three years ago, is that the latter is infinitely more commercial in construction.

All the odd ditties are here. The determinedly Continental ‘Puis-je?’, with Kevin practising his cafe chat like a sodden Chevalier, ‘Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes’, perfectly combining hippie politics and commercial tune (catch that manic piano break), and the tropical tunes that dominate the second side.

‘Connie On A Rubber Band’, ‘Take Me To Tahiti’, and ‘Caribbean Moon’ wander through reggae and calypso with about the same seriousness that Kevin wanders through life. It’s like a rock Graham Greene wafting through the West Indies, crumpled white suit immaculately clean regardless of the owner’s condition.

The piece-de-resistance, though, and a tune that has been in the vaults far too long, is ‘Fake Mexican Tourist Blues’, a popular concert tune of a few years back. Imagine every Mexican-selling-his-family-to-the-gringos cliche, dash some silliness on it, and you have Kevin’s rendering. Truly delicious.

Given that the lyrical and musical content of this album has absolutely nothing to do with anything besides having a laugh and a good time, it’s probably the best piece of wax in the last year or even this year. A pity it was all recorded at least three years ago.

© Jonh InghamSounds, 21 February 1976

Leave a Comment