Kevin Ayers – Mandala Light
Kevin Ayers the English songwriter and poet and was a key influential force in the psychedelic movement of the mid sixties. BBC DJ John Peel wrote, ‘Kevin Ayers’ talent is so acute you could perform major eye surgery with it.’Kevin Ayers started out with The Wilde Flowers then to Mr Head, the remnants thereof blossoming into the pioneering psychedelic Soft Machine. Soft Machine featured drummer vocalist Robert Wyatt, bassist Hugh Hopper, keyboardist Mike Ratledge & guitarist Daevid Allen. Ayers later switched to bass following Allen’s departure to Gong. The contrast between Ayers’ baritone and Wyatt‘s breezy tenor freewheeled between psyche and jazz influences. The band shared stages at the ‘UFO Club’ with Pink Floyd. who were sincerely influenced by them. Soft Machine’s debut “Love Makes Sweet Music” / “Feelin’ Reelin” in Feb 1967, included Jimi Hendrix on the B side. Ayers then walked out of the Machine and launched Joy of a Toy that relished in his misty “Girl on a Swing” and haunting “Lady Rachel” backed by Soft Machine and Gong drummer Rob Tait, but owing everything to the textured arrangements of David Bedford and his classical brass augmentation.(Live tours included Dantalions Chariot guitarist Andy Summers)
Ayers’ debut “Singing a Song in the Morning” featured Syd Barrett on guitar & backing vox while his album Shooting at the Moon included The Whole World comprising ex Sallyangie guitarist Mike Oldfield on bass/ lead guitar. Avant-garde composer David Bedford’s keyboards and ex Tony Knight’s Chessmen / Gass saxophonist Lol Coxhill gave the album an ethereal Prog mode, well checked on “Gemini Child”. Ayers was largely overwhelmed by the abstract Wyatt who surged uncomfortably on the title track -a reworking of Soft Machine’s “Jet Propelled Photographs” while Oldfield secreted lavish solo’s on “Reinhardt and Geraldine” / “Colores Para Delores” and “Lunatic’s lament”.The whimsical Kevin flutters lightly through the edible “The Oyster and The Flying Fish” and “Clarence In Wonderland”. The Bonzo dogging “Hat” intended for BBC’s ‘Radio One’ with Bridget St. John as backing vocalist was put back on at Kevin’s 1978 Rainbow Take Away as “Hat Song”.
Ayers then launched his opus Whatevershebringswesing featuring the embellishing 8min title track that became his signature sound that became the ultimate brass/ classical rubicon thanks to Bedford’s gifted grasp, Gong’s saxophonist Didier Malherbe, Hot Club of London violinist John Derick,and Oldfield’s underrated bass. Best be consumed by the overwhelming “There Is Loving/Amongst Us/There is Loving” and the title track to understand their cosmic depth. The apocalyptic “Song From The Bottom Of The Well” has to be the scariest demise put to wax while the seductive “Margaret” and dreamy “Lullaby” are exquisite creations. The Whole World backed Ayers’ “Butterfly Dance” shrouded in choral harmonies with East Of Eden drummer Dave Dufont replacing Fincher. The whoppy “Stars” backed the enlightening “Stranger In Blues Suede Shoes” best heard live.
The seventies gave us the accessible Bananamour which included “Shouting in a Bucket Blues” and whimsical “Oh! Wot A Dream – tribute to Barrett. Ayers then assembled ex Larry Parne’s drummer Eddie Sparrow, ex Khan guitarist Steve Hilage & ex Bobby Patrick’s’s Big Six /Tony Sheridan bassist Archie Legget for the introspective Decadence, a ghostly portrayal of Nico. 1974 was the artistic peak for Ayers once washed by “Lady June” with contributions by Roxy Music’s Brian Eno & Delivery drummer Pip Pyle. Kevin Ayers’ Hyde Park free concert, 29 June 1974 The Confessions of Dr. Dream & Other Stories featured Oldfield, Patto guitarist Ollie Halsall & King Crimson’s Michael Giles. In 1974 Kevin gathered Oldfield, Cale, Eno, Nico & the Soporifics for a final countenance at the ‘Rainbow.’ (Wyatt played drums) The live album opened with its Parisian “May I” accordion flavoured Moulin Rouge side-walks ballad. Kevin extended the version into the French quarter re- titled “Puis Je?”The ghostly highlight was the eerie version of Mae Axton’s “Heartbreak Hotel” which Cale secreted, Eno’s screeching piano bashing “Baby’s On Fire”and Oldfield’s guitar solo’s that ran through the ethereal “Two Goes Into Four” and Love influenced “Everybody’s Sometime And Some People All The Time Blues”. (The night before Cale caught Ayers sleeping with his wife which he replies in the bile-soaked “Guts” from his 1975 Slow Dazzle) .
In 1976 Ayers releases the erratic Yes We Have No Mañanas (So Get Your Mañanas Today) with contributions from Cochise pedal steel guitarist B.J. Cole & ex Dantalions Chariot / Kevin Coyne’s keyboardist Zoot Money. After Ayers’ second ‘Harvest’ tour with ex Family Rob Townshend, ex Taste Charlie McCracken & Somers. The ‘Harvest’ Odd Ditties was launched comprising single B-Sides or unreleased demos.The late ’70’s Ayers became caught up in chemical addictions resulting in the low key 1983’s Diamond Jack, Queen of Pain & 1988’s prophetic Falling Up plus a recorded a vox track for Oldfield’s “Flying Start”. An acoustic album Still Life with Guitar recorded with Fairground Attraction surfaced in France while a concert tour with Liverpool’s Wizards of Twiddly played epitaph to England’s greatest musical Gandalf.
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