Kevin Ayers was a founder member of Soft Machine, one of the key members of the legendary Wilde Flowers and heavily involved in the early Canterbury psychedelic scene.
Ayers left Soft Machine after an extensive tour of the US, opening for Jimi Hendrix. He sold his bass to Noel Redding and went to Ibiza with Daevid Allen (Soft Machine & Gong) for a recuperative break. He began a songwriting binge that resulted in the songs for ‘Joy Of A Toy’.
During his solo career he collaborated with the likes of Brian Eno, Syd Barrett, Bridget St John, John Cale, Elton John, Robert Wyatt, Andy Summers, Mike Oldfield, Nico and Ollie Halsall, among many others.
Ayers returned to London and put the songs together to form an album which was picked up by EMI’s Harvest label. Recorded at Abbey Road by Peter Jenner, he is accompanied 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 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).

As an album, it has lasted surprisingly well. It is full of British whimsy and humour but some songs, such as ‘The Lady Rachel’, have a more chilling and emotive side to them. ‘Girl On A Swing’ is a delightful number with Ayers rhapsodising over a Mozart-like piano rill. My personal favourite is the light and lovely ‘Eleanors Cake(Which Ate Her)’, a classic sixties folk/pop song very reminiscent of Nick Drake .
There is a lot of typical (for the time) silliness but that is charming too, and the psychedelic passages are on the lighter side.
Ayers baritone is tuneful and easy to listen to.

This release is remastered from the original master tapes and available in vinyl only but is probably worth buying a record player if you aren’t already into vinyl.