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Music Review: Kevin Ayers – What More Can I Say

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Like many others, I discovered Kevin Ayers through his first solo album Joy Of A Toy. It was 1969 when it came out and Kevin had just left the pioneering Soft Machine of whom he had been a founding member and leading creative light. When he left and went to, at first, Ibiza he started to write the songs for a solo album. The endearing “Girl On A Swing”, the slightly disturbing “Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong”, and the timeless “Lady Rachel” spring to mind. He went on to release several highly acclaimed albums such as Bananamour (1973), The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories the following year and 1975’s Sweet Deceiver.

He immediately collected a passionately appreciative fanbase who responded to his often compellingly bizarre and always fascinating work. Never one to bow to anything near commercial pressure, his career continues at his own pace and in his own way. The only predictable element of his live appearances were, ironically, their unpredictability. There is no doubt about it Kevin Ayers is a true one off.

So, when I heard that Kevin had stumbled across some old reel to reel tape dating back to those days in the early seventies, it was like some Egyptian treasure had just been unwrapped. The tape survived, thankfully, and has been released on What More Can I Say. For anyone fascinated by the music and the mind of the man, this is a must. With all the intimacy of just him and the reel to reel machine, he takes us though several magical moments. It represents a musical treasure trove and suddenly just hearing that voice again takes us instantly back to 1974.

The sound quality is superb and has obviously been lovingly restored. There are no highlights as such – for the majority of the CD it is just as if Kevin and tape recorder are demoing material, some of which is in developmental stage, directly to us. Such are the intimacy of the recordings. It is “Dreaming Doctor” that will grab the most attention and is worth the trip alone. It is such a revealing insight into how the epic piece was constructed. The ghost of the sadly departed Nico is there, in your mind, just hovering, but not quite appearing. I’ll leave the end to come as the same surprise to you as it did to me.

This gem comes to an end with “Blues”, introduced by Kevin explaining, as if he is there in your room, the structure of the song. There is a quality in his voice that is just so compulsive. His craft as a musician shines through undimmed by time. Kevin takes us through the track introducing the second section, the guitar sequence. It is a wonderfully strong and typical Ayers moment. Such is the haunting intimacy of the tape that Ayers materializes in your mind looking just as he did back then. Another fascinating moment has the well spoken Kevin taking us through the sections that would become “Doctor Dream” explaining the progression of the lyrics and dividing it into parts expressing how he hears it in his mind. He ends by saying into the tape ‘I am having to almost whisper this in a tiny room, so as not to disturb anybody’. Truly wonderful stuff.

He then takes us into "There Is No Trial" which was soon to morph into “Two Becomes Four” if my memory serves correctly. Kevin ends by explaining his hopes for the Confessions Of Doctor Dream album saying he wanted it to be poignant and slightly sinister rather than depressing.

What More Can I Say provides a wonderful insight into the mind of one of those inspirational musicians at just the right time in his career.

Visit Kevin Ayers Website for more news and information.

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About Jeff Perkins

  • Curtis Roberts

    You’ve completely captured the essence of this remarkable album in your review. Thank you. Everyone interested in music and in experiencing a great “Artist At Work” should listen to What More Can I Say…?

  • Jeff

    Thank you Curtis – as you say to hear a great artist at work is a real privilege. I love the Confessions of Dr. Dream album and of course this captures it in its developmental stage. Wonderful stuff. Thanks for taking the time to let me know you liked it. Jeff