KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

THE KINKS Part 3 – Picture Books And Powermen

The Kinks - The Village Green Preservation SocietyBy the late-‘60s, The Kinks had moved away from their early R&B-influenced, riff-based rock sound and morphed into a more distinctly British band, centered on the unique worldview of main songwriter/singer/multi-instrumentalist Ray Davies. This change took place over the three albums I discussed in my last post, and the “new” Kinks fully blossomed with the release of The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968) [for the sake of brevity, I will now refer to this album simply as Village Green]. Along with lead guitarist/vocalist Dave Davies, drummer Mick Avory and bassist Pete Quaife (who would depart the group after Village Green), Ray continued the nostalgic subject matter begun on the brilliant “Waterloo Sunset” and expanded it through an entire album. It’s not so much a concept album as a collection of songs held together by the prevailing notion that the modern world (and Britain in particular) had lost the charms of a more innocent time, which may or may not have been as perfect as it looked through Ray’s rose-colored glasses.

The Kinks Photo (circa 1968)For fans of the more hard-driving sound of “You Really Got Me” and “Till The End Of The Day,” the bulk of this album might lack the musical punch that they’re looking for, but just like many of their contemporaries (i.e. The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones) their musical boundaries were expanding and, beginning with Village Green, The Kinks sounded like no one but themselves. Ray’s ambitions were probably as grand as those of The Who’s Pete Townshend, both of whom sought to broaden the scope of what their respective bands could do. Village Green is now acknowledged as one of the all-time classics, and I’m not going to argue with that assessment. One of the record’s strengths is its tightness: 15 songs in just under 40 minutes, with 14 of them clocking in at less than 3 minutes. This is an album that invites the listener to keep coming back, which I did numerous times this past week, and it became more enjoyable with each successive spin. While I could highlight all 15 songs, a handful of them didn’t make my lists of key tracks. That doesn’t mean they’re not great songs, but I wanted to focus on the ones that had the biggest impact on me. The bottom line is that Village Green is an essential album that keeps improving with age.

The Essentials:

♪     “The Village Green Preservation Society” – The jaunty melody and lyrics highlight a plethora of things from the past that shouldn’t be forgotten, setting the mood for the rest of the album. The subtle organ splashes, which I hadn’t noticed before, add nice accents to the funky beat. Nice backing vocals as well.

♪     “Do You Remember Walter?” – Looks back at innocent times with a childhood friend. I like the way it moves from tight verses (“Walter, wasn’t it a shame…”) to a more open feeling at “Do you remember Walter…” The key phrase here is: “Yes, people often change, but memories of people can remain.”

♪     “Picture Book” – Features an absolutely brilliant climbing 4-note melody and a killer chorus: “Picture book, pictures of your mama, taken by your papa a long time ago.” It has a great groove, fantastic vocal arrangement & pretty acoustic guitar strumming. I also love the abrupt ending.

♪     “Animal Farm” – A nice blend of acoustic guitar & piano gives way to a more driving rhythm & one of Ray’s strongest vocal performances. I love the way his voice goes higher as the verses progress, and that descending 3-note guitar motif during the chorus is beautiful.

Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Johnny Thunder” – It’s carried along by those lovely acoustic guitars & Ray’s heartfelt vocals, especially the way he semi-snarls at “Don’t want money/goes on fighting/thunder & lightning” and his “ba-ba-ba” scat vocals.
  • “Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains” – A groovy blues tune with harmonica & Dave’s solid lead guitar. I think Ray sees himself as the titular train (“I’m the last of the good old renegades, all my friends are middle class & grey”). I like the way it speeds up to become more of a rave-up at around 2:45.
  • “Sitting By The Riverside” – A peaceful & pretty song with a light steady drum beat and a swirling melody on piano & accordion. He’s enjoying the simplicity of nature.
  • “Village Green” – Sounds like a very old song, almost like it’s from the Renaissance. I love the beautiful blend of harpsichord & woodwind, the “la-la-la” backing vocals and the tight instrumental arrangement.
  • “All Of My Friends Were There” – A half-great song. The verses are a little too quirky, with that oom-pah rhythm and Ray singing in an affected accent, but the chorus is wonderful: “And just when I wanted no one to be there, all of my friends were there.”
  • “Wicked Annabella” – The fuzzy guitar, percussive groove and Dave’s sinister vocals don’t really fit the mood of the album, but it’s such a cool tune that I stopped questioning why it was included after the first couple of listens. It’s darker than most of their material.
  • “Monica” – Has a light, Latin-tinged jazz vibe with a slight Caribbean lilt. Nice drumming by Avory, and I love the chorus (“I-I-I shall die…if I should lose Monica”).
  • “People Take Pictures Of Each Other” – A happy, upbeat song with a bouncy melody & addictive hand claps. Features interesting lyrics (“People take pictures of each other, and the moment to last them forever, of the time when they mattered to someone”) which could be interpreted both positively & negatively.

