We feel obliged to point out that the term “Harvest years” isn’t strictly accurate – 1974’s Confessions Of Dr Dream was originally released on the Island label – but, meh, who’s complaining? The more there is of this stuff in one sitting, the better: a positively voluptuous body of work to rival the best efforts of any English songwriter of the era.
The five discs herein comprise all of Ayers’ albums from 1969’s Joy Of A Toy, his graceful, dimly-radiant solo debut, through to the aforementioned Dr Dream, with a hearty clutch of loose-limbed, beaming, consummately stoned BBC radio session bonus tracks on each. Listening through, what becomes most readily apparent in hindsight is just how many sleepless nights Ayers must have afforded his record company. The devilishly handsome Ayers could – and did – write any number of catchy, charming, should-have-been hits – May I?, Singing A Song In The Morning, Caribbean Moon, Butterfly Dance, Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes – but the former Soft Machine bassist shrugged away any remote chance of pop stardom by giving free rein to his bloody-minded, atonal avant-garde impulses (Pisser Dans Un Violon, Underwater, Irreversible Neural Damage). It is, of course, this very combination of elements that makes him such a uniquely lustrous jewel.