Ivor Cutler's final album for Virgin Records, 1976's Jammy Smears, is one of the best releases of his career. Kicking off with the jazzy piano tune "Bicarbonate of Chicken," a funny and bizarre dialogue with a waiter, the album runs through 31 brief songs, poems, and surreal short stories like the hilarious "Big Jim." About evenly split between recitations and songs like the catchy shaggy dog story "Barabadabada" and the oddly philosophical "Everybody Got," Jammy Smears features more of Cutler's piano playing than any of his albums other than 1967's jazz trio album Ludo. His trademark droning harmonium makes only a small handful of appearances. As on its predecessor, 1975's Velvet Donkey, Cutler's friend Phyllis April King reads five of her own poems and a short story, "The Wasted Call," on Jammy Smears, all of them based on life in and around a cottage in Dorset. Because most of Cutler's pieces this time out share the rural theme, with an episode of his ongoing Life in a Scotch Sitting Room, Volume Two centered around a family walk in the country and several poems and stories about birds, bugs, and other wildlife, King's contributions are much more smoothly integrated with the whole than they had been on Velvet Donkey. Cutler's usual morbid obsessions crop up infrequently, making Jammy Smears one of his sunniest and most playful albums. ~ Stewart Mason
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