KamerTunesBlog

Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

THE KINKS Part 5 – Sitting In The Midday Sun

The Kinks Photo (from Preservation Act. 1)I’ve reached the point in The Kinks discography where there are several albums I barely know. Most likely I’ve only ever played them once or twice prior to this week, and it’s probably been close to two decades since the last time I gave those discs a spin. In fact, I’m not sure I was familiar with a single song on any of the albums I’ll be discussing here, so these were like completely new releases for me. The mid-‘70s was a time when lead singer & chief songwriter Ray Davies took The Kinks into theatrical territory, a process which can be traced back to 1968’s Village Green Preservation Society album and blossomed into full-fledged concept albums five years later. I’ll get to those shortly, but first I want to discuss a collection of rarities originally released by Reprise Records after the band left that label to sign with RCA Records.

The Great Lost Kinks Album (1973) was not sanctioned by the band; in fact, they didn’t find out about it until after its release. It was eventually deleted, creating a much sought-after LP that was highly valuable for many years until the majority of the songs appeared on expanded CD versions of their individual albums. It features recordings made between The Kinks - The Great Lost Kinks Album1966 and 1970, with 10 of its 14 songs from ’68 & ’69. I never got an official copy of this album, but a few years ago a friend gave me a copy on CD-R that included an additional 11 tracks. The majority of these extra songs either appeared on the expanded edition of Something Else or sound like Dave Davies recordings made for his aborted solo album. While there’s very little here that I would consider absolutely essential, there were a number of excellent tracks that grew on me with each subsequent listen, and I’m glad I had a copy so I could include it as part of this series.

The Essentials:

♪     “Lavender Hill” – Cut from the same cloth as “Waterloo Sunset” (“The only place that I wanna be, Lavender Hill for me”), which is high praise. It’s not quite a classic, but it’s close.

♪     “Mr. Songbird” – A playful, bouncy tune from late-’67 that’s light as air (ah, that beautiful flute). Has a sing-songy vibe that reminds me of Simon & Garfunkel’s “59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).”

[The Kinks – “Mr. Songbird”]

Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Til Death Do Us Part” – The marching band snare drum mixed with banjo & horns creates an interesting Music Hall-indebted feel. It sounds like a very old song (likely Ray’s intention), and has a winning melody & heartfelt vocals.
  • “There Is No Life Without Your Love” – A bonus track from Something Else that I didn’t think was worth noting in that post, but the haunting low harmonies, sparse bouncy bass line & those “Truly, oh truly” vocals won me over.
  • “When I Turn Off The Living Room Light” – Another in a long line of Music Hall-inspired Kinks songs, this time with some of Ray’s most humorous lyrics: “Your nose may be bulbous, your face may be spotty, your skin may be wrinkled & tight…To me you are gorgeous & everything’s right when I turn off the living room light.”
  • “Pictures In The Sand” – A swinging, jazzy intro gives way to a bouncy & fun McCartney-esque ditty (it wouldn’t be out of place on The Beatles’ White Album).
  • “Where Did My Spring Go?” – The verses remind me of the 1967 soul song “Gimme Little Sign,” but Ray’s higher vocal trajectory takes it in a different direction. Lyrically it has a repetitive structure but it never gets boring.
  • “Lincoln County” – A song by lead guitarist Dave Davies that I almost mentioned in my discussion of Something Else (it’s one of the CD bonus tracks) but there were too many other stronger songs there. Among the rarities here it stands out more. I love Dave’s vocal performance, especially on the choruses (“’Cause when I get home to Lincoln County…I’m gonna find all those pretty girls, I’m gonna find them all”).
  • “Creepin’ Jean” – Another song by Dave, this time sounding like a cross between Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds. I love the slightly dissonant guitar-and-vocal chorus (“You don’t know what I mean, Creepin’ Jean’s a disease”).

