Box-O- Plenty Records BOP CD002
released: 16/11/04

This beauty landed on the mat only 20 minutes ago after a long and anxious wait in which the first copy went walkabout somewhere in the several thousand miles that separate the purple sunsets of California from the November murk of Manchester UK. If the mystery recipient is half as pleased as I am then I'm not surprised he kept it rather than returned to sender.

Most of you will know the thread that span the spool that wove the fabric behind this release but there is a skein of gold which makes it worth restating. I am acutely aware of horrendous mixed metaphors in that previous sentence, but what the hell - I'm in heart-on-the-sleeve mode and don't intend to edit any of this. This CD is the product of a fan who clubbed together airfares, pulled in favours, laid hard cash on the line, sweated blood to rehearse, play, mix and market. If I could play a single note, this is the one fan I'd want.

After the washed out cover that murdered 'The Island Years' this boasts one of the best photos to grace a Kevin Ayers album in recent (or any?) years. This is a lovely and glossy production. Ocean, palm trees, guitar and a sense of vastness merge beneath an immense sky. Sunrise or sunset? A new dawn or the fading day before the velvet night? A wonderful mystery. I can picture the letter already from Clever Dick of Liverpool pointing out that all ocean views in California must look to the west and therefore, even without John Wayne riding into it, this must be a sunset. Not so quick, Dick - keep going west and it's Japan which is the east and the Land of the Rising Sun. Ha - QED.

No arguments about the music however. You will not believe that these gigs were prefaced by an absolute minimum of rehearsal - in that respect they acquire a fascinating perspective to offset the other live set of 1995's 'Turn The Lights Down', captured after a week of intense playing every night with the Wizards of Twiddly. Richard Derrick has chosen a personal selection of songs from 4 gigs in LA and San Francisco between 1993 and 2000. Skilfully captured on a mixture of DATs, soundboards and audience cassettes, the setlist emerges as a seamless experience with the subtleties between the different (and previous) bands a secondary factor. I'm sure you'll know what I mean - these are songs that have opened their hearts, welcomed in Ollie, Oldfield, Summers, Hillage, Carl Bowry, Alain Berthe - there is a never-failing fascination in hearing what each brings and yet the songs still swell and grow with a dynamism and life of their own. Flute and sax add a welcome texture to the songs and some storming guitar work from both Ken Rosser and Victor Manning reminded me why I loved these sets the first time I heard the rough mixes. Miracles have been performed to the sound quality which literally sparkles.

Kevin is on fine form throughout, relaxed and bantering with a passionate crowd who appear to be sitting on his lap in places. Spontaneity at a Kevin Ayers gig is the first ingredient we would all want and recognise - the humanity of that occasional dodgy intro or outro is a vital counterpoise to understand the magnificence of what may follow; the silence in the spaces the prelude to the genius in between. This is Kevin Ayers alive.

Do not hesitate to buy this record and order a spare for grandchildren, loved ones, the unconverted and just in case the b**st**d who nicked my first copy has got his eye on you. These will disappear fast.

And make a note to vote Richard Derrick for next President.

MW November 04