Lola Vs. The Powerman And The Moneygoround (The Kinks) – Album Review

“Lola Vs. The Powerman And The Moneygoround” Was Issued In 1970. The Title Track Made The Kinks Fashionable All Over Again.

“Lola Vs. The Powerman And The Moneygoround” Was Issued In 1970. The Title Track Made The Kinks Fashionable All Over Again.

Who could blame Ray Davies for lashing out at the industry after the reception that “The Village Green Preservation Society” and “Arthur” were given? Both albums are now deemed as the absolute peak of The Kinks’ career. And at the time of their release, they were virtual non-entities. Something was clearly wrong with the picture. And (by then) you could count the bands that had been screwed as much as The Kinks on the one hand. Well, for their next album Ray was to try and put a spoke on the wheels of the moneygoround, and show the powermen that some things are essentially meant to remain unbound.

The true moment of genesis of the whole album was a delectably convoluted one. The Kinks had released a song named “Lola” in early 1970, and it quickly became their highest charting single in years. The song dealt with a man’s drunken encounter with a transvestite, and while it was no fluff under any concept its release was clearly a derisory move. Of course, the fact that the song did become a transatlantic hit proved how right Ray was on his appraisal of the whole industry.

That set the ball rolling for him, and he began working on “Lola Vs. The Powerman and The Moneygoround”, a concept record in which just everybody came under fire. Music publishers, the press, unions, accountants, yes-men… Nobody came out of it in one piece.

The music on the album was evenly split between ballads and harder-sounding numbers, and (personally) I tend to like the ballads best. “A Long Way From Home” was one of Ray’s better elegies in a period characterized by them, and “Strangers” in particular will always be remembered as one of Dave Davies’ most substantial contributions to their repertoire (for my money, it’’s up there with “Susannah’s Still Alive”).

And Dave also came up with the noisy and dirty “Rats”, a song which is not really a standout but which has a riff to kill for. It always reminds me of John Entwistle’s “Success Story” – not in terms of melody or structure, but rather in terms of accuracy. It fits the whole album so well that Dave could only have written it after having listened to Ray’s demos in order, one after the other. Just like one feels John’s did for penning his sole contribution to The Who’s “By Numbers“.

Still, the most memorable cut on the album is Ray’s “This Time Tomorrow”, a song about life on the road carried by a sublime melody that just can’t get any higher, and great hooks from back to front. And the song has a banjo that almost single-handedly gives the “Muswell Hillbillies” contingent a run for its money in terms of Americanism. Oh, and I’m sure many of you heard it on the movie “The Darjeeling Limited” (which also put “Strangers” and “Powerman” to excellent use). Continue reading

The Village Green Preservation Society (The Kinks) – Album Review

Issued In 1968, “The Village Green Preservation Society” Was The First Album Over Which The Kinks Had Full Creative Control.

Issued In 1968, “The Village Green Preservation Society” Was The First Album Over Which The Kinks Had Full Creative Control.

Freed from the onerous contract they once had signed with American expatriate Shel Talmy, The Kinks finally could begin pursuing Ray Davies’ vision to the full. The year was 1968, and by that time the band had been banned from entering the US owing to their unmanageable onstage behavior. (The incident in which Mick Avory trounced Dave Davies with his hi-hat and fled as the guitarist lay in a pool of blood was most likely the final straw for the detractors of the band with the risqué name.)

Being barred from playing in the country where the big income was for any performer invariably made Ray look for his themes closer to where he was. And (as I think I have said elsewhere) the man was an all-out nostalgic in any case. There was nothing more coherent to him than looking back and romanticizing. And while the band’s previous record (“Something Else”) had actually indicated that his vision of England was just too settled, it also showcased what a deft describer of characters and incidents he was.