Village Green is the final Kinks studio album I own via an expanded edition CD, so this will be the last time I’ll be discussing bonus tracks (or in this case, bonus track) in this series. Although it was later reissued as a 3-CD “Special Deluxe Edition,” my copy only has a handful of bonus tracks…and only one of them is worth noting. Fortunately, it’s one of their best. One of these days I’ll have to get the 3-CD version, now that I’ve become much more familiar with the original album.

The Essential Bonus Track:

♪     “Days” – A shuffling rocker with one of Ray’s catchiest & lightest melodies. Although seemingly happy on the surface, he’s looking back on someone who’s no longer in his life. It’s emotionally complex for such a deceptively simple song, and he could even be singing about the band (which always seemed on the verge of breaking up).

Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969), which I will be referring to simply as Arthur, was originally intended as the soundtrack to a TV The Kinks - Arthurplay for the BBC, but when that project fell through The Kinks released it as their latest studio album. Even though it doesn’t follow a strict narrative structure, Ray once again tells an overarching story via thematically linked songs. The title character is loosely based on his brother-in-law, who moved to Australia with his wife (Ray’s sister) a few years earlier, as a British everyman in retirement looking back on his simple life and how he was shaped by his home country. This allows Ray to continue his nostalgic streak with added layers of cynicism, sarcasm and humor. The songs, as well as the production, have more punch than its immediate predecessors, but there’s still a lot of subtlety to the arrangements, and once again the band members prove themselves to be better musicians than they’re often given credit for. They may not be virtuosos, but they play exactly what each song requires, making these albums a satisfying listening experience from start to finish. I should note that Arthur marks the first appearance of John Dalton as The Kinks’ new full-time bass player, a role he would continue through 1976. Arthur finds the band in the middle of a string of classic releases. It’s hard to compare it with Something Else By The Kinks, Village Green or Lola Versus… (which I’ll discuss below), since each offers up a number of new Kinks standards along with excellent album tracks, so I’ll just say that it’s another gem in their catalog, with 10 noteworthy songs out of 12.

The Essentials:

♪     “Victoria” – Grabs listeners immediately with the great groove and instantly memorable twin guitar melody. I love Ray’s throatier vocals, Dave’s tasty guitar solo, the simple yet brilliant chorus (“Victoria” sung several times with strong harmonies) and the cool half-time shift at the bridge (“Land of hope & gloria…”).

♪     “Drivin’” – Has a playful melody that bounds from side to side, a bouncy shuffle groove, lots of dynamics and I love the vocals at “We’re going dri-i-i-i-ivin’.”

♪     “Shangri-La” – Begins with pretty fingerpicked acoustic guitar & Ray’s soft vocals, later joined by horns, harpsichord and Dave’s high harmonies. The song gets heavier & more “rock” in the second half, but never loses its sense of melody (especially that killer chorus). Ray’s impression of Shangri-la seems to change from optimism to pessimism over the course of the song.

♪     “Young And Innocent Days” – A simple structure, soft & tender, with nice acoustic guitar work. The chorus is a monster, with those nice tight harmonies (“It was great, so great, young and innocent days”).

♪     “Arthur” – This album closer has a bouncy, quasi-Celtic vibe to the melody. Musically it’s similar to “Victoria”; the two songs forming perfect bookends. There’s a big hook at “Arthur the world’s gone & passed you by, don’t you know it? Don’t you know it?” The lead guitar mirrors that melody, and overall the song pretty much sums up the story. It would have functioned perfectly as the theme song over the closing credits.