The Kinks - Preservation - A Play In Two ActsRay’s first full-on conceptual project was quite an undertaking. Billed as “A Play In Two Acts,” the two separately released Preservation albums (which I own via a 2-CD set that includes both) tell the story of an English community that’s taken over by a greedy capitalist named Flash, and the seemingly good-intentioned politician (Mr. Black) who attempts to defeat Flash and return the village to the way it was before (harking back to the nostalgia of The Village Green Preservation Society). By the end of Part 2 it’s hard to distinguish the good guys from the bad, with Ray’s songwriting alternating between cynicism, optimism, anger & humor. With most concept albums, I don’t spend much time trying to decipher the story. Instead I focus on the songs and how they work both individually & collectively, but with such a specific narrative structure here (especially Part 2) it helps to understand which character is singing each song, and it allows the listener to appreciate tracks that may not work on their own but which push the story forward. The lineup for both parts is the aforementioned Davies brothers, founding drummer Mick Avory, bassist John Dalton & keyboardist John Gosling…along with several horn players and female singers.

Preservation Act 1 (1973) is the stronger of the two albums. It has less of a theatrical structure and more songs that function well on their own, and it’s also a shorter & The Kinks - Preservation Act 1tighter record: 12 tracks in 44 minutes vs. the more sprawling 67-minute, 21-track second part. This must be one of the most divisive albums in their catalog. It wasn’t a hit in its time and hasn’t been hailed as a lost masterpiece in the intervening years, but time has been kind to it. And speaking of time, I’m really glad I spent so much of it with Preservation Act 1 this past week. What used to be an album that gathered dust on my shelf, and which I remembered as a bloated vanity project for an overly ambitious Ray Davies (who was actually battling through the dissolution of his marriage at the time), turns out to be a very solid effort with more than half the songs making a strong impact on me.

The Essentials:

♪     “Where Are They Now?” – A piano ballad with sad, wistful vocals that eventually fills in with organ & sparse drumming. The heartfelt vocals are distinctly Ray as he waxes nostalgic (“Where are all the swinging Londoners/the Teddy Boys now? I wonder what became of all the rockers & the mods”). I love the subtle build in intensity & instrumentation throughout the song.

♪     “One Of The Survivors” – A powerful, chugging riff-rocker with power chords that remind me of The Who’s “Pinball Wizard.” It has a great chorus (“He’s one of the survivors, the motorbike riders”), cool riffs, and references to Jerry Lee Lewis, Dion & The Belmonts, “Hound Dog,” Buddy Holly’s “Oh Boy” and many more.

♪     “Sitting In The Midday Sun” – Hidden within this grandiose story is an overlooked classic; a throwback to Village Green. What a lovely melody with the flute giving it a pastoral beauty, and the chorus is pretty close to perfect (“Just sitting in the midday sun, just soaking up that currant bun, with no particular purpose or reason…”).

Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Preservation” – A raw, raunchy rocker with a slightly funky groove. Ray narrates the lyrics in the first half of each verse and sings the rest, as we learn about the villain known as Flash. I like his theatrical vocal approach (“He did it all for a pot of gold and for his own preservation”). Cool female backing vocals deserve special mention.
  • “Daylight” – A slow, loping tune with acoustic guitar & lovely vocals (“Day-liiiight…over the village green early in the morning”). The music & vocal melody (with trumpet accompaniment) captures the feeling of a new day. I love the climbing melody at “See the early morning risers walking ‘round” and the way each line intersects with the next.
  • “Sweet Lady Genevieve” – Sung by the character of The Tramp, who acts as a Greek chorus throughout, observing both sides of the story. The steady beat with strummed acoustic keeping the rhythm gives it a similar feel to The Beatles’ “The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill.” There are great harmony vocals when they sing the title, and it’s super-catchy at “Let me rock you, hold you, take you in my arms.” I also like the way the electric guitar & harmonica work together.
  • “Money & Corruption/I Am Your Man” – The longest song here, at 7 minutes, goes through various sections. Great drumming by Avory. I love the fast 6/8 rhythm in both the verses & choruses. Story-wise, the people are seeking someone in the first half (“Show us a man who’ll be our savior and will lead us”) while Mr. Black presents his proposal in the second half (“I have a vision of a new society…I visualize a day when people will be free”). Nice tasty guitar licks from Dave in the final verse.