That was the context in which The Kinks’ next album was gestated. Ray took his romanticism to the extreme and single-handedly wrote an album mourning the passing of all these traditions he saw as decidedly British. He focused on the nominal village and turned the whole band into protectors of these traditions, painting one sketch after the other of small town characters and the fate that befell them as they either remained where they were (“Johnny Thunders”) or tried to break into the larger world (“Do You Remember Walter?”) . Of course, the weight of the world was felt on the delicious title track, which (like many others such as “Phenomenal Cat” and “Animal Farm”) had a truly startling childlike quality to it. More than often, you feel as if the narrator has chosen to remain in the verge of innocence, and that he is never going to venture a single inch forwards. And both the songs “Village Green” and “Picture Book” make it clear how disheartening the way ahead is, with the protagonists becoming unable to enjoy either the places they have arrived at, or the places they have come from.

Ray wrote everything this time around (brother Dave had no writing credits, but he had a devilish cameo on “Wicked Anabella”) and he even acted as the record’s producer. If “The Village Green Preservation Society” makes you feel like you are listening to a Ray Davies’ solo album, then that is because you are. That is, you are listening to a single voice throughout. Ray Davies was to begin running the show from this point onwards, and the band was to produce some of its better works under his aegis.

Musically, the album is very delicate, and (personally) I find it quite adorable. There are acoustic guitars aplenty, flutes, droning organs on “Sitting By The Riverside”, a hazy harpsichord that washes over “Village Green”, a number in which Ray opts to recite rather than to sing (“Big Sky”)… Continue reading

UK Jive (The Kinks) – Album Review

“UK Jive” Was A Major Commercial Failure When It Was Released In 1989.

“UK Jive” Was A Major Commercial Failure When It Was Released In 1989.

An ignominious flop, “UK Jive” (1989) was the penultimate album The Kinks were to issue. It suffers from the problem that also bogged down The Who’s “It’s Hard” and several other ‘80s albums, namely just too much social observation in lieu of real melodies.

The biggest offenders are arguably “Entertainment”, a quasi-punk song that lacks all articulation and “War Is Over”, one meditation on war too many (and one lacking the brave wit of “Arthur” at that). The title track is also routinely derided, owing to its abusive ‘50s mannerisms (reminiscent of acts like Sha Na Na) and the sampling of the Who’s “My Generation” during the fade.

The rest of the album, now, is not really that unapproachable. “Aggravation” is heavy metal that works (unlike most of the cuts on “Phobia”, the final studio album by the band), as does the emotion-high “How Do I Get Close”. Granted, Dave’s riffing on that one is a bit predictable, but the song has a nice vocal arrangement and a great flow on the whole.

And “What Are We Doing” is a minor gem, if only because the melody somehow sounds so fresh. Maybe it is the punctual horns that keep things going, maybe it is the original rhymes Ray employs. The fact is the song just works, and it is one of the cuts that will drive you back to the disc.

I must admit I am not that thrilled by “Loony Balloon”, a shuffly number about the doomed fate of the planet. Maybe the problem is its actual duration – it is almost as long as “Aggravation”, but whereas the album opener intelligently combined many different sections (a la “Another Brick In The Wall), “Loony Balloon” is virtually five minutes of the same. And the first minute alone is not that engaging, the harsh truth be said.

I am, however, very keen on “Now And Then”. I think it is the one piece of effective observation yielded by “UK Jive”. The lyrics are not that much better than the ones offered on the songs that don’t cut it, but the stripped beginning which eventually gives way to a full flourish makes it stick clearer (and truer) in your mind. And the sardonic “Down All The Days” (a poke at the upcoming elections) is also a nice distraction. Continue reading

One For The Road (The Kinks) – Album Review

“One For The Road” Was Released In 1980. It Showcased The Kinks As True Stadio Warriors.

“One For The Road” Was Released In 1980. It Depicted The Kinks As True Stadium Warriors.

To many, this live album is the one that incarnates The Kinks’ glory days during the late ‘70s/early ‘80s. It acted as a sort of story book in which the band – a true pioneer of “loud” genres such as punk and (up to a point) metal showed how they had helped define those genres, and how it was capable of blending in with current movements without really losing its touch, and without Ray Davies’ legendary eye becoming blurred at all. Thus, we have a version of “You Really Got Me” that is done in the vein of Van Halen, and a rendering of “Lola” that has a disco-inflected ending.

