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Rock - Released June 9, 2003 | Parlophone UK

Bananamour is ripe with Kevin Ayers' most mature and accessible compositions to date. Ayers grounded himself in a newly formed trio for his follow-up to Whatevershebringswesing. With bassist Archie Leggett and drummer Eddie Sparrow at the hub, Ayers selected guest artists for a handful of the tracks: Whole World colleague Dave Bedford ("Beware of the Dog"), Gong's new guitarist Steve Hillage ("Shouting in a Bucket Blues"), and former Soft Machine mates Robert Wyatt ("Hymn") and Mike Ratledge ("Interview"). "Interview" is easily one of the album's strongest, most original tunes, charged with a rugged, positively electrifying guitar sound courtesy of Ayers and psychedelic organ flourishes by Ratledge. And "Shouting in a Bucket Blues" is Ayers' inspired pop/blues groove. Armed with a few biting lyrics, the song became a concert staple, fronted by a number of well-known guitarists over the years including Mike Oldfield and Andy Summers. Hillage delivers heat in this original studio recording of the song; he went on to repeat the performance many times while in Europe with Ayers' Bananatour band, Decadence. The song "Decadence" is the album's centerpiece and towering achievement. Here, Ayers, Leggett, and Sparrow create progressive, atmospheric music quite unlike anything else on the record. An original, spine-tingling workout with potent lyrics concerning Nico, "Decadence" is a kind of superior foreshadowing to the following year's "Confessions of Dr. Dream" epic, which features a vocal collaboration with Nico on "Part One." The compositions on Bananamour emphasize the vocal aspects of the material; in fact, Ayers secured the industry's premier session vocalists to back him on the recordings: Liza Strike, Doris Troy, and Barry St. John. In various configurations, the trio fleshs out the songs, adding a compelling depth to the album that pleasantly expands Ayers' eclectic repertoire. In particular, they lend a gospel quality to the Beatles-tinged opener, and imbue "When Your Parents Go to Sleep" with rather soulful Ray Charles stylistics. Intended to break Ayers to a wider audience, Bananamour was his last release on EMI/Harvest before switching to a new label (Island) and a new manager (the influential John Reid, Elton John's manager at the time). The ideas on Bananamour, arguably Ayers' finest work, gave way to some very focused, full-fledged prog rock and blues numbers on his ambitious follow-up, The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories (Island Records, 1974). © David Ross Smith /TiVo
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Rock - Released June 9, 2003 | Parlophone UK

As the Soft Machine's first bassist and original principal songwriter, Kevin Ayers was an overlooked force behind the group's groundbreaking recordings in 1967 and 1968. This, his solo debut, is so tossed-off and nonchalant that one gets the impression he wanted to take it easy after helping pilot the manic innovations of the Softs. Laissez-faire sloth has always been part of Ayers' persona, and this record's intermittent lazy charm helped establish it. That doesn't get around the fact, however, that this set of early progressive rock does not feature extremely strong material. Ayers' command of an assortment of instruments is impressive, and his deep bass vocals and playful, almost goofy song-sketches are affecting, but they don't really stick with the listener. It's no accident that some of the tracks recall early Soft Machine: Robert Wyatt drums on most of the songs, and "Song for Insane Times" is virtually a bona fide Soft Machine performance, featuring actual backing from the group itself. A likable but slight album that is at its best when Ayers is at his folkiest. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Rock - Released February 28, 2003 | Parlophone UK