Of the two parts, Preservation Act 2 (1974) comes across as more of a “stage play,” with five interspersed spoken-word “Announcement” tracks helping to narrate the story. It took more time for the songs to make their way into my brain, partially because of the extended running time but also due to the theatrical nature of the record. The Kinks - Preservation Act 2Fortunately I gave it the attention it deserves, and although it’s not as strong as Act 1, the hit-to-miss ratio is nearly as high. It actually takes some time for the album to gather momentum, with the first three tracks being among the weakest ones here. Actually, the band plays incredibly well (especially Dave, whose searing guitar work was probably an intentional way of putting his stamp all over his brother’s creation), and the down & dirty rock ‘n’ roll groove of “Money Talks” is the best of the first three tracks. The album kicks into a higher gear about a third of the way through (starting with “He’s Evil,” which I’ll discuss below), and after that it’s pretty enjoyable through the end. It’s likely that I won’t be revisiting Preservation Act 2 nearly as often as the majority of albums that preceded it, but at least a handful of its songs would be worthy inclusions on a career-spanning Kinks compilation.

The Essential:

♪     “Mirror Of Love” – A pretty, Music Hall tune with some fantastic high vocals from Ray as he sings the part of Belle, Flash’s “special floosie.” There’s some great tinkling piano throughout, and Ray really captures this female character (“Why I love you though you treat me so bad, ‘cause when I look at you I’m looking through the mirror of love”).

Other Notable Tracks:

  • “Shepherds Of The Nation” – The part of the story when Mr. Black, who previously appeared to be the good guy, lets his political power go to his head as he clamps down on personal freedoms (“Down with sex & sin…down with lust…we are here to cleanse humanity”). The choral vocals, which might seem over the top to some fans, appealed to this fan of progressive rock titans Gentle Giant. I love the raw, raunchy, heavy guitar riff, as well as the dissonant horns & flutes.
  • “He’s Evil” – A stomping proto-disco song with biting guitar, pulsing organ & blasts of sax. I like the way Ray uses different vocal inflections through the verses to convey numerous characters. The chorus, simply the title sung multiple times, is effective & memorable
  • “Nobody Gives” – The longest song here at more than 6-1/2 minutes, The Tramp again acts as the Greek chorus observing both sides (“Everybody’s guilty & everybody’s innocent”). It’s a midtempo, syncopated, bluesy rocker that reminds me a bit of Free, and I like the dramatic piano & unsurprisingly tasty guitar work.
  • “Oh Where Oh Where Is Love” – A waltz duet between Ray & guest vocalist Maryann Price. It’s very pretty, as the characters look for love in a damaged society, and the country-ish guitar is an unexpected delight.
  • “Flash’s Confession” – A tightly-wound, intense rocker with swirling, psychedelic synth & guitar. There’s a cool 6-note bass riff at “I’m just a number waiting to be called,” and Dave shreds throughout much of the song.
  • “Nothing Lasts Forever” – Maryann Price returns, handling the majority of the vocals on this mostly gentle love song.
  • “Artificial Man” – Has a similar vibe to Mott The Hoople’s “All The Young Dudes.” Flash is having his brain cleansed as Ray & Dave both handle the role of Mr. Black, who is hungry for complete control (“We will build a master race to live within our artificial world”). I like the female vocals at “Artificial, artificial man.” It’s another over the top tune that goes through different movements and points to artists like Queen and even Meat Loaf in its theatricality.
  • “Scrapheap City” – A honky-tonk shuffle with female vocals that sounds like the Roy Rogers/Dale Evans classic, “Happy Trails.” I barely consider this a Kinks song but it’s a nice, enjoyable tune that’s not as out of place as it should be.
  • “Salvation Road” – The closing song of this saga, introduced in the previous track with: “The people’s choir singing the new national anthem.” After an acoustic intro it becomes a funky rocker with Stevie Wonder-esque clavinet (“Got no time to live a life with old worn-out traditions; swallowed my pride, changed my ways and found a new religion”). The chorus is super-catchy, and a perfect way to say goodbye: “And we’ll all walk along and we’ll all sing along…”

The Kinks Photo (Live, circa 1974)There’s not much more I can say about these records. I’m sure a lot of old fans were turned off by the new direction Ray’s songwriting had taken, but others who prefer cohesive storytelling and rock operas might have preferred this era to some of their earlier material. Personally, I’m glad I finally got to know all of this music. Most of it isn’t as immediately accessible as their more well-known material, but these weren’t merely vanity projects either. At the very least, anyone who might doubt their status as musicians should check out this portion of their catalog. I continue to be impressed not just by the songs but by the individual performances as well.

Coming up next time are a couple more concept albums as well as the beginnings of their transformation into an arena rock band. I’m looking forward to hearing them again after so many years.