[The Kinks – “Arthur”]

The Kinks Photo (circa 1969)Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Yes Sir, No Sir” – Sports a military rhythm (especially the snare drum) while at the same time Dave delivers some fiery lead guitar (even during the chorus). Ray seems to be questioning the merits of the military (“Give the scum a gun and make the bugger fight…if he dies we’ll send a medal to his wife”), set to a melody that recalls The Who’s “It’s A Boy” (from Tommy, released earlier that year).
  • “Some Mother’s Son” – The funereal feel matches the dark, anti-war lyrics, but there’s also a lightness of touch & some mild psychedelia (with hints of The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”). I like the way the song slowly builds with each verse, in volume and intensity.
  • “Australia” – The longest song here, at more than 6-1/2 minutes, but it covers a lot of ground in that time. It swings & grooves and features nice vocal harmonies, even recalling The Beach Boys (“We’ll surf…like they do in the USA”). There’s a wonderful instrumental section in the middle with some great guitar solos, horns, vocal sounds, etc. It’s loose & ragged and a whole lot of fun.
  • “Mr. Churchill Says” – A slinky blues rocker with a tight rhythm & bluesy guitar. Ray half-sings the verses in a semi-mocking tone, like he’s a smarmy politician delivering a speech. I love the groove here, thanks to that underrated rhythm section of Avory & Dalton.
  • “Nothing To Say” – Starts with peppy piano & Ray singing in that throaty “Victoria” voice about an estranged father-son relationship (“So for papa, I got nothin’ to say”). I like the way the jazzy/bluesy guitar blends with the horn section.

The Kinks - Lola Versus Powerman And The MoneygoroundThroughout Ray’s nostalgic songwriting he’s also shown hints of bitterness & anger along with a sly sense of humor, but the overall feeling was usually a positive one. That all changed with Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround, Part One (1970). Yet another long album title, it will now be known as Lola for the remainder of this series. This time the focus is on greedy capitalists and the shady dealings in the music industry, where the artist is the last one to see any money from the music they’re creating. Musically they cover a lot of ground, but lyrically it’s much more negative than anything they had done to that point, so I give them a lot of credit for making such a strong album in spite of the somewhat self-pitying subject matter. While most fans know & love the title track, which was The Kinks’ first big hit in a few years (especially in America), most of the others are lesser known (with one exception) but every bit as strong as the best tracks from the last several albums. I might not rate it quite as highly as Village Green and Arthur, but it’s a close call and I still consider Lola to be another essential record.

The Essentials:

♪     “Lola” – What can I say about one of the Kinks’ most well-known & beloved songs? Great acoustic strumming leads to banjo plucking, subtle percussion & vocals before the whole band kicks in. Funny lyrics about Ray’s encounter with someone who “walks like a woman & talks like a man.” Simply a great song that never gets old.

♪     “Apeman” – I always thought this was a bigger hit in the US than the UK, since I heard it a lot when I was a teenager, but apparently it charted a lot higher in their home country. Ray affects a Caribbean accent as he sings “I’m an ape man, I’m an ape ape man…” about getting away from the grind. Even with the upbeat nature of the music, the lyrics are a little dark (“I don’t feel safe in this world no more, I don’t want to die in a nuclear war”). I challenge anyone not to sing along with that chorus, though.

♪     “Powerman” – Blends intense riffing with acoustic strumming and a great bass line. It could pass for a David Bowie song from that era. Depending on whether he’s referring to a “powerman” or simply “power, man” it’s clear that he feels helpless with everyone taking a piece of the pie (“He’s got my money & my publishing rights”). I love that rockin’ chorus: “It’s the same old story, it’s the same old dream. It’s power man/powerman and all that it can bring.”

[The Kinks – “Powerman”]

The Kinks Photo (circa 1970)Other Notable Tracks:

