Friday, 12 September 2014

"Bananamour" by KEVIN AYERS (2003 EMI/Harvest 'Expanded' CD - Peter Mew Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...

“…So Many Problems…Yet None At All…” 

Ex Soft Machine bassist/songwriting genius KEVIN AYERS had a run of stunningly diverse and eclectic albums on Harvest Records between 1969 and 1973. "Joy Of A Toy" opened proceedings in December 1969, "Shooting At The Moon" followed in October 1970, the much-loved "Whatevershebringswesing" in January 1972 - and then this - the wonderful but hugely under-appreciated "Bananamour" in the spring of 1973. Always somehow in the shadow of its more popular predecessor - the album "Bananamour" deserves a better rap. Time to do so...

UK released June 2003 - "Bananamour" by KEVIN AYERS on EMI 07243-582780-2-6 (Barcode 724358278026) is an 'Expanded' CD Remaster and breaks down as follows (52:34 minutes):

1. Don't Let It Get You Down
2. Shouting In A Bucket Blues
3. When Your Parents Go To Sleep
4. Interview
5. International Anthem
6. Decadence [Side 2]
7. Oh! Wot A Dream
8. Hymn
9. Beware Of The Dog
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Bananamour" released May 1973 in the UK on Harvest SHVL 807 and in the USA on Sire SAS-7406

10. Connie On A Rubber Band - non-album track, B-side of "Oh Wot A Dream" - a UK 7" single issued November 1972 on Harvest HAR 5064
11. Decadence - a Previously Unreleased 'Early Mix' - recorded 15 December 1972
12. Take Me To Tahiti - non-album track, B-side of a 7" single released April 1973in the UK on Harvest HAR 5071
13. Caribbean Moon - non-album track, A-side of "Take Me To Tahiti"

The remaster has been carried out with the Artist's approval by PETER MEW at Abbey Road - and what a sonic winner this is. Right from the get go - you're hit with clarity, warmth in the instruments, the dense backing vocals now so sweet and Ayer's voice sailing over it all. It's a properly fabulous job done.

Very rare original issues of the UK LP (£100+) came with an elaborate and beautifully laid out 16-page 'booklet' - which MARK POWELL (who wrote the liner notes) has been smart enough to reproduce in all its glory. There are Robert Crumb-like cartoon-paintings similar to the one of the front sleeve  - pictures of SYD BARRETT, NICO and DORIS TROY - as well as Ayers' own explanations of each song. It gives the 24-page booklet a very substantial feel. Even the CD apes the design of the 'Harvest' label. And then there's the great music...

It opens with "Don't Let It Get You Down" (lyrics above) sounding not unlike The Beatles "Flying" instrumental on 1967's "Magical Mystery Tour". Steve Hillage of GONG gets Lead Electric Guitar on the Acoustic "Shouting In A Bucket Blues" while the organ of MIKE RATLEDGE on the utterly brilliant "Interview" would later become such a huge part of "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream...." sound. The remaster clarity on "Interview" alone is worth the price of admission - but there's better to come.

Album-track genius comes twice - first in the shape "When Your Parents Go To Sleep" - a stunning kind of Ray Charles Soul-Rock chugger with ARCHIE LEGGETT on Lead Vocals. Leggett was the Bass Player in Ayer's touring `Decadence' band and is ably supported here by three great backing vocalists - a giggling Doris Troy (Apple Records), Liza Strike (Soul singer who later joined Roger Glover's band) and Barry St. John (of Dandelion Records fame). But better still is the storming brass section that punctuates the song throughout - HOWARD CASEY on Tenor Sax with DAVE CASWEL on Trumpet. They make "When Your Parents Go To Sleep" something incredible.

And number two stand out is the dreamy and ethereal "Decadence" which at 8 minutes is one of those fantastic plucked-guitar repeats that hooks in early and doesn't let up for the entire duration. When I used to play it at Reckless it always brought customers to the counter asking after it - and brought the quintessentially English magic of KEVIN AYERS into their lives. While it obviously feels very Velvet Underground - at times "Decadence" also feels like fellow label-mate ROY HARPER circa "Stormcock" - long, deep and unique. The silly "Oh! Wot A Dream" is typical Ayers flimsy - Harvest even tried it as a single - probably because of its 3-minute playing time and its Summer time punting on dreamy rivers lyrics. "Hymn" is lovely with a superb Harmony Vocal from Avant Garde hero ROBERT WYATT and the album ends with the short Hovis Advert brass band of "Beware Of The Dog" - sweet as.

Ayers would sign to Island Records and go on to the wonderfully druggy (and at times desperately dark) "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" in May 1974. There other greats albums like "Sweet Deceiver" in 1975 and "Yes We Have No Mananas" in 1976 - but like fellow Harvest Records label mate Roy Harper - Ayers would remain cruelly outside commercial success.

You could argue that no proper rock collection is complete without the trio of "Whatevershebringswesing", "Bananamour" and "Confessions Od Dr. Dream...". I would. 

An overlooked and stunning-sounding reissue - get this CD remaster into your stereo rack right away...

This review and hundreds more like it can be found in my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series - 1960's 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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