Melancholic and reflective, Kevin Ayers' third solo effort, Whatevershebringswesing (this time sans the Whole World as a collective), finds the ultimate underachiever languishing in a realm of ballads, free (for the most part) from the façade and pretensions of prog rock that plagued the previous project. Released in January 1972, Whatevershebringswesing was Ayers' most commercially accessible album to date. The opening track, the "There Is Loving" suite, was both apropos and deceptive. The song picks up nicely from the previous album, linked by its Soft Machine/prog rock sound and fronting the lyrics from the single "Butterfly Dance"; however, for the very same reason, this was a deceptive opener for an album that was far removed from the prog subgenre. In the interim between Shooting at the Moon and Whatever, Ayers gigged with his friend Daevid Allen's band, Gong, on a European tour, the results of which can be heard on the phenomenal Peel session recording Pre-Modern Wireless. Afterward, Ayers plucked saxophonist Didier Malherbe out of Gong momentarily to supplement the sound on his next album. The perfect substitute for Lol Coxhill, Malherbe and flute are a standout on the opener, "There Is Loving," with moving orchestral arrangements by Dave Bedford on the "Among Us" midsection. Initially released as a single, the album's highlight and concert staple, "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes," is classic Ayers. While many outstanding guitarists have ripped up this grooving, occasionally aggressive blues/pop riff, Ayers himself laid down the guitar and piano tracks on this maiden recording. In line with Ayers' most appealing, successful compositions, "Stranger" and the majority of cuts on Whatever are uncomplicated and frank, allowing the listener to immediately step inside. Ayers' tunes may be light and semisweet, but he doesn't beat around the bush. "Oh My" and "Champagne Cowboy Blues" are exquisite examples of Ayers' ability to immediately pull in the listener via his lighthearted, slightly skewed approach. "Champagne" features the signature Mike Oldfield sound/style that would soon sell millions of records for him as a solo artist. Noteworthy are "Song From the Bottom of a Well" and "Lullaby." Intoned with darkness and foreboding, "Well" harks back to Soft Machine's "Why Are We Sleeping?" and foreshadows Ayers' Dr. Dream album, particularly "It Begins With a Blessing." But like much of the experimental material on his previous release, "Well" just doesn't build up to anything of substance. And the instrumental "Lullaby" (appropriately titled) closes the album on an odd note. Reminiscent of King Crimson's "Cadence and Cascade" (from In the Wake of Poseidon) and highlighted by Malherbe's fluid flute, "Lullaby" is an early example of new age ambience, complete with running brook in the background. Whatevershebringswesing falls short of the ambitious peaks found on Ayers' previous record; however, the material is much more consistent, focused, and devoid of that album's pitfalls. Ayers sounds comfortable and in his true element on Whatever, but like much of his post-'70s output, the compositions lack challenge. Whatevershebringswesing has often been cited as Ayers' magnum opus, but the term should be reserved for his follow-up, Bananamour, or even The Confessions of Dr. Dream. © David Ross Smith /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 19, 2005 | Parlophone UK

Following the release of his solo debut, Joy of a Toy, Kevin Ayers created the Whole World to take the album on the road. In retrospect, the band was a kind of Brit supergroup, comprised of young Mike Oldfield (bass/guitar), Lol Coxhill (sax), Mick Fincher (drums, occasionally subbed by Robert Wyatt), and David Bedford (keys/arrangements). Following the tour, the band found itself in the studio, and in October 1970 Ayers introduced the world to the Whole World with the release of his follow-up, Shooting at the Moon. A snapshot of the era, the album is saturated with original ideas, experimentation, and lunacy, all powered by the bottled grape. It is this very "headiness" that propels and simultaneously hinders the work, resulting in a project overflowing with potential, much of which remained underdeveloped. Flushed and flustered, the band dissolved a little more than a year after it formed, leaving only Moon as its legacy. Somewhere on The Moon is a solid, unique pop record; however, Ayers and producer Peter Jenner (known for his production of Roy Harper's best '70s output) have presented the material in the guise of progressive, arty rock. Shorn of its excesses, meanderings and filler, Moon is easily one of Ayers' better releases. As it stands, the album serves more as a curiosity piece peppered with some of Ayers' best pop tunes in early stages, not yet molded by later collaborations and live performances. Ayers' music is at its zenith when he's crooning (in his lovely, flat baritone) warm, daft ditties, so simplistic yet singular in nature. Moon is blessed with several of these: the uninhibited concert staple, "May I?"; "The Oyster and the Flying Fish," a folky duet with Bridget Saint John that foreshadows Ayers' 1974 collaboration with Campbell Cramer (aka Lady June); and Ayers' timeless classic, "Clarence in Wonderland," in one of its shortest (at only two minutes) incarnations. Written on the beach in 1966, this whimsical ditty is a carefree summer's day in a capsule. No songs in Ayers' discography are more representative of his amiable musical nature than these. But Ayers' pop songs are embedded in lengthier structures, overwhelmed and obscured by the framework of the album. The band's prog-like excursions -- "Rheinhardt and Geraldine," "Pisser Dans un Violon," and the atmospheric "Underwater" -- are interesting at times, but ultimately come off as unfocused filler that serves to frustrate the listener (note the end of "Rheinhardt"). In particular, "Pisser" and the album's title track (a reworking of the Soft Machine's "Jet Propelled Photograph") are very much in the tradition of early British avant-garde fusion; ripe with free or loose structures, providing a fertile ground for unbridled improv that often lacks payoff. © David Ross Smith /TiVo
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Rock - Released April 23, 2012 | Parlophone UK

