Monday, March 3, 2014

Kevin Ayers - Deià...Vu

Born in Kent, England, singer-songwriter Kevin Ayers was part of the 60’s psychedelic music scene as a founding member of Soft Machine. Most of the 70’s he spent on his solo career. This month marks the thirtieth anniversary of Deià…Vu, his eleventh studio album. It was actually recorded in December of 1980 but was held for release until March of 1984.

Ayers provided lead vocals and guitar on the record. Joining him were Joan Bibiloni (guitar), Ollie Halsall (bass and guitar), Daniel Lagarde (bass), Quique Villafania (drums), Miguel Figueroa (drums), Zanna Gremar (keyboards and backing vocals), Jorge Pardo (saxophone) and Linda Novit (backing vocals).

Side one opens with “Champagne and Valium”, the B-side to the second single. This song about a destructive lifestyle has a wonderful blues rhythm to it. Pardo’s saxophone and Ayer’s gravely vocals add perfectly to a somber mood.

“Thank God for a Sense of Humor” bounces along on a light, old-fashioned beat. To me, it sounds like something that would have been a pop hit in the early 70’s by the likes of Tony Orlando and Dawn. I liked it.

“Take It Easy” has a down-and-dirty saunter to it that flashes the warning signs of danger ahead. Even the backing chorus warns with “run run run”.

“Stop Playing with My Heart (You Are a Big Girl)” is next. While subtle, there is certainly a bit of a reggae influence in this one.

Side two starts with “My Speeding Heart”, which was released as a single in 1983. It has a bit of a Rolling Stone’s vibe ala “Shattered” to it.

Next up is a cover of Bob Dylan’s 1969 track “Lay Lady Lay”. Ayer’s version brings to my mind what I would expect if Eric Clapton recorded a version of the song.

“Stop Playing With My Heart II” reprises the earlier track but with a more 80’s new-wave vibe to it. The songs definitely have a distinct sound to this. This one was released as a single in 1984.

“Be Aware of the Dog” ends the album on a warning note. I like the interplay of the guitars and drums on it.

Prior to this review, I did not know who Kevin Ayers was; if I had heard any of his music ever on the radio back in the day I don’t recall any of it. It was not something that was on my teenaged radar in 1984. Despite that, I really liked Deià…Vu a lot upon an initial listen over on Spotify. Both iTunes and Amazon have it for download, so I might just have to jump on one of those to pick this up in the future. The songs are a good mix of blues-rock and Ayer’s seasoned voice give them a lot of weight. This one is worth checking out.

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