Kevin Ayers’ The Confessions of Dr. Dream is a lost classic, a spunky amalgam of pop and rock styles (recorded at Air in ’74) filtered through Ayers’ avant-sensibility and sung in his startling bass, sounds remarkably modern even today.
“Day By Day” opens the album funkily, with Hine on clavinet and a wailing backing trio featuring Doris Troy.
“Didn’t Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You” is one of the great rock workouts of the ’70s. Ollie Halsall’s (who happened to be recording with another band in the next studio) guitar solo sounds like it was “recorded on a separate piece of 1/4″ tape, scrumbled up, thrown in the waste paper basket, found several days later, straightened up and reinserted,” according to the album’s producer Rupert Hine.
“He moved the whammy bar as fast as his pick was going – like some sort of St. Vitus dance in his right arm,” to achieve a quavery, watery wonder of nature, one of the most astonishing rock guitar solos ever recorded (Halsall, who played with Boxer, Patto, the Rutles, as well as many other Ayers’ albums, should at least get honorable mention on the greatest guitarists list – he died in ’92 at the age of 43).
Ayers’ then-girlfriend Nico also appeared on the album, sharing vocals on the side-long title track. She agreed to appear only if the studio was “bedecked in flowers and a crate of champagne was brought in for her,” recalls Hine, who also played ARP synthesizer throughout the album.
This early keyboard wizardry was matched conceptually by Ayers’ prescient take on technology:
“It begins with a blessing
But ends with a curse
Making life easy
But making it worse”
(from “It Begins With a Blessing,” which included some “pre-sampling sampling”: Hine recorded an audio segment of American Indians whooping it up off the television, slowed it down, then sped up for the track).
Ayers is a great eccentric figure in the British pop-rock avant garde, beginning his career with Soft Machine before embarking on a long and storied, if not exactly commercially ripping, solo career. His Bananamour album is also a gem, and the live “supergroup” album, June 1, 1974, of European weirdos Ayers, Eno, John Cale, and Nico is brilliant. Most of Ayers’ albums were reissued this year in the UK.