  • “The Contender” – Boogie-woogie rock & roll with a cool stop-start rhythm and an awesome guitar riff. Avory lays down another killer groove as they sing about being an up-and-coming rock band.
  • “Strangers” – This could pass for The Band, with Dave sounding like a cross between Levon Helm and Rick Danko. The big hook is “We are not two, we are one.” It’s one of my new favorite Dave Davies songs.
  • “Get Back In Line” – Another slowly building song that starts off quietly. I like the subtly soaring church-like organ in the background. I assume “I know that I’ve got to get back in the line” refers to being out of work & “on the dole.”
  • “Top Of The Pops” – Cool 3-note/2-note riff & lyrics about the benefits & pitfalls of rock stardom. The muted production keeps this from having the impact that it should. Several years (and albums) later it would have been much more powerful.
  • “The Moneygoround” – A brief Vaudeville/British Music Hall-inspired tune; the kind of thing Queen would do a few years later. More lyrics about all the people getting a cut of their money before the band (“Everyone takes a little bit here & a little bit there. Do they all deserve money from a song they’ve never heard?”).
  • “This Time Tomorrow” – Develops into a driving rocker with rolling piano & creative drum fills/accents. Bemoans the constant traveling they had to do (“This time tomorrow, where will we be/what will we see?”).
  • “A Long Way From Home” – A very pretty & tender ballad. It’s possible that he’s looking in the mirror & singing to himself (“I can remember the little things that always made you smile…now you think you’re wiser because you’re older” and “Your wealth will never make you stronger”).
  • “Rats” – Dave wrote & sang this riff-based rocker with searing guitar leads & rollicking drums. Includes angry lyrics about being surrounded by “crazy people lost their heads.”
  • “Got To Be Free” – Excellent album closer that begins as a quiet, banjo-plucking lullaby before shifting…like so many of the songs here…to an all-out rock song. I like how it comes down to an acoustic arrangement at “I’ve just got to be free, and it won’t be long ‘cause we’re right and they are wrong.” And so the story of Lola vs. Powerman… concludes on a defiant note.

A lot of great live albums were released in the late-‘60s. Seminal releases by Cream, James Brown, Johnny Cash, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin and The Who come to mind, but sadly The Kinks’ sole live album from that decade, Live At Kelvin Hall aka The Live Kinks (1967 US, 1968 UK), isn’t one of them. It was recorded at a The Kinks - Live At Kelvin HallScottish performance in April 1967 when they were still teen idols, but even the obligatory cacophony created by thousands of screaming girls, which should have simply highlighted the hysteria that surrounded the band, was mixed too loud and overshadowed the songs. Since it sounds like those screams were enhanced in the studio, and it’s been acknowledged that instrumental & vocal overdubs were added later in the studio, this is one of the least essential live recordings I’ve ever heard. It does feature a decent set list (“Till The End Of The Day,” “A Well Respected Man,” “Sunny Afternoon,” “Dandy,” “You Really Got Me”), but due to the atrocious recording quality it’s impossible to enjoy…or even decipher…most of the performances (regardless of whether it’s the stereo or mono version, both of which are included on the latest edition of the CD). When I was younger I enjoyed the fact that they included “Batman Theme” in the closing medley (between “Milk Cow Blues” and “Tired Of The Kinks - The Live KinksWaiting For You”), but it didn’t hold up for me all these years later. I did enjoy hearing the crowd singing one of the choruses during “Sunny Afternoon,” but other than that I recommend staying away from this live recording unless you’re a Kinks completest.

That closes out this particular chapter in The Kinks’ discography, one that many critics & fans consider their creative peak (I agree, but I also think there are other peaks ahead, which I hope to confirm in the coming weeks). As they entered into the ‘70s there were many changes on the horizon, eventually resulting in a rebirth at the end of the decade. I still have plenty of ground to cover before I get there, but this is a good time to take a deep breath & enjoy all the great music I listened to this week on the three studio albums discussed above. Please share your thoughts on these albums in the Comments section. Hopefully we share similar favorites.

[As I did in my previous post, I want to highlight a song that has become so ubiquitous over the years from constant radio play that many people probably don’t even listen to it anymore. “Lola” is such a well-constructed song, and so uniquely a Ray Davies creation, that I hope listening to it with fresh ears will remind you why you used to like it. Or perhaps you’ve never heard it, and in that case…enjoy!]

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31 comments on “THE KINKS Part 3 – Picture Books And Powermen

  1. stephen1001
    January 30, 2014

    Victoria might be in my top 20 songs, the bridge (as you mentioned) being a real highlight. Though I’d have to include She’s got a hat like Princess Marina among the standouts – it may be one of those polarizing tunes but I’m a big fan!

    And this is where my knowledge of the Kinks ends so the rest of the series will be educational!

    Like

    • Hi Geoff. Glad we’re in agreement about “Victoria.” Such a classic. Not sure if you’re a fan of the TV show How I Met Your Mother, but that song was used to great effect in several episodes (in an obvious nod to a character by that name).

      I don’t dislike “She Bought A Hat Like Princess Maria,” but it seemed a little too quirky for its own good. As an album track it’s nice but I didn’t think it warranted special mention. It’s nice to know that the song has at least one fan out there.

      As always, I appreciate your feedback. I’ll be surprised if you don’t know a number of songs from upcoming posts.

