Kevin Ayers/John Cale/Eno/Nico: June 1, 1974 (1974)

Kronomyth 5.5: LAYERS OF AYERS. This album had been the source of speculation on my part for years as it represented such an unusual axis of talent. And no less a luminary than Dave Thompson has found in June 1, 1974 the nexus of art-rock royalty, or at least enough inspiration to write an entire book around it. On a superficial level, this is a live album featuring Kevin Ayers and his touring band at the time (The Soporifics) plus a constellation of stars who scored extremely high on the absurdity/profundity scale: Eno, John Cale, Robert Wyatt, Nico. (As if that weren’t enough, Mike Oldfield drops by for a lovely guitar solo on “Everybody’s Sometime And Some People’s All The Time Blues.”) Add to that a little bit of history (a rare and early glimpse of Eno on stage as a solo artist) and an unhealthy dose of drama (Cale had discovered Ayers sleeping with his wife the night before this performance), and you have the makings of a memorable evening. As to whether this represents a divinely orchestrated alignment of stars, well, not to me. Just the previous year, The Rainbow had hosted Eric Clapton’s return alongside members of The Who, Blind Faith, Traffic and The Faces. To your mainstream musical consumer, Ayers and his ad hoc freakshow must have seemed like amateur night by comparison. Of course, the two revues are worlds apart. The Clapton concert sought to recapture lost ground, while Ayers and his allies were writing a new rock manifesto. Eno handles the role of opening act surprisingly well; “Driving Me Backwards” comes off without a hitch and, though overdone, “Baby’s On Fire” does contain a scorching solo in the middle. Cale contributes what is handily the oddest version of “Heartbreak Hotel” you’ll ever hear, made all the richer by the personal context behind it. The first side ends, how else?, with a version of The Doors’ “The End” by Nico that delivers the goods as only Nico can. The second side of the elpee features a handful of tracks from Ayers that move adroitly from one to the other. The breezy “May I?” is a highlight; the performances suggest a cross between Lou Reed, Bob Dylan and Bryan Ferry, with the caveat that Ayers is the prototype, not the copy. If June 1, 1974 isn’t as good as I expected, I expected a lot. My main knock on the album is that there isn’t more of it, and what there is of it (mostly Ayers) is what I was least interested in. A suitable appreciation of Ayers may come with time, however, so I reserve the right to gripe about too little Ayers layter.

Original LP Version
A1. Driving Me Backwards (Brian Eno) (5:48)
A2. Baby’s On Fire (Brian Eno) (3:34)
A3. Heartbreak Hotel (Mae Axton/Tommy Durden/Elvis Presley) (4:54)
A4. The End (The Doors) (8:51)
B1. May I? (Kevin Ayers) (5:16)
B2. Shouting In A Bucket Blues (Kevin Ayers) (4:47)
B3. Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes (Kevin Ayers) (3:14)
B4. Everybody’s Sometime And Some People’s All The Time Blues (Kevin Ayers) (4:06)
B5. Two Goes Into Four (Kevin Ayers) (2:17)

The Players
Kevin Ayers (vocal, guitar, bass guitar, acoustic guitar), John Cale (viola, piano, vocal), Eno (vocal, synthesizer on tracks), Ollie Halsall (piano, guitar, acoustic guitar), Archie Leggatt (bass guitar), Rabbit (organ, grand piano, electric piano), Eddie Sparrow (drum kit, bass drum, tympani), Robert Wyatt (percussion) with Doreen Chanter (backing vocals on A3), Irene Chanter (backing vocals on A3), Nico (vocal & harmonium on A4), Mike Oldfield (solo guitar on B4, acoustic guitar on B5), Liza Strike (backing vocals on A3). Produced by Richard Williams; engineered by John Wood.

The Plastic
Released on elpee on June 28, 1974 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9291 on pink rim labels). This has been issued/re-issued on elpee in the UK (Island, ILPS 9291) on a variety of different label designs. Released on compact disc on March 28, 1990 in the UK (Island, IMCD 92) and on July 25, 1990 in Japan (Island, PSCD-1044). Re-issued on compact disc in 2006 in Japan (Island, UICY-9686).

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