Joy of a Toy (Bonus Track Version)
On his 1969 solo debut album, Kevin Ayers keeps the mood teasingly surreal while letting his musical imagination run free. The former Soft Machine bassist presents himself as a bemused traveler through an Alice in Wonderland–like series of landscapes, offering both group scenes (“Town Feeling”) and intimate portraits (“Lady Rachel”) along the way. Tracks like “The Clarietta Rag” and “Stop This Train (Again Doing It)” have an unmistakably psychedelic tinge, while “Song for Insane Times” (featuring Ayers’ old Soft Machine cohorts on backup) veers into avant-garde jazz territory and “All This Crazy Gift of Time” has the feel of a country hoedown. David Bedford’s spacy keyboards, Paul Minn’s murmuring oboe, and Robert Wyatt’s ever-unique drumwork play crucial roles in giving Joy of a Toy a distinct sound. Beneath the album’s layers of weirdness is a sweet, somewhat melancholy sensibility, heard especially in “Eleanor’s Cake (Which Ate Her).” The über-catchy “Singing a Song in the Morning” features Syd Barrett’s unhinged guitar work. Oddly endearing, Joy of a Toy set the tone for Ayers’ later excursions into idiosyncratic regions of prog-rock.