      Like

  2. Craig
    January 31, 2014

    Oh wow, Lola, you threw me for a loop there, I was hoping you would share in my absolute and undying love of this album. It’s conceptual in a way they had never been up to this point though they had played with loose themes on the previous LP’s. But on the other hand I am kind of glad you don’t, so I can espouse my theory on the matter and put my case for this being the, in fact THE Kinks album of this entire period as it neatly sums up the Kinks career up to that point. I feel that this is Ray Davies Magnum Opus, a collection not only of great songs, thematically and chronologically linked.

    Contenders is the outset, the band or the songwriter making his way down to the big city to find his fame and fortune. Strangers is the brothers appeal to stay true to his roots and his soul and not to let the city corrupt him. It’s also, in a way a love letter to his brother, “So I will follow you wherever you go, If your offered hand is still open to me. Strangers on this road we are on, We are not two we are one”. Denmark Street is self explanatory, and the next 2 of 3 songs complete the travelogue to stardom, in the middle of this, the big hit single. Lola could be a woman in a dark dingy club where the singer attempts to rest his weary bones, she asks him to dance and it dawns on him that something is not quite right, “I’m glad I’m a man and so is Lola”. Undaunted, Top the the Pops is the epic centerpiece here, even at only 3:38 its truly a monumental piece, a hard crunchy riff echoing the early hits while he looks forward to his upcoming fortune and stability, “it might even turn into a steady job” then at approximately 1:21 into the track we come to a crossfade and then one of the best riffs I think Dave ever wrote, a simple, sneaky little lick over a mid tempo middle 8. Damn essential. This Time Tomorrow has a brilliant country-ish lope and then Long Long Way To Home is weary, its tired and echoes the sentiment of loneliness as well as Ray could have done. “I hope that you find what you’re looking for.” Rats is another Dave gem, as they pretty much tend to be, Apeman is a cheeky little number, about needing to get away from stardom and the constant moneymaking machine that has left him empty and soulless. Oh I almost forgot about the Moneygoround and the Powerman, these are also fantastic tunes. The starmaking machinery behind the popular song. Got to be Free completes the cycle, bring the opening theme back around to satisfying climax. Wow

    Sorry to go on such a rant, eh, but i am completely in awe of this album.

    Like

    • Hi Craig. Sorry to throw you with my impressions on the Lola album, but I don’t think our opinions are that far apart. As I pointed out, I think it’s a great record, but for me it wasn’t quite as satisfying a listening experience from start-to-finish as the other two records discussed here. I love your story outline, which seems pretty accurate to me. I agree that as a cohesive concept, Lola works better than Village Green or Arthur. It’s similar to how I feel about early Genesis albums (not sure if you’re a fan). Many people consider The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway to be the pinnacle of the Peter Gabriel years, but even though I love it (I think it’s an amazing piece of work), it’s not as emotionally satisfying as earlier records like Foxtrot and Selling England By The Pound. And that phrase, “emotionally satisfying,” is probably why I have a slightly stronger connection to the first two albums here.

      I can’t thank you enough for giving me & my readers such detailed feedback on this classic album. I will definitely hear it from a new perspective the next time I play it (after I wrap up this series). By the way, what do you think of the other two albums?

      Hope you have a great weekend.

      Rich

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      • Craig
        January 31, 2014

        I appreciate that Rich, I was worried about babbling on and on, I should just get off my arse and get my own blog going. ;). Yes, Genesis is one of my favorite bands and Selling England is my fav amongst the early Gabriel albums. Lamb they really did paint themselves into a nice corner, PG had no choice but to leave.

        I love the other two, have spent more time with Village Green, and I love it too. I think Muswell stands up to Lola, but there is something about what he is saying here that resonates with me. There are many chill inducing moments for me, Daves aching vocal on Strangers, that TOTP riff, the Long Way lyric, the climbing riff in Powerman, the jaunty music hall reference of the Moneygoround, etc. With the Kinks I really have gone thru their catalog piecemeal, started with some comps and then started the album journey with MH. I have come to these guys late, I still haven’t investigated any of the concept opera period, I am awaiting your take on this so I know if I should dive in. Like I said previously the period from Face to Face to MH I don’t think anyone, not even the Beatles made more consistent music.

