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on 9 June 2012
For me this collection of Kevin's first 5 records (Joy of a Toy, Shooting at the moon, Whatevershebringswesing, Bananamour and The confessions of Dr Dream) was a perfect buy at a very reasonable price as I only had his first record on cd and most of the others on vinyl, with the added appeal of a great many bonus tracks (singles and BBC recordings). There have been original album releases with bonus tracks, but those differ, at least partly, from the bonus tracks included in this release.

Soundwise it's fine, and I can only complain about the packaging. The jewel case box is a bit old school and the booklet included is a real disappointment: it just features pictures of the original records (front only) and a track listing with some production credits and session information. Not even the musicians are listed! Sloppy work, I'd say. Nowadays booklets in this kind of retrospective release usually are much more generous with background information and the like, and one would certainly expect this if it's released by the original recording company - and we're talking about EMI here!

Nevertheless, a great release, and with its modest price tag even appealing to all of you who've got most of his work.
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on 25 October 2013
First, the good news: this compilation is great value for money - 5CDs comprising the original albums, plus BBC sessions and other bonus tracks.

Now, the not so good news - the bonus tracks do not include all of the other bonus tracks (mostly singles, B-dides and out-takes) that appeared on the invidiual album re-issues a few years ago. So this was a missed opportunity to pull all this material together (or maybe just put out a CD of the BBC tracks?). Also, there are very limited sleevenotes, and the accompanying booklet looks underbaked. Shame.
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on 11 April 2013
I stumbled across vintage video of Mr Ayers performing Shouting In a Bucket Blues on BBC4 a month or so back and it cheered me up no end. I decided to invest in this download as it seemed such good value. Not disappointed; Hazy, eccentric, humorous, adventurous.

In some strange way it reminds me of a long departed 70's childhood in England.

Now where's my Tardis?
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If EMI had waited another year they could, perhaps, have made this a slightly better tribute to Kevin Ayers who passed away in early 2013.As it is this April 2012 release is not a bad package - especially if you can get it for around sixteen quid from one of Amazon's sellers - but a little more effort could have improved it no end. Called "The Harvest Years 1969 - 1974" it features Kevin's first four albums recorded for EMI's Harvest label between 1969 and 1973 plus an album actually released on the Island label in 1974. The four Harvest albums use the 2003 remasters already released individually - but with different bonus tracks; the bonus tracks included here are mainly from BBC sessions. The Island album, Dr Dream, uses the 2009 remaster released by EMI that year - again the bonus tracks vary with this release.

You can check the differences in bonus material by looking at the earlier individual CD releases on Amazon and decided whether to buy them individually or as this box set. A better version of this box would have featured the earlier CDs with the BBC material included as a bonus disc! The booklet included here is rather basic with just pictures of the original album sleeves and track details and all packaged in an old-style multi-disc jewel case.

I can't see EMI revisiting Kevin Ayers' back catalogue any time soon so if you are new to his work, or thinking of adding something to your CD collection after his passing, then this is probably the best value for now. I reviewed Songs for Insane Times: An Anthology 1969-1980 a couple of years back and although I liked that set I would recommend this collection before that one. The music on this collection deserves five stars - although there is actually quite a bit of filler! - but the presentation is only three stars. So for the actual value of this package I have compromised and given four stars!
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on 6 July 2014
Kevin Ayers did his best work during the period covered by this compilation, though in calling it the Harvest Years, the compilers are slightly incorrect in that it also includes the first LP that he made for Island records in 1974. That's not of course a bad thing, since the island LP "The confessions of Dr Dream" was one of his very best.

What we have with this compilation, is the five albums made by this underrated artist over the five-year period covered by the title. This means that we get Joy of a Toy, Shooting at the Moon, whatevershebringswesing, Bananamour, plus the Dr Dream record.

The Harvest albums were remastered in 2003, while the Island album was remastered in 2008 –9. All of the albums come with bonus tracks, and while these are certainly well worth listening to, it is slightly disappointing that the bonuses do not match with the bonuses that were issued when the remastered CDs came out, thus we have radio session versions of some of the bonus tracks as opposed to studio outtakes.This doesn't really detract from the quality of the original albums course, and those fans already owning the original CDs, therefore have something new to find with this collection.

