daevid allen Weird Quartet
A 'last'(?), unfinished daevid allen album, left in the can (unless another is discovered), 'final' recording - completed, or something like that...but I quite like it.
A curate's egg of a release
My favourite d'alien allen story is the one where Hendrix advised him to "Just do you own thing man..." when daevid was at a particularly low point. I wish I'd been in the loop with this release to proffer similar advice, although it couldn't have been with the 'experience' of Jimi. I imagine if daevid had been around during the final stages, and if he was being as creatively generous mood as he could be, it's what he might have said to inspire the the whole thing through that difficult last 5 percent and into the public eye in the correct way.
Let's lose the Elephants in the room first - This is not daevid's last album, which was 'soundbites 4 tha reVelation 2012', and one should also include Gong's 'I See You', his penultimate release, and it's also not "The Final recordings from Gong & Soft Machine co-founder Daevid Allen" as a sticker (b)goldly asserts on the cover.
To blur those immutable facts raises the danger that you hijack focus rightly due to those releases, works he was well enough to be fully engaged with throughout. It also begs the question, if you are prepared to embrace that unclarity, for whatever reason - is what you have produced good and valid enough to attempt to purloin a slice of 'last recordings' pie? The answer surprisingly (and thank f**king hell) is actually yes - in parts.
Michael Clare and Don Faclone faced the dilemma of having an unfinished album and the major attraction too busy, then too ill, then too dead to help complete it. Daevid tried his best by encourgaing the chaps when he responded favourably to the 90 percent finished album 5-6 weeks before he died. Daevid's contribution to the album was largly recorded in 2006 when he stopped off in the States after the Amsterdam Gong Unconvention and from 2008. There is nothing recorded by daevid specifically for the album later than those dates. Not a problem - unless you lead people assume otherwise.
One last groany point, Daevid thought of and referred to these recordings as by "WBT" - Weird Biscuit Teatime, not The Daevid Allen Weird Quartet, a name with none of his creativity. It was brain-stormed after daevid's death and was a condition of release by the label - they wanted his name 'on the marquee'. A compromise more true to the project might have been Daevid Allen's Weird Biscuit Teatime?
So does any of this eventually matter, well yes and no. I'm delighted with some of the music, the tracks with daevid's vocals for instance, in particular 'God's New Deal' - which I remember him performing as a poem at some gigs. It verges on being worth the price of admission alone for this listener, a cheery, lurching morsel of daevid. I also hope that being occasionally asked his opinion about how the construction of the album was progressing may have been a welcome distraction from his final illness. I do feel however leaving it so ambiguous as to the real nature and origins of this album was a big mistake.
It may be 'quirkily funny' and 'typically daevid' to have two last albums or to re-writing history, etc. I hardly need to point out the vast difference between daevid doing that himself, or doing it in partnership with musicians, and the musicians and a record label doing that after the fact.
Should it have been released? - Yes, better than languishing it in the can. Should it have been released now? - No, not if that contributed to how it has been released. Is it something to which daevid gave his blessing? - Yes, a few weeks before he died, I've seen the e-mails. Will you enjoy it? - Probably, on a first playing I didn't, on second playing I did. It's not as good as the first Weird Biscuit Teatime album, which was great, but it's more than half decent.
Ultimately, "the boys were really great...", as minder Henri Henroid used to say to the Soft Machine after gigs in the 60s - but what did he know? I wonder if WBT had managed to "Just do your own thing man..." right through to the end, and openly stood by the result embracing what was required to bring it to fruition through very difficult times, the last lesson of being in a band with daevid allen may have been learnt - but then what do I know?
This release is in a jewel-case illustrated with excellent, always intriguing, Hawk Alfredson paintings on the font and back. Inside is an 8 page booklet with all the lyrics and a bunch of nice photographs. It all looks great.
Also available as… 'Elevenses' LP