        By the way, I know its a B-side but I think the Dave song Mindless Child of Motherhood is excellent. I always love a Dave song, its the same thing with XTC; Ray is more prolific, so was Andy Partridge, but nearly everything Dav and Colin wrote are gems. I guess you could draw a comp to the Beatles, George wrote many excellent tunes but wasn’t as prolific.

        You have a great weekend too, mine is Sunday and Monday so I’m not quite there yet. 😉

        Like

      • Nice to know you’re also a Genesis fan, Craig, and that we feel the same about Lamb. If I had to pick a favorite Gabriel-era album, mine would be the same as yours: Selling England By The Pound. Good taste is contagious. Haha.

        You’ve had an interesting trajectory with the Kinks discography, and you’ve obviously gravitated towards the most critically lauded albums. It’s been years since I played their “concept opera” albums, but I remember being perplexed by Preservation and really liking Schoolboys In Disgrace (I don’t recall how I felt about Soap Opera). I’m a couple of posts away from addressing those releases, and I’m really eager to get to them since they’re my least-played Kinks albums

        As for “Mindless Child Of Motherhood,” that’s on The Kink Kronikles which will be part of the next batch of albums I’ll be writing about. I also have The Great Lost Kinks Album, which I’ve only played once several years ago, so the upcoming weeks will be very educational for me. I’ve always enjoyed Dave’s contributions to the group (even “Rock & Roll Cities”), so I agree with everything you wrote (the Colin Moulding & George Harrison comparisons are perfect).

        I hope your delayed weekend arrives quickly.

        Like

  3. Ovidiu Boar
    February 2, 2014

    Great reviews as usual. I consider both Village Green and Arthur (as well as Muswell Hillbillies, but we’ll get to that later) all-time masterpieces and just perfect records, if very different from each other. I wouldn’t even know where to start describing how much I love them. Village Green is one of those albums that, after a few listens, becomes a whole world in itself, where the individual songs don’t matter anymore – they take second place to the feeling, the overall atmosphere.

    Also want to give props to ‘Strangers’, an incredible song in my opinion, marred only by the fact that Dave sings it. Don’t get me wrong, I think the little brother’s voice has got plenty of charisma, and I don’t mind him taking the occasional lead vocal. But this is just a HUGE song, highly resonant and carrying lots and lots of emotion. Had Ray taken the lead, it would’ve become a classic, able to stand proud and tall alongside things such as ‘Days’. At least, it would’ve to my ears.

    Like

    • Thanks, Ovidiu. Happy to hear that we feel the same way about these albums, and I love how you described Village Green as “a whole world in itself.” So true.

      As for “Strangers,” I hadn’t thought about how it might have sounded with Ray on lead vocals, but there’s something about Dave’s performance (and vocal similarity to Helm & Danko) which made the song so special. I wonder if Ray would have captured a similar vibe or if he would have given the song a completely different feel.

      I’ve already given each of the next batch of albums a couple of listens but it’ll be another few days (and more listens) before I’m ready to discuss them. Nice to know that you love Muswell Hillbillies. We’ll have some great songs to discuss.

      Hope you’re having a great weekend.

      Rich

      Like

    • Craig
      February 3, 2014

      Somewhat agree, I mean it a damn shame a singer has to sound a certain way for a song to be universally accepted. Otherwise Family would have get some songs played on Classic rock radio and Peter Hammiill would be a millionaire. But I digress.

      Like

      • Craig, I totally agree with you regarding Family & Van Der Graaf/Peter Hammill. There are some voices that are only appealing to a limited number of people, but those voices are also unique & extra special to their devoted fans. In my world, Gentle Giant is one of the greatest bands of all time, but I understand that you need to have particular tastes to appreciate Derek Shulman’s bleating lead vocals (which aren’t far off from Family’s Roger Chapman).

        All that being said, I don’t think Dave’s voice is an acquired taste. It’s not quite as distinctive as Ray’s but it’s still strong and easy to enjoy (hence “Death Of A Clown” among numerous others).

        Like

      • Craig
        February 3, 2014

        GG is great, but I think their music is far too esoteric to be that popular. Also their album covers sucked. 😉

        Like

      • I put GG & Family in the same category. Their music is great but doesn’t have mainstream appeal, and their singers are acquired tastes (pun intended there). As for GG album covers, I pretty much agree, although I like In A Glass House and The Missing Piece. The recurring animated “giant”? Not so much.

