Kevin Ayers - Rainbow Takeaway (1978)

Kevin Ayers is one of rock's oddest and more likable enigmas, even if often he's seemed not to operate at his highest potential. Perhaps that's because he's never seemed to have taken his music too seriously -- one of his essential charms and most aggravating limitations. Since the late '60s, he's released many albums with a distinctly British sensibility, making ordinary lyrical subjects seem extraordinary with his rich low vocals, inventive wordplay, and bemused, relaxed attitude. Apt to flavor his songs with female backup choruses and exotic island rhythms, the singer/songwriter inspires the image of a sort of progressive rock beach bum, writing about life's absurdities with a celebratory, relaxed detachment. Yet he is also one of progressive rock's more important (and more humane) innovators, helping to launch the Soft Machine as their original bassist, and working with noted European progressive musicians like Mike Oldfield, Lol Coxhill, and Steve Hillage....
Ayers continued to release albums in a poppier vein throughout the '70s, at a regular pace. As some critics have noted, this dependable output formed an ironic counterpoint to much of his lyrics, which often celebrated a life of leisure, or even laziness. That lazy charm was often a dominant feature of his records, although Ayers always kept things interesting with offbeat arrangements, occasionally singing in foreign tongues, and flavoring his production with unusual instruments and world music rhythms. He (or Harvest) never gave up on the singles market, and indeed his best early-'70s efforts in that direction were accessible enough to have been hits with a little more push. Or a little less weirdness. Even Ayers at his most accessible and direct wasn't mainstream, a virtue that endeared him to his loyal cult.

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