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26 comments on “THE KINKS Part 5 – Sitting In The Midday Sun

  1. thomasjford
    February 13, 2014

    I think this is the era when their decline started, at least if you speak to anyone from England anyway.

    Funnily enough, I just heard Dave Davies chatting on the radio about some of his favourite songs!

    Like

    • Tom, you’re probably right about British fans really losing interest around this time, and I can imagine as they got into the late-70s they didn’t fare any better over there. I’m guessing Ray didn’t really care. As Dave said, Ray was “up his own arse” with these concept albums. I’m pleased by how much I enjoyed a lot of the songs, especially on Preservation Act 1. I was expecting this portion of their catalog to be tough going but it’s been much better than that.

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      • thomasjford
        February 13, 2014

        Oh cool, glad you liked it Rich. Maybe I will investigate that era one day and see what I think!

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  2. DigitalDave
    February 13, 2014

    I’m on my way to work so I can’t expand on the thought too much, but Peservation Acts 1 & 2 is my favorite Kinks music of their entire catolog!

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    • Hi, DigitalDave. Thanks for letting me know your thoughts on the Preservation albums. I didn’t expect to hear from anyone who considers them his/her favorite Kinks albums, so consider me pleasantly surprised. Were these your first exposure to their music or were you already a fan when you heard them?

      Rich

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      • DigitalDave
        February 13, 2014

        I knew the hits and had heard Muswell Hillbillies and Sleepwalker a few times. I guess the Close to the Edge/Thick as a Brick nut in me just really liked hearing the Kinks streach out a bit. The Wall/Quadrophenia nut in me liked the story aspect of the Preservation albums. Nothing Lasts Forever is my favorite Kinks song. I love the pureness of that girl’s voice. One of the survivors is a great cut as well.

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      • Always a pleasure to chat with other Yes/Tull/ Floyd/Who fans. There was definitely a lot for prog fans to enjoy on the Preservation albums. I even compared them to Gentle Giant on one of the songs. I’m curious if you have a favorite of the two Acts, or if you love the whole thing. As you saw in this post, I prefer Act 1 although Act 2 kicks into high gear in the second half.

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  3. stephen1001
    February 13, 2014

    It certainly doesn’t sound like the band was running on auto pilot.,

    I forgot to mention when you reviewed Lola a few weeks ago – towards the end of a wedding last summer, a friend requested it be played on the dance floor. I wouldn’t have considered it one of my favourite Kinks songs but it was a crowd pleaser and I now have a new appreciation for the tune!

    Like

    • They definitely weren’t on autopilot, Geoff, that’s for sure…and they also weren’t trying for hit singles or expanding their audience. I guess any band that’s around long enough needs to branch out, and even though the Preservation albums aren’t for everyone, they’re a lot better than I had remembered.

      “Lola” is one of those songs that’s gotten played so much over the years that people often take it for granted, but in the right setting it reminds you what a good song it is. Glad you had that experience.

      Like

  4. mikeladano
    February 13, 2014

    I don’t have a problem with Lola, but maybe it’s because I never experienced burnout. I heard Weird Al’s version in 1991 and that was the first time I had ever heard the song at all!

    Like

    • Weird Al did “Lola”? Was it a parody or a straight-up cover?

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      • mikeladano
        February 13, 2014

        Parody. “I saw the little lump sitting there on a log, his name was Yoda, Y O D A Yoda…”

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      • I missed that one, but it sounds typically funny. I don’t own any Weird Al but I’ve always enjoyed his parodies (especially the videos), and of course UHF.

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      • mikeladano
        February 13, 2014

        Rich, I won’t try to turn you onto the gospel of Weird Al here in a Kinks thread but the subject WILL come up on my blog because I saw Weird Al live in about 94 on his Greatest Hits tour. I have to say it was a great live show. He has a great band backing him and they have to be able to morph their sound to suit the song they’re doing all the time. Not to mention all the costume changes. He did the Bedrock Anthem in the Flintstones clothes, and did Fat in the big fat suit and I have no idea how he got in and out of that fat suit in such a short time!

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      • You don’t have to convince me of his greatness, Mike. I’ve always been impressed with his musicality (and that of his bandmates), which is highly underrated. You don’t do note-perfect versions of songs from so many genres without being immensely talented. I’ve just never felt the need to own any of his records.

