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13 August 2009

Kevin Ayers - 'The Confessions of Dr. Dream' (Island)

This is the definition of uneven. Pushing his tendencies to their extremes, Kev lays down some of the darkest and most twisted excursions of his career on the title track but also some of quite banal funk-rock. This record is saturated with female backing vocals, on almost every track; Lol Coxhill and Mike Oldfield turn up too, though it barely resembles the work of the Whole World. Side one is almost a total writeoff. "Day by Day" is tough to make it through, though it does make me think about why I've come to equate that sound with 'bad' music. It's not inherently any worse than half the other rock on my shelves, but I've just come to hold aesthetic biases. I guess the campy genre-hopping is less than convincing for me - Ayers' exaggerated Britishness on 'Ballbearing Blues' makes it sound like a Monty Python skit. But yeah, the title track, which fills most of side 2 in four parts -- definitely it makes this record a keeper. Hypnotic, circular guitar patterns, gurgling ARP synths and some crazy gothic freakouts put this in the Aphrodite's Child camp. There's smoother parts but they're no less exploratory - the whole thing has a compositional cohesiveness that would make a Gong member jealous. If you tacked this suite onto a CD reissue of Shooting at the Moon, you'd make a strong case for Kevin Ayers as one of psychedelic music's greatest practitioners. Instead it's a relatively forgotten album that can be found on the cheap - I know I only paid $3 for it. This was probably the first Kevin Ayers record I heard, actually, when I was just getting into the Soft Machine. Clearly it was the gateway drug that led me to buying six others, though I always forget about this one.

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