Kevin Ayers – Joy Of A Toy (1969)

FrontCover1Kevin Ayers (16 August 1944 – 18 February 2013) was an English singer-songwriter who was a major influential force in the English psychedelic movement. Ayers was a founding member of the pioneering psychedelic band Soft Machine in the mid-1960s, and was closely associated with the Canterbury scene. He recorded a series of albums as a solo artist and over the years worked with Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, Bridget St John, John Cale, Elton John, Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers, Mike Oldfield, Nico and Ollie Halsall, among others. After living for many years in Deià, Majorca, he returned to the United Kingdom in the mid-1990s before moving to the south of France. His last album, The Unfairground, was released in 2007. The British rock journalist Nick Kent wrote: “Kevin Ayers and Syd Barrett were the two most important people in British pop music. Everything that came after came from them.”

Joy of a Toy is the debut solo album of Kevin Ayers, a founding member of Soft Machine. Its whimsical and singular vision provides hints of how Soft Machine might have progressed had Ayers remained in the band. He is accompanied on the LP by pianist and arranger David Bedford as well as his erstwhile Soft Machine colleagues Robert Wyatt and Mike Ratledge, and his eventual replacement Hugh Hopper, who had previously worked with him in the semi-pro band Wilde Flowers. Among the session musicians are cellist and arranger Paul Buckmaster, jazz bassist Jeff Clyne, oboist Paul Minns (of Third Ear Band) and drummer Rob Tait (formerly of Pete Brown and His Battered Ornaments before going on to join Vinegar Joe).


After a Soft Machine tour of the US with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Ayers had decided to retire from the music business. Hendrix, however, presented Ayers with an acoustic Gibson J-200 guitar on the condition that he continue his songwriting. Ayers repaired to a small London flat where he composed and arranged a whole LP which was then presented to Malcolm Jones’ fledgling Harvest label where it was produced by Peter Jenner for the then exorbitant sum of £4000 (equivalent to £66,300 in 2019).

KevinAyersJoy features many of Ayers’ most enduring songs from “The Lady Rachel” to “Girl on a Swing”, the latter still regularly covered by artists to this day like Candie Payne and The Ladybug Transistor. It was on Joy that Ayers developed his sonorous vocal delivery, an avant-garde song construction and an affection for unusual instrumentation that would have a deep influence far into the 1970s and up to the end of his career. He was assisted in this latter undertaking by David Bedford, who provided the musical arrangements for the album as well as playing piano and other keyboards.

For the recording of Syd Barrett’s first solo album—The Madcap Laughs—Soft Machine were brought in to do overdubs for a few of Barrett’s tracks. It was during this time that Barrett recorded a guitar part for the track “Religious Experience”, (later titled “Singing a Song in the Morning”); this version wasn’t released until the 2003 reissue of Joy.(wikipedia)

KevinAyers04As the Soft Machine’s first bassist and original principal songwriter, Kevin Ayers was an overlooked force behind the group’s groundbreaking recordings in 1967 and 1968. This, his solo debut, is so tossed-off and nonchalant that one gets the impression he wanted to take it easy after helping pilot the manic innovations of the Softs. Laissez-faire sloth has always been part of Ayers’ persona, and this record’s intermittent lazy charm helped establish it. That doesn’t get around the fact, however, that this set of early progressive rock does not feature extremely strong material. Ayers’ command of an assortment of instruments is impressive, and his deep bass vocals and playful, almost goofy song-sketches are affecting, but they don’t really stick with the listener. It’s no accident that some of the tracks recall early Soft Machine: Robert Wyatt drums on most of the songs, and “Song for Insane Times” is virtually a bona fide Soft Machine performance, featuring actual backing from the group itself. A likable but slight album that is at its best when Ayers is at his folkiest.(by Richie Unterberger)


Kevin Ayers (guitar, bass, melodica, harmonica, vocals)
David Bedford (piano, mellotron)
Paul Buckmaster (cello)
Paul Minns (oboe)
Mike Ratledge (organ)
Robert Wyatt (drums)
Jeff Clyne (bass on 02. + 07.)
Hugh Hopper (bass on 01. + 05.)Rob Tait (drums on 06. + 09.)
Additional musicians on 11.:
Syd Barrett (guitar)
Richard Coughlan (drums)
David Sinclair (organ)
Richard Sinclair (bass)
The Ladybirds (background vocals)

01. Joy Of A Toy Continued 2.53
02. Town Feeling 4.51
03. The Clarietta Rag 3.20
04. Girl On A Swing 2.49
05. Song For Insane Times 4.00
06. Stop This Train (Again Doing it) 6.06
07. Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her) 2.54
08. The Lady Rachel 5.18
09. Oleh Oleh Bandu Bandong 5.33
10. All This Crazy Gift Of Time 3.49
11. Religious Experience (Singing A Song In The Morning) (previously unreleased) 4.47
12. The Lady Rachel (extended first mix, previously unreleased) 6.43
13. Soon Soon Soon 3.24
14. Religious Experience (Singing A Song In The Morning) (previously unreleased) 2.51
15. The Lady Rachel (single version) 4.51
16. Singing A Song In The Morning (single version) 5.53

All songs written by Kevin Ayers



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