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      • Craig
        February 3, 2014

        I think enough has been said about REM at this point, though as a reference point they are ok. Don’t do REM…how about the Meat Puppets!! 🙂

        Like

      • I do these series specifically so I can get acquainted (or reacquainted) with each artist’s work. When it comes to REM, I knew their stuff really well for the first 10 years and then it was hit-and-miss. The next time I’m in the mood to delve back into their discography is when I’ll do a series on them. I don’t own any Meat Puppets, so I’m sorry to say they won’t be featured here. Everyone I cover is an artist whose entire catalog I already own (or at least the vast majority of it). I’ve got many dozens of artists to get to, so as long as I don’t burn out I’ll be at this for a long time.

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  4. Ovidiu Boar
    February 2, 2014

    Cheers, Rich, I haven’t been able to fully enjoy a weekend in quite a while due to the exam period (which is also why I shamelessly neglected the blog), but hopefully it’ll be all over in a week.

    I must also admit that I stopped listening to Kinks once I heard 1977’s ‘Sleepwalker’. It’s not that it’s necessarily a bad record, but I just didn’t care for the direction the band took with that (bland arena rock) and also felt like Ray didn’t have anything new to say. I just lost interest.

    Assuming that you will explore their whole discography, I’m thinking more and more of giving those 80’s and 90’s records I dismissed a try. I doubt that I will like them (I also checked some singles on YouTube but found them equally disappointing), but I sort of feel bad for not even trying, given the fact that Kinks in their prime are one of my true favourite bands.

    Anyway, just rambling. Bottom line: I look forward to your next series. Take care.

    Like

    • I will be covering their entire officially-released discography, so I’ll get to the “arena rock” years in a couple of weeks. Since that’s the era when I was first introduced to their music, I’ll always have a special connection to those records, but I understand why people who were already fans would find those albums a little bland. Ray’s songwriting remained very sharp, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you find some gems there. Hopefully my posts will help accomplish that for you. Stay tuned.

      Good luck with your exams. It’s been more than 25 years since I finished college, but I haven’t forgotten the stress involved. I hope you get back to your blog soon. I always look forward to your posts.

      Like

    • Craig
      February 3, 2014

      I feel the same way about REM. From Fables to Green (imho) they really were without peer. I have most of their subsequent albums but 90% of the time I go right back to these core albums.

      I like the arena rock Kinks, the albums other than Sleepwalkers and Misfits aren’t uniformly great but to skip them is to truly miss some excellent tracks. In a lot of ways the Come Dancing comp cover the period in excellent form.

      Like

      • REM is a good point of reference here. I would go all the way back to their debut EP & LP & take it through Out Of Time for what I consider their classic era. After that it’s hit & miss, yet a lot of people consider some of those later albums the pinnacle of their career. I’ll revisit their catalog here at some point, but there are a number of artists I want to get to first.

        I’ll be including the Come Dancing compilation in this series if for no other reason than to discuss their immortal contribution to the list of all-time great rock & roll Christmas songs. I believe that comp was the first time it appeared on CD.

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  5. Jon Lyness
    February 4, 2014

    Hey Rich, hope all is well. I am a lapsed Kamer-reader but just checked back recently and am enjoying your Kinks reviews a lot. Starting to dig a bit deeper into the albums you’ve reviewed here.

    It’s funny, I already knew a handful of their songs (You Really Got Me, Sunny Afternoon, Picture Book, Lola) but never realized they were all from the same band!

    Like

    • Hey Jon. I was just thinking about you the other day, realizing it had been a while since we’ve been in touch. Hope all is well. Thanks for coining the word “Kamer-reader.” Haha. I assumed you were at least somewhat of a Kinks fan, so I’m surprised to find out that’s not the case (even though you obviously like several of their songs). Their sound has morphed so much over the years, so I suppose if I didn’t buy all the individual albums I wouldn’t have known those songs were all by the same band. Hopefully I’ll help uncover a few more gems for you before this series is over.

      Thanks again for stopping by. Best wishes to the family.

      Rich
      Rich

      Like

    • Phillip Helbig
      February 5, 2014

      I know someone who knew several Beatles songs and didn’t realize that they were all from the same band.

      Like

      • Even though that might sound crazy to us, depending on the person’s age or their exposure to popular music, I guess it’s understandable. I’m sure there are plenty of artists I would have the same reaction to. In fact, a band like The Cure (which I wrote about in one of my “Compilation Or Catalog?” posts) was one whose songs I had heard over the years but didn’t always realize it was them, and their fans would probably laugh at me for not knowing that.