The Soft Machine, not long after recording their first album and touring America, began breaking up -- just the first in a long series of personnel changes and subsequent new directions that formed one of art rock's winding sagas of the '70s. Kevin Ayers was the first to leave, mostly because of that American tour, and he soon became one of the first acts to release music on Harvest, a new progressive label from EMI that promised to offer the best and brightest in the new vanguard of British rock. Ayers recorded and released five albums over the next five years, all of which appear on separate discs of The Harvest Years 1969-1974, and each of which comes with bonus tracks (most of them entertaining BBC sessions). Ayers was quite the chameleon during this time, beginning with a set of psychedelic-pop whimsy akin to Syd Barrett (Joy of a Toy) but soon detouring into free-form epic prog (Shooting at the Moon, with young hotshot guitarist Mike Oldfield), and later arriving at a surprisingly straight-ahead vision of bluesy pop (Bananamour). The set offers the albums in the best sound they've ever been heard, and the bonus tracks are excellent as well. The unavoidable caveat comes, though. Why not include all the bonus tracks from previous editions, especially when they include a track actually recorded with Syd Barrett? (That would be "Religious Experience (Singing a Song in the Morning)," available on the 2003 Joy of a Toy reissue.) Quibbles aside, this is a hugely entertaining set from one of art rock's most beguiling figures. © John Bush /TiVo
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Folk - Released September 8, 2008 | Parlophone UK

Five years on from the peerless remastering of Kevin Ayers' core (Harvest label) catalog, Songs for Insane Times dips into much the same bag of tricks for a four-CD anthology that truly does reflect upon everything that made his earliest albums such a timeless joy. Traversing a decade's worth of releases from the delightful debut Joy of a Toy on, the three discs that carry Ayers through to 1980's That's What You Get Babe are an almost peerless gathering; key album cuts are joined by the string of 45s that he so typically omitted from the long-players, and if there's a disappointing lack of unreleased cuts here, that's only because the remasters cleaned them up long ago. Two discs take listeners through the very best of Ayers, up to and including 1974's Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories (the accompanying "After the Show" single opens disc three); the third wraps up the lesser but still enjoyable late-'70s output; and while one can bemoan the absence of anything from the so-crucial June 1, 1974 live album, disc four makes up for that with a full 1973 concert, unreleased in any form until now. Indeed, shop around for the best price and Songs for Insane Times is worth buying simply for the live show, which captures Ayers and his then current 747 band carving exquisitely sharp edges through "Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes," "Shouting in a Bucket Blues," and "Caribbean Moon" (among others), before devoting no less than 25 minutes to maniacal jams through "We Did It Again" and "Why Are We Sleeping?" Perfection! Returning to the studio sides, a few fan favorites have probably slipped through the netting (no "Everybody's Sometime...Blues," "Falling in Love Again," or the 45-rpm version of "Lady Rachel," to name but three). But "Girl on a Swing," "May I?," "Song from the Bottom of a Well," "Decadence," and the full "Confessions of Doctor Dream" suite are here, and anybody who professes themselves indisposed toward Sweet Deceiver and its late-'70s successors might well revise their opinion by the time "Where Do the Stars End?" wraps up disc three. © Dave Thompson /TiVo
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Folk - Released March 30, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Sweet Deceiver is one of Kevin Ayers' more mainstream efforts. Any album that has Elton John playing piano on a few tracks can't be too weird. That's not to say, though, that this is exactly mainstream in and of itself. Ayers continues to play his offhandedly charming miniatures, with occasional Caribbean rhythms and trademark droll, bemused lyrics. The problem is that while this has its charm while you're listening, little sticks or incites you to return. By this point in his career, Ayers was in danger of catching on a treadmill, restating his idiosyncratic concerns in familiar ways without amplifying them. © Richie Unterberger /TiVo
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Folk - Released March 30, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Kevin Ayers' fifth album, The Confessions of Doctor Dream and Other Stories, is typical of his work. He sings in his distinctive deep voice with his cultured English accent (sounding a lot like John Cale) in songs set in a variety of pop styles, from hard rock to a kind of music hall approach. He is frequently playful and engaging, although his songs don't ultimately add up to much. The album's second side contains an 18-minute suite called "The Confessions of Doctor Dream," featuring a cameo by Nico, which exemplifies Ayers' amiable if unfocused appeal. © William Ruhlmann /TiVo
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Pop - Released December 31, 2013 | Parlophone UK

