Complete with b-sides and out takes, is a fitting epitaph to a golden period.
Chris Jones 2009
Kevin Ayers, ex-bass player with the early psychedelic version of the Soft Machine and purveyor of whimsical, English, experimental, singer songwriter fare, is undoubtedly one of this nation's lost treasures. His first four albums are near perfect examples of his art. By 1974 he'd had near miss after near miss and parted company with EMI's underground wing, Harvest, signing to Chris Blackwell's home of musicianly loucheness, Island. As if sensing the cultural shift in rock's landscape Confessions..., with its mixture of both 'straight' and 'far out' modes, can be seen as a marker in the shifting sands of his career.
The album's cast of talent draws together a swathe of his past collaborators, many who'd gone on to be pretty famous themselves: Mike Oldfield and Lol Coxhill (who were both in his band The Whole World); Mike Ratledge (of the Softs); Michael Giles (ex King Crimson); Nico and his multi-talented right hand man/guitarist who'd appeared on his last Harvest album, Bananamour - Ollie Halsall. The album contains both sides of Ayers easy-going CV. There's the knockabout, slightly boozy, bluesy rock of Day By Day or Everybody's Sometime And Some People's All The Time Blues or Didn't Feel Lonely Til I Thought Of You. And then there's the second half's four-part Doctor Dream suite which beautifully trots out some truly disturbing psychodramatic stuff, aided by the Teutonic iciness of Nico on the opening Irreversible Neural Damage.
In a way it's a reprise of everything that came before. Note how Ratledge's organ on The Last Chance Dance echoes the previous album's Interview, and including a rather lame 'rock' version of The Soft Machine's Why Are We Sleeping? (retitled as It Begins With A Blessing...) indicated that excesses were now blunting his creative faculties somewhat. By the following Sweet Deceiver album he'd surrendered to the wine and was featuring Elton John on his albums (they shared managers at the time). However engaging he remained, his days as one of Canterbury's most florid offshoots were now at an end. The Confessions Of Doctor Dream, complete with b-sides and out takes, is a fitting epitaph to a golden period.