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

Quadrophenia (The Who) – Album Review (Part 2)

Check the first part of this review here.

Quadrophenia is a concept album that spans two records and which has 17 songs. It tells the story of a young mod named Jimmy who faces an existential dilemma, aggravated by the fact that he has four different and conflicting personalities, and each one of these reflects the personality of a member of The Who: a fighter, a romantic, a lunatic and a spiritual seeker. That is why there are four songs which are labeled as a member of The Who’s individual theme.

The story is not cohesive enough as it stands here – the movie was to be cohesive and to make sense, but that was to come much later on. In any case, Pete has come up with an emotional setting that is enough to make for any narrative deficiency. The Who are one of the best exponents of music that is internalized and felt, and Quadrophenia does not fail to deliver in that sense.

We get to see Jimmy as he his maturing, and that stands as an excellent analogy of the transition of music from the idealistic ’60s to the somehow starker ’70s. The Who were one of the longest-standing bands at that point, and they had not only the insight but also the right to articulate such issues. Continue reading

Quadrophenia (The Who) – Album Review (Part 1)

The Cover Of The Album

The Cover Of The Album

I consider Quadrophenia the biggest cultural contribution The Who ever made. That is a bold statement if we take into account that they also sang “My Generation” and recorded the defining album “Who’s Next“, adding new melodic resources to the world of music as a whole.

When I say that Quadrophenia was (and is) a significant cultural contribution, I take into account the fact that nobody else had taken the time to look back at the mod days and present them in such a representative light. Mod was the one and only aspect of British life in the ’60s that was not absorbed by America. Everything else was. Without Quadrophenia, that knowledge would have been somehow lost. And what was all the more remarkable was that when the album was originally issued the Who’s cohorts were adopting a lyrical posture that was to end up in total disconnection, singing about the dark side of the moon and stairways to heaven. That is, music would begin to lose its immediate link with those that bought it, and that disconnection would end a couple of years down the line in the punk revolution that placed both sides on an equal level. Continue reading

Tommy (The Who) – Album Review (Part 2)

(If you haven’t done so already, read Part 1 of this review where “Tommy” is introduced, and the context in which it was created is detailed)

The album had 20 tracks. It was the first double album the band had released. The operatic connection was made evident through a formal overture and an “underture” which was mostly the extension of a theme called “Sparks”, also featured on the album and derived from a chord pattern found on “Rael” from the previous record.

Highlights included “Pinball Wizard” (the first single from the album) and “See Me, Feel Me”, a prayer sent to the most private space within the soul of every listener, a pronunciation of faith and endearment like no other within their repertoire. Other songs which merit mentioning are “The Acid Queen” and “I’m Free”, both very fine rockers. (“I’m Free” was to be released as a single too, and some time later an orchestrated version would be a minor hit.) Continue reading

Tommy (The Who) – Album Review (Part 1)

The Album's Artwork Was Created By A Fellow Baba Lover, Mike McInnerny.

The Album's Artwork Was Created By A Fellow Baba Lover, Mike McInnerny.

Pete Townshend needed an album like Tommy from an intellectual point of view, and The Who needed an album like Tommy from the vantage point of its career. Tommy is regarded as the first “Rock Opera” ever. Endless discussions arise regarding whether or not it deserves that denomination, and whether or not it was the first album that could be termed like that. Leaving the denomination aside, what we have is a collection of songs that came from disparate sources and which the band assembled together as a sort of story with the aid and constant presence of manager Kit Lambert, whose driving force was felt particularly strong on this project.

The main influence might as well have been the teachings of Indian guru Meher Baba. Pete became a Baba lover about a year before the album was first released, and he tried to make the whole work showcase the Compassionate Father’s teachings. Continue reading