As other reviewers have already commented, the packaging is very disappointing, and for that reason only I have deducted one star from what would otherwise have been a five-star review. If you are new to the music Kevin Ayers, and and want more than just a single CD, I would say that this is a very good place to start.
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on 29 May 2015
Only heard this collection a week ago and all I can say is wow! I first heard of Kevin Ayers from reading about Pink Floyd in late 1980s a time when Ayers was in the where are they now category and pre-internet it was difficult to find out more. Ayers was the bassist/ vocalist of Floyd 1966/67 contemporaries & bill sharers the Soft Machine. In 1968 Both Floyd and Soft Machine’s front men left their respective bands and started solo careers sharing the same management and record label Harvest. Whereas Syd Barrett’s solo career consisted of two disjointed efforts of interest only to compelists, Ayers’s solo career is a goldmine as it captured him at his peak of his powers and it took much longer for the drugs to destroy his creativity. Ayers legacy is that of the link between Syd Barrett and Bryan Ferry.

I remember reading an interview with former manager Peter Jenner where he described Kevin Ayers as being Bryan Ferry before Ferry. Ayers had the looks & the female admirers, more importantly the voice, artiness, Velvet Underground & C&W influences & the Lounge Lizard croon that Ferry also had. No doubt Ayers helped galvanise Bryan Ferry. Part of the tune for Ayers’ Lady Rachel seems to have worked its way in Ferry’s Song for Europe. Brian Enos’ early solo albums Here Comes the Warm Jets and Taking Tiger Mountain seem to these ears owe more to the influence of Ayers than to Ferry/ Roxy. Things seem to have went full circle as Ayers collaborated with Eno and with the period on Island where they wanted to make him a star and the Ferry / Roxy angle seems to be the obvious template – "Didn't Feel Lonely Till I Thought Of You" sounds like the best 70s Roxy Music / Ferry 45 that Roxy Music never made and indeed much of the Dr Dream album sounds like Ayers and producer Rupert Hine at Island’s behest making a Roxy Album rather than the other way round. No bad thing as such but a sore point to the man himself and his dedicated fans.

And so to boxset which called the Harvest Years 1969 to 1974 which feature his first five solo albums Joy of a Toy 1969 , Interesting debut full of plenty of songs and energy. Shooting at the Moon 1970, - A more darker affair avante garde affair. Whatevershebringswesing 1971 probably his best work, Bananamour 1973 - more patchy effort influenced by cod calyspso and reggae but still have some stand out moments such as Decadence and the Syd Barrett Tribute OH What a Dream (sung in a Rick Wright voice), all on Harvest plus we get The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories which was released on Island in 1974 – as noted above for the Roxy Influence . Included as well are outtakes and BBC radio sessions. Obviously what’s missing is Ayers other studio album for Island or the records he made on return to Harvest until 1980 all which Harvest own the licences to. Why not give us the whole 1969 to 1980 output? Even in two halves. The other gripe is the sleeve notes are pretty minimal and lack information which is a disappointing especially in comparison to the similar Stranglers Old Testament Complication. These are pretty minor gripes and the quality of the music more than compensates for a bit of thoughtless on Harvest’s part.

Unlike Ferry or Bowie, Ayers never really achieved mainstream fame and achieved only cult success and minor record sales despite the obvious talent of the man who was able to master many different musical styles. Even the Velvet Underground and Syd Barrett have got eventual recognition. Maybe he didn’t easily fit into either the prog or pop category, yet Roxy Music did operating in similar pop 45s/ album LP art rock territory. May be wasn’t Glam enough compared to Roxy and Bowie He never really got it together as a live act and tours were frequently cancelled and performances were often difficult. When Island wanted to make him a star he got cold feet. As result his career faded after he retired to Spain and creativity dried up.

The sound quality on this reissue is fantastic apart from a couple of the bonus tracks. For fans of Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, Eno, David Bowie and Pink Floyd / Progressive Rock this is an essential purchase.
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on 13 December 2012
This gathers together the individual cd extended edition releases plus adds on each cd more radio sessions from other cds. All you need in one great package at a very reasonable price. Buy it now.
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on 1 April 2014
Just love Kevin Ayers and his idiocentric musu=ic ever since I saw his band 'The whole world' at a Manchester art college dance in the 60s. Lol Coxhill sax playing wonderful and Mike Oldfield in the band!. Kevin sadly missed with his deep haunting voice.
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on 4 September 2012
Dr Dream was originally released in 1974 on Island! A great compilation though, despite the terrible box and lack of any notes!
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on 25 November 2013
I recently saw Kevin Ayers on TV singing "Shouting in a bucket blues" and wanted hear more by him. Thought I'd dive right in with this collection of his first five solo albums and was not dissappointed. Really enjoying all the albums here and would recommend as an affordable introduction to his work if you want more than just a compilation.
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