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Shooting at the Moon Audio CD – Audiobook, CD
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Ex Wilde Flowers and Soft Machine Bassist and Songwriter KEVIN AYERS would pump out eight eclectic and often utterly brilliant albums between 1969 and 1978 – six on EMI’s Harvest and the other two on Island Records.
Time now for the digital variants of those fondly remembered doo-dahs and you have to say that EMI/Harvest have done a totally sterling job reissuing the lot on CD. The first batch of four came in June 2003 and the remainder in September 2009 (the last two on download only) – all bolstered with great bonus tracks and quality Peter Mew Remasters.
Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt jumped ship - but October 1970's "Shooting At The Moon" continued on from the Witty/Eccentric Rock of November 1969’s debut album "Joy Of A Toy". But for that difficult platter number two they were credited as Kevin Ayers And The Whole World and the band containing such future luminaries as Lol Coxhill, David Bedford, Mick Fincher and a pre "Tubular Bells" Mike Oldfield. Here are the longhaired memories...
UK and Europe released June 2003 (reissued September 2005) – "Shooting At The Moon" by KEVIN AYERS and THE WHOLE WORLD on EMI/Harvest 07243-582777-2-2 (Barcode 724358277722) is an 'Expanded Edition' CD Remaster and plays out as follows (67:15 minutes):
1. May I?
2. Rheinhardt & Geraldine/Colores Para Delores
3. Lunatic's Lament
4. Pisser Dans Un Violon
5. The Oyster And The Flying Fish [Side 2]
7. Clarence In Wonderland
8. Red Green And You Blue
9. Shooting At The Moon
Tracks 1 to 9 make up the album "Shooting At The Moon" issued October 1970 in the UK on Harvest SHSP 4005 (no US release). Produced by KEVIN AYERS and KEITH JENNER (Engineer Peter Mew) - all songs by KEVIN AYERS.
10. Gemini Child - Recorded June 1970 - first released on the February 1976 UK compilation LP "Odd Ditties" on Harvest SHSM 2005
11. Puis Je? - Non-album song - B-side to the 9 October 1970 UK 7" single for "Butterfly Dance" on Harvest HAR 5027 – French language version of the A
12. Butterfly Dance - Non-album song - A-side to the 9 October 1970 UK 7" single on Harvest HAR 5027
13. Jolie Madame - Recorded November 1970 - released as an album outtake on the "Odd Ditties" LP from February 1976 on Harvest SHSM 2005
14. Hat - Previously Unreleased 'Take 4' recorded 20 May 1970
KEVIN AYERS, DAVID BEFORD, LOL COXHILL, MIKE OLFIELD and MICK FINCHER
ROBERT WYATT – Vocals on "Colores Para Delores"
BRIDGET St. JOHN - Duet Vocals on "The Oyster And The Fish" and the outtakes "Jolie Madame" and "Hats [Take 4]"
Compiled, researched and produced by noted Canterbury Scene genre expert MARK POWELL (of Esoteric Recordings) – the 16-page booklet is festooned with rare photos and a detailed history of the album's genesis and fruition (black and white snaps of the boys swilling beer in a pub, brooding on someone's carpet and playing live in Hyde Park between recording sessions for the album). The colour photograph variants of the snaps that turned up on the rear sleeve grace Page 8 (where did all that hair go?) along with a handwritten note and display diagram from Ayers as to where he wanted the band photos to go on the album sleeve. Powell's liner notes fill in the history gaps - original members of Pink Floyd Peter Jenner and Andrew King liking Ayers' Acoustic demos - Drummer Mike Fincher joining the ranks although Robert Wyatt did fill in on some of the live dates and how the session outtake "Hat" contained Dandelion Records folky BRIDGET ST. JOHN on vocals (Ayers would eventually re-record it as "Hat Song" for the "Rainbow Takeaway" album in 1978). But all of that is trumped by the superb Audio...
