Dylan once said that he was on a quest or “odyssey,” finding his way back home. Interesting that a singer/songwriter from England living in New York by the name of Edward Rogers would dedicate his fifth solo album to a remarkable artist. Rogers did more than just dedicate the album, he helped a fellow artist find his way home putting closure on his life by producing an album, a tribute to the remarkable Kevin Ayers with the album, Kaye.
Kaye is an album that plays Kevin Ayers and the band Soft Machine throughout the album but with a nicely done style from Rogers himself. Edward Rogers needs to be proud of this project; it has a superb message throughout, and brings out Ayers when time called on it.
Edward opens up with “My Street.” The opener to any album is so critical, and Edward did his album justice with an awesome attention getting number. This song is very close in this writer’s opinion of a topical song. So many people feel what Edward is saying. He talks about the street being so much to so many. Playing, impromptu meetings, and the friendliness of everyone knowing everyone was commonplace many years ago. The song speaks of a climate of change, but not for the better. Edward said it, “The street was our lives.” “We did almost everything in the streets.” If in London, it might be going to a coffee bar chatting with friends, maybe listening to music together or conversing about an Alan Ginsburg poem. If you were really cool, you might be a “rocker,” having your own motorbike. In New York, it might be taking a stroll through Central Park, or going to Greenwich Village on Sundays listening to some folk music. There wasn’t any texting, tweeting, or simply being disconnected from others as we look at the little screen in the front of our face. Of course, there was a flip side to all of this with everyone knowing everyone’s business. You knew who was going good and who was going bad. “Neighbors all knew what would become of like of me ‘n you.” Edward said it well. However being a sentimentalist, I especially love the line regarding the chimney smoke. “The chimney smoke gave the evening moon a misty glare as the smell of fireworks in your hair was everywhere.” “These memories are etched so deep in my mind.” No doubt, I’m sure any time Edward smells chimney smoke it takes him back to his younger days. For some, thinking about all this could be rather sad, but as Ayers would simply sing, “Don’t Let It Get You Down.”
Another song that caught my attention is “Street Fashion.” First of all, if you love the music of Soft Machine, I promise you, you will love this song. Musically, it is so Soft Machine. Lyrically, this is a piece that captures the essence of people trying so hard to be contemporary, trendy, and fashionable. In the 60’s, we called it being “Mod.” In reality, it’s dressing someone old making it new. As Edward sings, “maybe the 30’s or 60’s exploited again,” “Look at old magazines, they copied the new style for you.” Edward got this spot on. I really like this guy’s songwriting. “Street fashion, trust me and see is what you wear, you’re so square.” Edward is sending a message here that he can see through the superficial, being self-centered with a bit of histrionic flavor. I read once “the more we change the more we remain the same.” So real.
Now onto “Kaye.” I really love this number that pays homage to Kevin Ayers, himself. “Kaye” is a nice ¾ time piece where Edward does a bit of story telling regarding the life of Kevin Ayers. In doing some research, it appeared it was no secret that Kevin played the role of a rock star on and off the stage with some of the demons he was forced to deal with. He was not an household name but he played with the best, and in this writer’s opinion, Kevin was a bit ahead of his time, and was simply a great artist. I don’t think Ayers is in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, but he really needs to be a candidate. Edward pays his tribute well. It was so well written when he sings, “Dandelion wine became a heroin line.” “The knife’s edge you often turned, oh you touched the flame but will never learn.” Kevin died in his home in France at the age of 68. If you listen to Edward’s tribute to him, he repeats over and over throughout the number, “You don’t shine if you don’t burn.” I read in the obit after Kevin died, there was a note next to his bed that read, “you can’t shine if you don’t burn.” Nicely done, nicely done. I especially liked the last lines, “looking down at me,” “smiling down at me.”
Edward also pays tribute to Kevin by covering the song, “After The Show.” Many people have this notion that touring with a band is like having more thrills and chills than going to Disney Land. Many times, it’s just the opposite especially when so many people expect so much. Here, Edward sings something of a happening where he meets someone who is just as lonely as he and they make an informal contract. “Oh take me to your party and I’ll dance all night and hold you tight till morning comes.” Now, our characters are singing a duet of loneliness. It’s a pretty cool number especially since Kevin gave it a peaceful ending. In Kevin’s words, the loneliness was dissolved.
Finishing with one more number “What Happened To The News Today? First of all, this piece is 100% topical and I loved it. It’s about time someone wrote something with some substance that deals with issues of our world. I think most of us realize we only get the skim and not the milk with regards to current events. As Edward states, “Someone on top…someone on top…. doesn’t want us to see.” “They don’t want us to see.” “They don’t want us to know.” So much that has happened since 9/11. There are still so many hidden questions and answers. Then there were all the WMDs in Iraq that never existed. Thanks to the U.S. dollar, the British pound, and with a tremendous amount of lost and wounded lives, Saddam Hussein is gone and George Bush Senior was avenged. As the song says, “they don’t want us to learn,” “They don’t want us to talk.” I hope Edward keeps doing topical songs in future projects. He has an astounding way of telling it like it is.
In doing this review, I felt at times I was doing two reviews, one on Edward Rogers with the other on Kevin Ayers. For this writer, it was interesting looking at both sides of the coin, both artists contributing almost equally. Edward did an outstanding job with this project, and gave credit and homage where it was due. Kevin would be very proud of Edward. I particular like the title of the album chosen, Kaye, playing on Kevin’s name. I also have to mention that known producer Don Piper produced the album very well. It’s obvious; these guys work well together and probably need to keep the “rolling stone” rolling on future projects. On May 27, you need to check Kaye out.
This is Edward Rogers and he is singing with…. Kaye.