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).
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AllMusic Review by David Ross Smith