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Alternative & Indie - Released May 3, 2009 | LO-MAX Records

These days we offer platitudes to a lot of musicians who come out of the woodwork to make a new stand on wobbly legs, or have genuinely brilliant work heard and recognized by more arduous music fans who missed it the first time around in passing, or younger folks who never had the chance in the first place. And rightfully so. It seems odd to place Kevin Ayers in this category, but he is perhaps the most enigmatic of all. Ayers, who along with Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge founded Soft Machine, left after its second album to pursue a career as a solo artist, releasing seminal psychedelic classics like Joy of a Toy, Shooting at the Moon, and Bananamour, to name just three. He's recorded and performed with everybody from Syd Barrett (who appeared as a sideman on Ayers' first platter) to Phil Manzanera, Eno, John Cale, Nico, and Elton John. He influenced David Bowie, and was the musical companion of stalwart jazzmen like Lol Coxhill and prog rockers like Mike Oldfield, Steve Hillage (speaking of enigmas) and the late guitarist Ollie Halsall (a dear friend of Ayers, who was truly shaken at his untimely death). Odd, but fitting. Throughout the '80s due to rather bacchanalian circumstances, Ayers' final record for Virgin was not promoted; he began to retreat from the life and music he'd created: from England, then from touring, then from recording, too. He surfaced briefly with an acoustic album recorded in France with Fairground Attraction, did a bit of collaboration with Ultramarine, and the Wizard of Twiddly, and then poof...gone. Unfairground, issued in Great Britain on Lo-Max recordings (the same label that gave us back the Go-Betweens until Grant McLennan's death) marks Ayers welcome return to recording. Ayers befriended an American artist named Timothy Shepard, who heard tape recordings of Ayers new songs (made mostly on a cassette recorder at his kitchen table), and solicited younger players he knew were fans of Ayers' work to get involved: Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub, Gary Olson, Bill Wells, Ladybug Transistor, Frank Reader from Trash Can Sinatras, and Candie Payne and Euros Childs from Gorky's Zygotic Minci were all part of these wondrous sessions that took place in New York Tucson, London, and Glasgow. Old friends Phil Manzanera, Robert Wyatt, Hugh Hopper, and Bridget Saint John also lent their talents as well. The truly honorable Bernard MacMahon of Lo-Max -- also an Ayers fan -- signed him, and the rest is ready for your ears. Unfairground contains ten songs that run a tad over 33 minutes. Simply put, it is prime Ayers. His approach hasn't changed: he's still humorous, bright, witty, and ironic, but there is great emotional and poetic depth in these songs. They're adorned with strings, wonderfully spare keyboard work, acoustic and electric guitars, and unobtrusive drums and percussion with other sundry shadings and textures. They all serve Ayers' trademark wry yet emotionally expressive baritone voice, which is no worse for the wear of the years. The songs, like the double-edged opener "Only Heaven Knows," with its mariachi brass and female backing chorus, are polished, fully realized, and gorgeously executed -- by Ayers as much as his counterparts. They are positively inspired. The melody and arrangement in this song are cheery, but the lyrics belie something else: a vulnerability that dares to look ambiguity in the face and not flinch. Wyatt's voice on "Cold Shoulder," underscores a contradiction: Wyatt is an old shoulder, but is far from cold. His backing vocal lies in stark contrast to the emotions in Ayers' lyric. As the strings highlight the plight of the protagonist who