Like many psych prog artists who came to the fore in the 60s and 70s, former Soft Machine man Kevin Ayers had a testing relationship with the 80s. He would subsequently disown solo LPs such as 1980’s That’s What You Get Babe and 1983’s Diamond Jack And The Queen Of Pain, works somewhat hamstrung by nascent digital tech, and which producers shaped according to their vision, not that of Ayers.
Recorded in Madrid, Spain, with the great man commuting in from the remote farmhouse where he was living in Deia, Mallorca, Falling Up saw Ayers grasp the creative reins again after scoring a new deal with Virgin Records. Working closely with pal and former Patto/The Rutles guitar ace Peter ‘Ollie’ Halsall and gifted local Spaniards, he made what’s arguably his best solo LP of the 80s, more simpatico producer Colin Fairley (Beggars Opera/String Driven Thing) at the helm.
Highlights include curious piano-led Halsall co-write That’s What We Did (Today), wherein Ayers sings of ‘trying to catch stars in a spoon’ and ‘running around in the nude’. Elsewhere, lazy 6/8 time blues Am I Really Marcel?, with its anti-rat-race sentiments, also typifies a record celebrating Ayers’ existence as a boozy bon-vivant.
Still, in revealing new sleeve notes written by music journalist and Prog writer Mike Barnes, Ayers’ daughter Galen is frank about the darker side of her father’s seeming hippy idyll, noting “there was too much isolation, loneliness and access to cheap booze and drugs. Kevin was falling apart slowly but surely.”
Falling Up is also notable for the Mike Oldfield-penned Flying Start, which is a surprisingly commercial, unmistakably 80s pop song, and for Ollie Halsall’s remarkable guitar solo on Another Rolling Stone. For all its complex, sometimes poignant associations – Halsall would die of a drug-induced heart attack in Calle de la Amargura, Madrid, four years later aged 43 – it’s great to have this Ayers comeback available again.
Falling Up is available now via Esoteric.