PETER MEW (who originally engineered the record back in the day) has remastered the first generation tapes at Abbey Road Studios (February 2003) and has done a typically stunning job – really beautiful Sound Quality. Mew has handled hundreds of CD reissues including Dr. Feelgood, Davie Bowie, Deep Purple, Donovan, Blodwyn Pig, Electric Light Orchestra, Free, Jethro Tull, Duncan Browne, Horslips, Man, Robin Trower (and many more) – I've reviewed all of the ones mentioned. His work here is amongst his best and Ayers specifically asked for Mew to carry out the transfers.
The first nine-minute song comes in three separate parts - (a) is "May I?" which opens with traffic and our Kevin asking some pretty girl could he sit and stare at her for a while - her looks enough to lift his dreary day (the audio here is amazing). But that soon gives way to some rather dated-sounding Jazz Rock in (b) "Rheinhardt & Geraldine" which unfortunately descends into some unlistenable backwards tapes (drunk on despair) and finally returns to the opening music in "Colores Para Delores" which supposedly features Robert Wyatt but I'm buggered if I can actually hear him. Things get all Velvet Underground Rock-Funky with a two-parter - first up is "Lunatics Lament" - think "Loaded" meets the debut with an incessant Bass and Organ and treated vocals. That's followed by the notorious "Pisser Dans Un Violon" that sounds like an eight-minute bad trip - staccato noises attacking your speakers but I'm afraid little else - it's an appalling waste of space and time.
Side 2 opens with the sea-shanty "The Oyster And The Fish" and its acoustic strums and combined vocals (Ayers and Bridget St. John) sound incredible. "Underwater" sounds like its title - pianos and bent bass notes giving it their best rendition of gurgles - more nonsense. "Clarence In Wonderland" is short but typically Ayers - a 'sitting on the beach' ditty about a woman who approaches him and makes him a 'wine' offer he can't refuse (feels like the musicians all accepted her boozy invite too). "Red Green And You Blue" is pretty but the title song "Shooting At The Moon" is more hard work than it should be.
The Bonus Tracks rescue what I feel is a patchy LP - the stand-alone "...Lady lady won't you come here quick..." 7" single of "Butterfly Dance" has a charming French language version of "May I?" on its flip-side - both way better than all of the more indulgent tracks on the album. Even the outtake "Gemini Child" feels like a song that should have been on the LP too while Bridget St. John's French language vocals on "Jolie Madame" again feel like they were destined for the record but dropped for something more Avant Garde.
So there you have it – in 2016 "Shooting At The Moon" is awfully dated for sure and yet occasionally brilliant too and even beautiful in places (it was 1970 after all). Both David Bedford and Mike Oldfield would return for the beginning of the biggies - 1972's "Whatevershebringswesing" - and thereafter his albums would get progressively better ("Bananamour" from 1973 and "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" from 1974 are truly wonderful things). And those extras are worth owning too.
"Shooting At The Moon" was and still is hard work - but it's a fantastic sounding reissue of a Kevin Ayers rarity you never see on original vinyl LP and if you've any love for the record - then start your moon shots here...
PS: see also my reviews for his other EMI/Harvest 'Expanded Edition' CD Remasters:
"Joy Of A Toy" (1969 Debut), "Whatevershebringswesing" (1972), "Bananamour" (1973), "The Confessions Of Dr. Dream And Other Stories" (1974), "Sweet Deceiver" (1975) and "Yes We Have No Mananas, Get Your Mananas Today" (1976)
Ayers' songs, as usual, seem almost casual on the surface but on closer inspection reveal an intelligence and direction that bring him fairly close to his contemporary and friend, Syd Barrett. Ayers' dark, luminous baritone voice is his own, however, and his worldview, although sometimes a bit demented, is not burdened with the overtones of paranoia and fear that edge Barrett's work. Ayers' pastoral and carefree view of life informs everything he writes, but don't be decieved by the surface. There's a lot going on underneath, and repeated listenings will reveal more.
The extra tracks are terrific. One could argue that "Hat" might go on too long but it gets irrevocably stuck in your head, as do many of the songs here. The remastering is quite good.
Kevin Ayers is something of a forgotten jewel in the British crown of eccentric rock, but he has been a hidden influence on many, including Robyn Hitchcock and Julian Cope. The reissues of Ayers' first four albums (arguably his best) are more than welcome, and anyone interested in a very different yet accessible musical view of the world will want this CD.