is now a man on an island, he is wrapped in warmth and support,. This creates a split of course: how can a man be so alone in the middle of such beauty? Ayers' irony and raw confessionalism serve the purpose these questions hang on very well. It is followed by "Walk on Water," is a meditation on falsity and the wearing of masks for show. The consequences of which are experienced in his words: "they reap what they sow/in their own way." The jaunty Baroque pop melody is tight and breezy, but the strings are so wonderfully textured they provide the solid ground Ayers walks upon, and the horns add depth to that foundation. There is Ayers' acoustic guitar, of course, which strums it out alone, facing the truth of his words without making a fuss. There is a lonesome, delirious pedal steel in "Friends and Strangers," a rainbow arrayed pop song, that shuffles and snakes its way forward as layers of backing vocals, cello, and a snappy snare drum and bass drum keep it all on track. Ayers is filled with a disappointed wonder, or rather, his protagonist is. Reflecting on broken love: the deceit, treachery, and an unwillingness to see things as they are without judgment, doesn't stray from the path of breezy reportage into maudlin sentiment. The lithe bluesy swing in "Shine a Light," can be heard in almost every layer of the tune, whether it be the wonderfully taut and tender -- and mildly desperate -- love-grooving horn section, the restrained but tasty electric guitar break, or the chorus backing vocal -- all of these serve, with the whisper of a B-3 in the verse, the desperate, deep longing in the singer's voice. And while there isn't a weak moment here, songs like "Brainstorm," with its out of kilter acoustic piano, growling brooding vocal, and Manzanera's wonky-wail guitar break make them special indeed. (The growl and anger in Ayers' voice on this tune, especially on the chorus, is reminiscent of old mate and nemesis John Cale's on "Guts," that was written about him.) Add to this the gorgeous duet vocal by Saint John on "Baby Come Home," with its squeezebox fills, ukulele, and elegant, graceful acoustic guitar fills that are underscored by the mariachi brass, and you can get floored. The album's brevity certainly lends to the emotional impact that Ayers' songs have. Many of them, in fact most of them despite their humor, are a bit melancholy, to say the least, but Ayers is never maudlin. And this is the most astonishing thing about this record: it's like the guy who recorded Whatevershebringswesing, Joy of a Toy, Bananamour, Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain, and Still Life with Guitar never left. Yeah, he's older, his voice is deeper, but it's still utterly nuanced and commands complete authority over his lyrics, even as he makes it appear to the listener that it just falls out of the bemused mind of a quick-witted Lothario. There's some regret and pathos, too, but the craft and the poetry are impeccable; unpretentious, accessible, and adventurous all at the same time. Ayers is a genuine enigma in an era when there aren't many; in fact, coming back as he has to record again italicizes this. Now that the record is appearing in America as well as in Europe, we can only hope his near terminal shyness doesn't propel one of his signature disappearing acts just as things begin to happen again: we would all be the poorer for it. Furthermore, one suspects, so would he. Unfairground is one of the great records to come out of Great Britain in 2007 and adds exponentially to the legacy and well-deserved reputation of one of the great songsmiths that rock sometimes doesn't know it produced. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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Folk - Released March 30, 2009 | Parlophone UK