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  6. Jon Lyness
    February 5, 2014

    Not being able to ID Beatles songs as “Beatles” does seem nuts to us music geeks, but sure, I guess younger listeners who were never immersed in their music might just know a handful of random songs from the radio, ads or wherever, just like me with the Kinks.

    The band that continues to fascinate me in this vein is The Beach Boys. It almost sounds like there were 3 or 4 fairly distinct bands operating under the larger “Beach Boys” brand, with the members not in full agreement about what the band ‘was’ even today. I’ve always liked their early/mid 60s hits a lot, but the 1967-1973 period is just amazing and sounds very little like their better-known classic run… try playing “Darlin”, “All I Want to Do”, “Mess of Help” or “Sail On Sailor” (to name just a few) and ask a listener to name the band. I’m starting to move through the rest of their 70s catalog, but find myself wishing I could hear “the next album” from the 1973 (Holland-era) BBs.

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    • Jon, as you know from my Beach Boys series I completely agree with your comments. Of course, any band that lasts 20+ years tends to change their sound, especially as recording technology & prevailing commercial preferences change. This was especially true of artists who began in the ’60s. The Beatles somehow managed to cram several distinct careers into less than a decade, and probably would have altered their sound (like The Beach Boys did) had they not split up.

      This would be a good topic for someone to cover in detail. Sadly I don’t have the time, but it’s very interesting. The Beach Boys might be the most extreme example, especially because of the personnel changes they went through.

      Like

  7. ianbalentine
    February 5, 2014

    Wonderful post. Believe it or not, but this chunk of their discography escaped me for decades. I was introduced to the Kinks via their On The Road live album, and then the Give The People What They Want disc, and have worked my way backwards from there. Being born in 1968 I missed out on experiencing the ’60’s and ’70s disks as they were released. That said, the GTPWTW tour blew my young mind and I hungrily ate up everything I could get my hands on, favoring the ’70s stuff over the ’60s, which I wrongfully wrote off as trite. My loss. When the deluxe editions started coming out a few years ago my interest in this era was piqued greatly, and I have been devouring them ever since!

    Like

    • Hi Ian. Sounds like we’ve followed very similar paths into The Kinks discography. I’m only a couple of years older than you (born in ’66), and my introduction came via Low Budget and One For The Road. All of their ’80s albums were day-of-release purchases for me, and I also had a collection of their early hits. It’s amazing how many great songs & albums they had in the 10 years between those two eras. I’m so glad that I’m finally dedicating so much time to them.

      I’m envious that you saw the Give The People… tour. I only saw them once, on the Word Of Mouth tour. The show was good but not great, possibly because Ray was under the weather & they cut the show short (around 90 minutes).

      Like

  8. thomasjford
    February 6, 2014

    I actually prefer Lola Vs Powerman and Arthur more than VIllage Green I think. Mostly due to the use of Powerman, Strangers and This Time Tomorrow is Wes Andersons movie The Darjeeling Limited. And Arthur because it has Victoria on it which is quite simply one of the best pop songs ever!

    Like

    • Choosing a favorite from this batch of albums is tough, and I’m not surprised that a lot of fans love Lola more than the others. I found it slightly less diverse than Village Green and Arthur, and for that reason alone it didn’t have quite the same impact on me (yet I still think it’s a phenomenal record).

      I understand the movie connection you have with those songs. I love Wes Anderson’s films but haven’t seen The Darjeeling Limited yet. I’ve got it on the DVR and hope to get to it soon. It’s amazing how many great visual connections he’s made to overlooked songs over the years.

      As for “Victoria” being one of the best pop songs ever, I won’t argue with you. It’s one of the greats.

      Like

  9. Every Record Tells A Story
    February 18, 2014

    The more I listen to Village Green the more I love it. It came out the same day as The White Album. Must listen to Arthur again – some great tracks on there.

    Like

    • Yep, Village Green is one of those albums that just improves with each successive listen. I think I knew that it was released the same day as The White Album but had forgotten that bit of trivia. Funny how it was overlooked at the time but it’s now rightly considered an all-time classic.

      I just read in Uncut Magazine that The Kinks are planning to reissue expanded versions of many of their albums starting this year, including Arthur. A lot of them have previously been expanded but these are supposed to be even more definitive. I’m also hoping they tour in support of their 50th anniversary.

      Like

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