Tuesday, 14 April 2009

“Sweet Deceiver” by KEVIN AYERS (2009 EMI/Harvest 'Expanded' CD - Peter Mew Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Do Not Disturb...Do Not Do Anything Wild…"

It’s probably true that by 1975 few people were listening out for Kevin Ayers albums - especially in the wake of the difficult (but brilliant) 1974 outing "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" - his debut album for England’s Island Records. But that didn’t mean the quality dropped - far from it. 

Rehearing "Sweet Deceiver" on this stunning 30 March 2009 UK released Peter Mew CD Remaster (EMI/Harvest 268 2692 - Barcode 5099926829623) only confirms my good memories of its 1975 charms - a beautifully produced album that's even (dare we say it) a bit more poppy than its much-loved drug-addled predecessor. And with five half-decent BBC bonus cuts thrown in featuring his rocking band in genuinely top form - this CD reissue is actually a bit of a sweet deal (the album even features Elton John on three tracks). Here are the deceptive details (61:12 minutes):

1. Observations
2. Guru Banana
3. City Waltz
4. Toujours La Voyage
5. Diminished But Not Finished
6. Sweet Deceiver [Side 2]
7. Circular Letter
8. Once Upon An Ocean 
9. Farewell Again (Another Dawn)
Tracks 1 to 9 make up the album "Sweet Deceiver" issued on Island ILPS 9322 in the UK in March 1975 (no US release). Kevin Ayers & Halsall (credited as Ollie Haircut) produced the original LP with all songs written by Ayers.

10. Didn't Feel Lonely 'Til I Thought Of You 
11. Observations 
12. Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes 
13. Interview
14. Farewell Again
Tracks 10 to 14 are live recordings taped at The BBC's Paris Theatre in London on 27 March 1975 (transmitted on Radio One’s "In Concert" program 19 April 1975). JEFF GRIFFIN and CHRIS LYCETT of the BBC engineered and produced the concert - the Band used was KEVIN AYERS on Vocals & Guitar, OLLIE HALSALL [of Patto] on Lead Guitar; GEORGE 'ZOOT' MONEY on Keyboards, RICK WILLS on Bass and TONY NEWMAN on Drums.

The Musicians:
KEVIN AYERS - Vocals, Fuzz Bass, Mandolin, Acoustic & Electric Guitars
OLLIE HALSALL [of Patto] - Lead & Acoustic Guitars, Bass, Piano, Vibes & Vocals
JACOB MAGNUSSON - Organ, Accordion, Piano, Clavinet & Vocals
FREDDIE SMITH - Drums & Percussion
JOHN ALTMAN - Clarinet on "Guru Banana"
ELTON JOHN - Piano on "Guru Banana", "Toujours La Voyage" and "Circular Letter"
BIAS BOSHELL - Piano on "Sweet Deceiver"
and THE MUSCLE SHOALS HORNS [Ronnie Eades, Charles Ross, Harrison Calloway Jnr. and Harvey Thompson] - all featured on "Once Upon An Ocean" only

The superlative 8-page liners notes are once again 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 (as he has on all of Ayers' albums) - beautiful Audio quality. Ayers gave Mew permission to be the Remaster Engineer on his entire Harvest and Island Records catalogue. 

Ayers' 2nd LP for Island turned out to be a bit of a strange one - some even saying that he was trying to be a 'rock star' (the pretty boy cover) with more overtly catchy tunes and even cod reggae rhythms. That didn't stop the eight-minute long lullaby of "Toujours La Voyage" being brilliant and blessed with truly superb piano tinkling from Elton John. I've always loved this track and now with this 2009 remaster it sounds just gorgeous (lyrics are the title of this review). "Diminished But Not Finished" was also pretty, but the swirling effect put on "Circular Letter" ruined the feel of the tune. The Calypso structure used by the Muscle Shoals Horns on "Once Upon An Ocean" couldn't rescue it from sounding like some white guy trying to do reggae - and badly. Better is the guitar jangle of “Observations” and the high-strung acoustic guitars of “City Waltz” is typical Ayers “…living in the city fills me with trepidation…” where he longs for the country and a few bevvies in a quite local. The title track “Sweet Deceiver” again chugs along nicely with great treated guitar from Halsall.  

The 5 live bonus tracks are a strange mixture of the dull and the great. The stunning guitar work-out song "Didn't Feel Lonely ’Til I Thought Of You" from "Confessions..." features Ollie Halsall's amazing guitar work - cook like an oven come the end. "Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes" is probably every fan's favourite, but it just doesn't work live and sounds silly and forced here. "Observations" and "Interview" however see the band kick in - great stuff. "Farewell Again" is better live than on the original LP as Zoot Money and Halsall stretch out on the keyboards and guitar - wicked jamming. 

So there you have it - weak in some parts, but masterful in others - as it's Kevin Ayers - I still had to own it. For fans it’s yet another top job done by EMI and Peter Mew - and a quality audio tribute to an artist who deserved better than never charting a single album…

PS: see also separate reviews for the 2009 remasters of "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" (Island, 1974), "Yes We Have No Mananas" (Harvest, 1976) and the 2003 Remasters of "Joy Of A Toy" (Harvrest, 1969) and "Whatevershebringswesing" (Harvest, 1972) 

This review and hundreds more like it can be found in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series - 1960s and 1970s MUSIC Volume 2 - Exceptional CD Remasters. 
It contains over 210 in-depth reviews (a whopping 2400+ e-Pages) and is available to buy/download at Amazon at the following link...

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