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      • mikeladano
        February 13, 2014

        And that’s the funny thing. I don’t own any of his records either. But seeing him live is a whole other thing. Half the audience shows up in Hawiian shirts. I wish I owned one back then!

        But back to the Kinks I remain impressed to the depth of the catalogue. I love a rich back catalogue of albums, songs, and styles.

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      • Seeing Weird Al in concert is probably a unique experience, like seeing Jimmy Buffett (I think they’re connected by Hawaiian shirts).

        Yep, The Kinks covered a lot of ground throughout their career. They’ve moved through various styles over the course of the albums I’ve covered so far, and there are more changes to come which I’ll discuss in my next couple of posts. I’ve been enjoying this series as much as any I’ve ever done.

        Like

  5. Ovidiu Boar
    February 16, 2014

    Well I disagree with the most of it, but you expressed your thoughts well. I don’t care at all for the ‘theatre’ Kinks era. And it’s not because I have a problem with story-telling or rock operas (Quadrophenia is my all-time favourite album, after all), it’s because I think Ray completely forgot for a while how to write a memorable tune. I think the whole concept story is all right – hardly original, but not cringe-worthy either.

    All in all, there’s very few songs from both albums that I like. Same goes for ‘Soap Opera’. But that’s all right – had Ray continued to write masterpieces throughout the 70’s (like he did in the 60’s) I would seriously wonder whether he’s human.

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    • Hi Ovidiu. How dare you disagree with my opinions! Haha. This is definitely the most divisive portion of their catalog, and I totally understand why some fans hate most of their “theatrical” albums. I didn’t think much of Preservation (Acts 1 & 2) the first time I played them again last week, but after playing them several times I was really surprised by how many songs I enjoyed. Some of them are even up there with the best work they had done over the previous few years.

      That’s a good point about Ray possibly being super-human if he kept up his string of classics throughout the ’70s. While I don’t think these albums are on par with their best work, it’s not like he completely lost the plot. Every artist who’s been around as long as he/they have needs to stretch themselves, and I think this era led directly to their career resurgence at the end of the decade & through the ’80s.

      Like

  6. Every Record Tells A Story
    February 18, 2014

    Really like this post and the new format works well. Great you are looking at some of these lesser listened to records. Thanks!

    Like

    • Thanks for the feedback. Glad you like the new layout. I’ve been pretty happy with it. As for covering the less listened to records, that’s one of the main purposes here, and for the most part I always revisit every officially-released album by the artists I cover. Coming up in a couple of posts, though, will be some of The Kinks’ most well-known albums, at least in the US.

      Like

  7. Craig
    February 19, 2014

    Okay, I am giving Preservation Act 1 a listen.

    Sounds like the Kinks to me and thats a good thing. I haven’t found an awesome Dave lick yet, but I’m still settling in with this. I’m not sure if I have found a thru line yet to the concept, but hey, thats ok, I’m sure Ray had an idea.

    Woah, One of the Survivors swings like a mofo!!! There’s Dave. Everything is going to be ok!!

    Like

    • I’m glad you’re finding some things to like on Preservation, Craig. It’s a lot better than I remembered, especially Act 1, and “One Of The Survivors” truly does “swing like a mofo” (well stated). Throughout the theatrical portion of their catalog, the musicianship never fails to impress even if the songs aren’t always up to par.

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  8. theEARLofSWIRL
    June 2, 2014

    “Money Talks” alone is enough to give Ray some latitude ( and “Second Hand Car Spiv”, but I know that’s just my warped opinion) by listening to ALL OF IT consecutively to get the full effect. I would also start with “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” just ‘cuz you can see the genesis of the concept there. And finish with “Schoolboys” as a sort of “Prequel” that explains the motivations of the characters.

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    • I agree with your suggestions regarding the order of listening to “get” the entire concept. I can’t say it’s fully clear & the narrative occasionally goes off-track, but it’s fun to try following the story.

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      • theEARLofSWIRL
        June 3, 2014

        I mentally visualize a run-down Theatre, with the Stage Manager desperately trying to keep the show running smoothly despite off-stage chaos. Like an amateur Vaudeville show, it spins out of control sometimes, but it’s always entertaining for one reason or another!

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