The contemporary album “Low Budget” is the one better-represented here. Many songs are extended both instrumentally and lyrically (the title track is one of the clearest examples, and “Wish I Could Fly Like Superman” is done as a straight up rock song – it loses the disco edge). “Pressure” is the one exception, with the song being abridged (and it was a short song to begin with). Just when you are becoming drawn to it, it finishes – but rather explosively, I must say. And “National Health” was one of the most played songs from the album here in Uruguay and in Argentina.

I don’t have to tell you that the remaining of the disc is made up of a smattering of old tunes. Hey, we are talking about Ray Davies here. He takes his nostalgia seriously. The band performs “Stop Your Sobbing”, “Where Have The Good Times Gone”, the ultra-popular “All Day And All Of The Night” and even “Till The End Of The Day”. That particular song receives a bizarre reggae treatment that is as disconcerting on subsequent listens as the first time around. And they also do “Victoria”, but the CD version is (sorrowfully) abridged.

The same happens with “Celluloid Heroes” and “Misfits”, but speaking of the latter I prefer this version to its studio counterpart – even if it misses a key section, the sound is less furnished on the whole and it truly reflects the sincerity that lies at the nucleus of the song.

I must tell you that the CD edition of the concert originally omitted one of the best tracks found on the two-LP album, “20th Century Man”. That was thankfully set to right in the Konk/Velvel reissue. Continue reading

The Kinks (Compilation Album)

This 20-track Anthology Was Released By Disky In 1996. It Gives A Very Good Overview Of The Kink's Early Successes.

This 20-track Anthology Was Released By Disky In 1996. It Gives A Very Good Overview Of The Kink's Early Successes.

Issued by Disky in 1996 and named merely “The Kinks”, this CD anthologizes their early hits right up to the “Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1” album. There is not a lot to dislike and not that much to change either.

The CD has everything from their early smashes “You Really Got Me” and “All Day And All Of The Night” to cuts like “Waterloo Sunset”, “Lola” and “Apeman”. Moreover, non-album sides that are key to the band’s appeal like “Days” and “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion” are featured. The one and only blemish is the inclusion of “Dandy” at the expense of tunes like “See My Friends”, “A Well Respected Man” or “Set Me Free”. Continue reading

The Kinks – General Introduction

The Kinks Were Ray Davies (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Dave Davies (Lead Guitar), Pete Quaife (Bass) & Mick Avory (Drums).

The Kinks Were Ray Davies (Guitar, Lead Vocals), Dave Davies (Lead Guitar), Pete Quaife (Bass) & Mick Avory (Drums).

Some call the Kinks “the original punks” because of the dirty sound of their early records, others go as far as to call them the fathers of heavy rock. They were a quartet in which tensions were constant among its members, with the two brothers that led the band eventually becoming estranged from each other. The Kinks were actually banned from performing in the States owing to their riotous onstage behavior. And people like Pete Townshend have said that Ray Davies (the band’s main composer) should have been a poet laureate. And I think most people who listen to “Waterloo Sunset” is inclined to feel the same way.

Aggression, volume, wit, profoundness and delicacy. These are the adjectives you can extract from the above. And these adjectives apply either in part or in whole to my favorite bands, and to every band that has marked me – The Who, The Jam, Oasis…  The Kinks were simply one of the most influential bands in the history of British music.

They were part of the initial wave of British Invasion bands, with their third single being a hit everywhere it started spinning. Dave Davies’ guitar insinuated the power that harder-rocking outfits were to unleash a decade later into the airwaves. He had sliced the amplifier with a blade in order to get the gritty sound. The song was called “You Really Got Me”, and it was to influence The Who both structurally and thematically, and the most realized punk and new wave acts of the late 70s such as The Clash, The Jam and XTC always expressed that they either dearly respected or even worshipped The Kinks. Continue reading