When Things Get Too Serious, Throw a Banana

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I really got into Kevin Ayers. The epiphany came at Gruff Ryhs’s show at the Crocodile when he did a cover of Ayers’s Religious Experience. Up until then I new Ayers had been the Soft Machine with Robert Wyatt and had a bunch of solo albums and that was about it. Gruff’s cover totally opened my eyes to Ayers an his unique combination of folk, glam and psychedelia. Shortly thereafter I found The Best of Keven Ayers at Jive Time down in Fremont. When I bought it the guy working there recommended Bananamour as his best and most consistent album, so that was my next Ayers purchase. I love the guys at Jive Time, they know their stuff and it seems like they’ve always got a good story or comment about whatever I buy there.  From Bananamour, I went on to Whatevershebringswesing, Joy of a Toy and last years come back The Unfairground.

His music reminds me of a medieval minstrel singer sometimes, at others an acid trip and then there are the sublime comedown songs where his mellifluous baritone combined with the music makes you want to stay right where you are and not move.  Creating a perfect mood no matter where you are or what you’re doing. He has this deep rich voice that along with his accent he would be my choice to narrate fairytale like movies.  I could also easily see him doing books on tape, his voice has this soothing calmness to it that immediately puts one at ease.

Ayers has a reputation for kind of opting out of the game and doing things his own way.  He abruptly left the Soft Machine after their first album and headed down to the Mediterranean and the island of Ibiza.  His solo albums are somewhat sporadic, and unpredictable, but he always seems to have top notch musician pals playing on them like Brian Eno, Elton John, Mike Oldfield, Syd Barrett and John Cale.  His album from last year was no different with old friend Robert Wyatt, and new ones Euros Childs (Gorky’s Zygotic Myncie), Gary Olson (Ladybug Transistor), Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), and Frank Reader (Trashcan Sinatras) to name a few.

Initially Ayers’s music can be a tough nut to crack, and if you per chance buy one of his late 70’s and 80′ albums first you may think that he’s not all that.  Many of his songs contain three, four or five ideas, abruptly changing temp or style mid song can make for some difficult listening to the uninitiated.  So if you start with the straight forward songs like Religious Experience, Butterfly Dance, Caribbean Moon or Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes, you’re more likely to get hooked and from there you can start easing your way into his back catalog.  His earlier albums from 1970 to 1974 are all worth hearing with my two favorites being his first Joy of a Toy and Bananamour.  If you’re the type that  doesn’t like the hassle of having to remember which albums to get and which ones to avoid, Harvest has just put out a four cd career spanning album that hits all the high points and adds an unreleased 1973 performance at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London.

This is just the tip of the iceberg….

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Religious Experience (from Joy of a Toy)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Butterfly Dance (from Banana Productions Best of)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Caribbean Moon (from Banana Productions Best of)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Girl on a Swing (form Joy of a Toy

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes (from whatevershebringswesing)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Shouting in a Bucket of Blues (from Bananamour)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Interview (from Bananamour)

mp3: Kevin Ayers – Walk on Water (from Unfairground)

Go out and buy some Kevin Ayers!

One comment

  1. cyrille · August 8, 2009

    I loooove Kevin Ayers!! Thank you for this post! I’ve discovered Kevin Ayers ten years ago, on a tape wich a japanese friend forgot in my student room, immediatly fell in love and searched since other fans but in France, whithout internet, it was not easy! This guy is just unique, his music is a world by itself. One of my deepest musical experience. Religious experience!

    Thank you! I’ll go deeper in your blog and hope you’ll make me discover the music Graal!

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