Not long after Island had disposed of his contract, Kevin Ayers hooked up with Harvest once again, releasing the mainstream-sounding Yes We Have No Mañanas in 1976. Although Ayers' symbolic banana references find their way into the title (the banana being his outlet for representing silliness in such a serious world ), the ten tracks find him singing some rather conventional pop/rock. Both "Star" and "Mr. Cool" were released as singles, with some noticeable guitar work from Ollie Halsall adorning both. Ayers made a name for himself by incorporating a unique brand of genial eccentricity into his music -- 1970s Joy of a Toy and 1973's Bananamour, for example, as "The Ballad of Mr. Snake" and "The Owl" are typical of Ayers' discounted vaudeville-like fair. On the whole, Mañanas has Ayers sounding more mature, which could account for the album's slight downfall. Even with Billy Livsey's keyboard ritziness, efforts like "Love's Gonna Turn You Around," "Falling in Love Again," and "Blue" are shy of Ayers' off-centeredness -- and the absence of this trait to some extent gives Mañanas a slightly colder feel than his earlier work. Two years later, Kevin Ayers released the more appealing Rainbow Takeaway, but he still wasn't his old self. © Mike DeGagne /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 8, 2010 | Parlophone UK

The kind of arty hippie/eccentric who could only have become a media figure in mid-'70s Britain, Kevin Ayers' RAINBOW TAKEAWAY finds his period of greatest popularity coming to an end courtesy the UK punk explosion. The album marks the end of Ayers' "classic era" but still bears most of his initial trademarks; his obsession with American music is evident in the songs and arrangements' soul and country flavor. Ayer's Canterbury progressive rock beginnings are represented in such touches as Billy Livsey's extended synthesizer ostinatos at the end of "A View from the Mountain," while his self-mocking humor is manifest on the purposefully shambolic closer "Hat Song." As ever, Ayers' fluid baritone vocal comes off alternately quirky, in "Ballad of a Salesman Who Sold Himself," and sensual, on the lulling "Blaming it All on Love." © TiVo
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Pop - Released March 22, 2010 | Market Square

Pleased with the success of a previous casual collaboration, when his opening act The Wizards of Twiddly had joined him onstage for a couple of numbers, Kevin Ayers started touring with the band intermittently for a year. TURN THE LIGHTS DOWN! captures one of these dates, at the Waterman's Arts Centre in London, for posterity. Guitarist Carl Bowry and his colleagues lend an added dimension to such Ayers favorites as "Didn't Feel Lonely 'Till I Thought of You," "Lady Rachel," and "Why Are We Sleeping?" The two-piece brass section gives "Am I Really Marcel?" and "May I?" a decidedly woozy Salvation Army feel. Crank up the volume, and LIGHTS serves as a creative highlight of Ayers' low-profile '90s career. © TiVo
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Pop - Released May 8, 2020 | Singsong Music

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Rock - Released January 8, 2010 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released January 8, 2010 | Parlophone UK

1980's That's What You Get Babe saw Kevin Ayers come as close to commercial pop as he would ever get, trading in his incongruous personality and peculiar musical style for some rather straight-laced rock & roll. Those who have grown accustomed to Ayers' eccentric whimsy and colorful unconventionality will most definitely be disappointed here, and what he loses in flamboyancy he tries to make up for in melody and hooks but an array of keyboards and other instrumental fluff seem to get in his way, eventually overriding his singing and weighing down the album. Tracks such as "That's What You Get," "Super Salesman," "You Never Outrun Your Heart," and "Given and Taken" are well-sung pop efforts, and there's enough of Ayers' vocal zing to keep them from being total washouts, but they just can't compete with Ayers' flavorful history. "Money, Money, Money," "Miss Hanaga," and "Idiots" rekindle a little bit of the old Kevin Ayers but fail to harbor the same type of flair and extravagance of past endeavors. It's obvious that Ayers gambled, thinking that his elaborate musical showmanship would be deemed unfit and passé for the '80s, but after this release it was evident that fans wanted the same old Ayers and this his offbeat charisma could never really be traded in. That's What You Get Babe sold poorly and ultimately ended his relationship with Harvest. A couple of the albums that followed, Diamond Jack and the Queen of Pain and Deja Vu were also lackluster mainstream affairs which suffered the same ill fate for their associated labels. © Mike DeGagne /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 8, 2010 | Parlophone UK

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Progressive Rock - Released July 1, 2008 | Produccions BLAU S.L

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Rock - Released August 13, 2010 | Parlophone UK

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Rock - Released August 13, 2010 | Parlophone UK