Sunday, 12 April 2009

"Yes We Have No Mananas, So Get Your Mananas Today" by KEVIN AYERS (2009 EMI/Harvest ‘Expanded’ CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...






"…Genuine Smoked Salmon…" 

Blessed with a typically cryptic and witty title - 1976's "Yes We Have No Mananas, So Get Your Mananas Today" was the seventh album ex Soft Machine Bassist/Songwriter KEVIN AYERS had pumped out in the Sixties and Seventies (following on from 4 others for EMI's Harvest between 1969 and 1973 and two on Island Records in 1974 and 1975).

The many charms of “Yes We Have No Mananas...” have been forgotten now for eons - but like every album our Kev made in those most special duo of decades - deserves another poke/go-round from fans and newcomers alike. And this 2009 EMI/Harvest CD Remaster is 'Expanded' with some genuinely quality bonus tracks. Here are the yummy banana-boat details...

UK released March 2009 (April 2009 in the USA) – "Yes We Have No Mananas, So Get Your Mananas Today" by KEVIN AYERS on EMI/Harvest 268 2972 (Barcode 5099926829722) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (73:14 minutes):

1. Star (4:21)
2. Mr. Cool (3:03)
3. The Owl (3:17)
4. Love's Gonna Turn You Round (4:52)
5. Falling In Love Again (2:38)
6. Help Me (2:42) – Side 2
7. Ballad Of Mr. Snake (2:07)
8. Everyone Knows The Song (2:34)
9. Yes I Do (3:13)
10.Blue (6:32)
Tracks 1 to 10 make up the album "Yes We Have No Mananas. So Get Your Mananas Today" issued June 1976 on Harvest SHSP 4057 in the UK and August 1976 on ABC Records AB-1021 in the USA. MUFF WINWOOD produced the original LP with all songs (excepting the 1930's cover of "Falling in Love Again") written by KEVIN AYERS.

BONUS TRACKS:
11. Mr. Cool (3:01)
12. Love's Gonna Turn You Round (4:44)
13. Star (4:42)
14. Ballad Of Mr. Snake (2:23)
Tracks 11 to 14 are Studio Recordings made for the BBC's JOHN PEEL SHOW in Maida Vale Studios, London on 13 July 1976 (transmitted 27 July 1976). The band consisted of Ayers on Vocals and Guitar, ANDY SUMMERS of THE POLICE on Guitar, ZOOT MONEY on Keyboards with Charley McCracken and Rod Townshend from the album sessions on Bass and Drums.

15. Shouting In A Bucket Blues (5:26)
16. Star (4:40)
17. Mr. Cool (3:44)
18. Ballad Of Mr. Snake (2:39)
19. Blue (6:24)
Tracks 16 to 19 are 5 live recordings taped at The BBC's Paris Theatre in London on 30 September 1976 (transmitted on the "In Concert" program 23 October 1976). The live set added BILL EVANS on Flute to the same band line up (the witty title to this review is spoken by Ayers before "Ballad..."), while ace BBC engineer JEFF GRIFFIN produced both Peel Sessions.

The Band:
KEVIN AYERS - Vocals, Rhythm & Lead Guitars
OLLIE HALSALL [of Patto] - Lead Guitar
ROGER SAUNDERS - Rhythm Guitar
BILL LIVESEY - Keyboards
CHARLIE McCRACKEN - Bass
ROB TOWNSHEND - Drums

The Guests:
B.J. COLE - Steel Guitar on "The Owl" and "Falling In Love Again"
PIP WILLIAMS - String Arrangements on "Falling In Love Again"
TONY NEWMAN - Drums on "Help Me"
RICK WILLS - Bass on "Help Me"
GEORGE 'ZOOT' MONEY - Keyboards on "Help Me"
ROGER POPE [of Elton John's Band] - Drums on "Everyone Knows This Song"
MICK FEAT - Bass on "Everyone..."
ANDY ROBERTS - Guitar on "Everyone..."
NICK ROWLEY - Keyboards on "Everyone..." and Solo Piano on "Yes I Can"
DAVID BEDFORD - Choral Arrangement on "Blue"

The superlative 8-page liners notes are written by noted expert MARK POWELL and the original master tapes remastered by PETER MEW at Abbey Road.  Mew has done a typically stunning job – Beautiful Sound Quality. He’s handled hundreds of reissues including Dr. Feelgood, Davie Bowie, Deep Purple, Donovan, Blodwyn Pig, Electric Light Orchestra, Free, Jethro Tull, Duncan Browne, Horslips, Man, Robin Trower (and more) – I’ve reviewed all of the ones mentioned. His work here is amongst his best and Ayers asked for Mew specifically to carry out the transfers.

After his 'difficult' but brilliant two albums at Island Records ("The Confessions Of Dr. Dream..." in 1974 and "Sweet Deceiver" in 1975) - "Mananas" was supposed to be a better and more mature work but it only partially works. It's like a John Martyn album, half of it is good - but my God that good half is stunning. The whimsy of several tracks threatens to drown the record in quirkiness that's amusing at first, but doesn't bear repeated listening. But better tracks like "Help Me" and the Roxy sounding "Love's Gonna Turn You Round" have stood the test of time.

But all is saved by the album's fantastic finishing double-whammy - "Yes I Do" and "Blue". With only Ayers on Lead Vocal and Kevin Rowley on Solo Piano, "Yes I Do" is an achingly stark love song and regarded by many as one of his best works - honest and lovely. Special mention should also go to Rowley's keyboard work - it's beautifully done - and in keeping other instrumentation out of the mix, Muff Winwood added extraordinary power to the song. Now with its 2009 remaster it's just gorgeous. "Yes I Do" is followed by the six-and-a-half minute epic "Blue" - with the band in full 'Ayers' mode. "Blue" contains truly stunning Ollie Halsall guitar work pumped up by David Bedford's arrangement of the choral accompaniment. Really brilliant stuff...

The nine Peel Sessions tracks are 4 in a studio and 5 live. Produced by long-standing BBC engineer JEFF GRIFFIN - the studio cuts are amazingly accomplished and sound like really good alternate album versions. The live tracks are less convincing - a slightly weedy audience - but welcome additions nonetheless. Fans will absolutely have to have those in-the-studio versions though. Besides - any album that has the lyrics "…in case you're wondering about the trousers I'm wearing…they're genuine smoked salmon…" gets my vote. His next stop for Harvest Records would be “Rainbow Takeaway” in 1978.

So there you have it - weak in some parts, but masterful in others - this is still an essential Kevin Ayers purchase for me. Another top job done by EMI - and a sound tribute to an artist who deserved better than never charting a single album...

PS: see also my reviews for his other EMI/Harvest 'expanded' CD remasters - "Joy Of A Toy" (1969), "Shooting At The Moon" (1970), "Whatevershebringswesing" (1972), "Bananamour" (1973), "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" (1974) and "Sweet Deceiver" (1975) 

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