Kevin Ayers

Songs For Insane Times: An Anthology 1969-1980

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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.

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