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12 August 2009

Kevin Ayers and the Whole World - 'Shooting at the Moon' (Harvest)

I bought this on CD sometime in the late 90s when I was discovering this whole genre of "adventurous music from the early 1970s" (call it what you will); I later lent it to someone and never got it back, but was thrilled to 'upgrade' to the LP a few years later. I put 'upgrade' in single quotes because while I almost always consider a vinyl LP to be an upgrade over a CD, this particular LP is, well, beat to shit. And it sounds pretty rough. And this is a record where you want to hear the details. The Whole World are one of those bands that I think of in legendary terms, because this is the only recording (AFAIK) and it suggests a visionary, hard-to-believe force of power and innovation. Shooting at the Moon starts off pretty inauspiciously, with 'May I', a smooth folk-pop number that's straight off Joy of a Toy's whirlwind of casual. But soon they go into 'Rheinhardt and Geraldine', which is pretty rockin' but really goes apeshit at the end with some extended tape manipulation technique. It puts 'Revolution #9' to shame and actually gives Pierre Henry a run for his money; more than just manipulation for manipulation's sake, it has rhythm and colour and fits in with the vibe of the album. 'Pisser Dans un Violon' ends the side with a slow unraveling of free improv. In one side, the Whole World manges to weave together psychedelic folk, fusion rock, British free improv jazz and musique concrete -- and they do it as effortlessly as you'd expect from Mr. Ayers. Which I guess isn't too much to expect from a band containing Mike Oldfield AND Lol Coxhill (whose wonderful records we will get to sooner than later). Side two also opens with a tease, a fluffy folk number about a fish -- actually a nice duet with Bridget St. John -- before continuing the mood with the exploratory 'Underwater'. 'Clarence and Wonderland' and 'Red Green and You Blue' shows Kev up to his old tricks; the band holds back from their experimental impulses, and I think he's signing about fucking someone again. It all comes back around with 'Shooting at the Moon', one of the most menacing and (I think) underappreciated blasts of dark psych-rock ever. And, like all those great Ayers tunes on Soft Machine 1, it's catchy too! Maybe I'm overinflating this album a bit because it hit me hard in those formative years, but I think this is a fucking masterpiece. Or at least a really really really great record that is forward-thinking, accessible, and experimental at the same time -- without compromising the personality of its' creator.

1 comment:

  1. You're not overinflating! I'm going to put it on right now...