REVIEW

KEVIN AYERS WITH ROBERT WYATT
The Whole Wide World [no label 1CD]
Live at Gemeendecentrum, Drijbergen on July 30 1970. Broadcast on VPRO Piknik radio and TV. Ex stereo broadcast.

As oddly disconcerting as any live Ayers experience ought to be, this live broadcast from 1970 catches the Whole Wide World at their most maddening, a collection of songs that veers deliberately between the whimsical and the obtuse, with little middle ground in between. So a fractured "We Did It Again" rubs shoulders with a mystifyingly brief "Lady Rachel" (oddly dominated by a piping Stylophone), "The Hat Song" rattles manically alongside a disheveled "Clarence In Wonderland," and "Why Are We Sleeping" spreads out over close to twelve minutes of sheer madness, including a lengthy snatch of Ayers doing his best impersonation of a kitschy nightclub balladeer.

The Dutch broadcasters themselves add to the chaos with barking dogs and snatches of speech, while the general air of lunacy is only heightened by some positively leviathan improvisations. "Clarence In Wonderland" is extended out over more than 13 minutes, via solos that all but become sound effects; "We Did It Again" touches the quarter of an hour mark, as it rides a grinding garage riff that makes Mick Farren’s "Mona" sound restrained; and "Colores Para Dolores" is essentially a Lol Coxhill showcase that really wants to burst into the theme from the Benny Hill Show.

So, all is as one would expect to find from a period Whole Wide World show, with the only possible caveat being the absence of the four final tracks (BBC and elsewhere) that are mentioned on the CD sleeve. If you can live without them, though, this is fabulous. - Dave Thompson

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