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The Kinks, 'Face to Face'

Face to Face  (1966,  38.42/59.44)  ****/0 (T)

Party Line
Rosie Won't You Please Come Home
Dandy
Too Much on My Mind
Session Man
Rainy Day in June
A House in the Country
Holiday in Waikiki
Most Exclusive Residence for Sale
Fancy
Little Miss Queen of Darkness
You're Lookin' Fine
Sunny Afternoon
I'll Remember
[CD adds:
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
Dead End Street
Big Black Smoke
Mister Pleasant
This is Where I Belong
Mr. Reporter
Little Women]
The Kinks, 'Autumn Almanac' 7"  ( 1967)  ****/TT

Autumn Almanac

Mr. Pleasant
The Kinks, 'Days' 7"  ( 1968)  ****/TT

Days

She's Got Everything
The Kinks, 'Village Green Preservation Society'

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society  (1968,  39.45/164.19)  *****/TTT (TTTT½)

Village Green Preservation Society
Do You Remember Walter
Picture Book
Johnny Thunder
The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains
Big Sky
Sitting By the Riverside
Animal Farm
Village Green
Starstruck
Phenomenal Cat

All of My Friends Were There
Wicked Annabella
Monica
People Take Pictures of Each Other
[3-CD edition adds:
Mr Songbird
Days
Do You Remember Walter
People Take Pictures of Each Other
Days
Mr Songbird

Polly
Wonderboy
Berkeley Mews
Village Green
Village Green
Misty Water
Berkeley Mews
Easy Come, There You Went

Polly
Animal Farm
Phenomenal Cat
Johnny Thunder

Did You See His Name
Mick Avory's Underpants
Lavender Hill
Rosemary Rose
Wonderboy
Spotty Grotty Anna
Where Did My Spring Go
Groovy Movies
Creeping Jean
King Kong
Misty Water
Do You Remember Walter
Animal Farm
Days]
The Kinks, 'BBC Sessions 1964-1977'

BBC Sessions 1964-1977  [Disc 1]  (2001,  49.47)  ***½/½

Interview
You Really Got Me
Interview
Cadillac
All Day and All of the Night
Tired of Waiting for You
Ev'rybody's Gonna Be Happy
See My Friends
This Strange Effect
Milk Cow Blues
Wonder Where My Baby is Tonight
Till the End of the Day
Where Have All the Good Times Gone
Death of a Clown
Love Me Till the Sun Shines
Harry Rag
Good Luck Charm
Waterloo Sunset
Monica
Days
The Village Green Preservation Society
Kinks, 'Picture Book'

Picture Book  [Disc 2]  (2008, recorded 1964-94,  77.10)  ****/TT

Dedicated Follower of Fashion (alt.)
She's Got Everything
Mr. Reporter (alt.)
Sunny Afternoon
I'm Not Like Everybody Else
This is Where I Belong
Rosy Won't You Please Come Home
Too Much on My Mind
Session Man
End of the Season
Dead End Street (alt.)
Village Green
Two Sisters
David Watts
Mr. Pleasant
Waterloo Sunset (mono)
Death of a Clown
Lavender Hill
Good Luck Charm
Autumn Almanac

Susannah's Still Alive
Animal Farm
Rosemary Rose
Berkeley Mews
Lincoln County
Picture Book
Days
Misty Water

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

The Kinks were never the greatest Mellotron users, apparently ignoring the instrument's heyday in the '70s, preferring to use real strings etc. However, for a short time in the late '60s, they joined almost all their contemporaries by slapping a bit of Mellotron on a couple of songs. The wonderful Autumn Almanac relies heavily on the MkII trombones and mixed brass, the latter being particularly obvious on the raucous ascending runs at the end of each chorus. Days (a UK no. 12) has some upfront strings, though somehow avoids being as 'classic' as Strawberry Fields or Space Oddity.

Village Green Preservation Society is almost certainly The Kinks' greatest achievement; Ray Davies' already individual, eclectic and very English songwriting filtered through the haze of psychedelia is a potent brew indeed. The title track gently pokes fun at society's 'traditionalists', while giving you a more than vaguely unsettling feeling that just maybe Davies actually means it. In fact, the whole album is probably worthy of the dreaded 'concept' tag, as most of the tracks seem to deal with the subjects of the past being allowed to slip away and what it meant to be English in the late '60s. In this, I suspect Davies was a couple of decades ahead of his time, as the nostalgia boom of the '80s and '90s proves; whatever, it's a fabulous album of only slightly psychedelic pop, without the often-unnecessary trappings of the era.

The Kinks, 'Village Green Preservation Society', unreleased mono version

After Essential's 2-on-1 stereo/mono edition comes what has to be the final word on Village Green, Sanctuary's 3-CD version, encompassing full stereo and mono versions, with bonus tracks, plus a disc of rarities. For some reason, the original twelve-track album was slated for a September '68 release, then was cancelled at the last minute, to be replaced by a revised fifteen-track version two months later. This CD issue mops up everything, including several previously unavailable Mellotronic tracks, although I've removed the second disc's straight mono repetition of disc one's stereo album, for the sake of brevity. There are several Mellotron tracks on the original album, two of them absolutely layered with the thing, with strings and brass on Starstruck and MkII rhythm tapes, regular flutes and 'rock guitar' (!) on Phenomenal Cat. The stunning Do You Remember Walter and Johnny Thunder have brass (trombones?), with French accordion on Sitting By The Riverside, although some of the more unusual use is reserved for the set's extra tracks.

Apart from various takes of Days, Mr Songbird (originally slated for the twelve-track version) has some gorgeous flutes, with more strings on Berkeley Mews and Easy Come, There You Went (pitchbent here) and more trombones on Lavender Hill, leaving two tracks with more of those MkII left-hand rhythm tapes, a sax coda on both versions of Berkeley Mews (mentioned in the sleevenotes) and a faint rhythm tape at the end of the first bonus version (on disc one) of People Take Pictures Of Each Other. For what it's worth, the sleevenotes also mention that the Mellotron was played by both Ray Davies and session god Nicky Hopkins, more often seen working with the Stones. Incidentally, the last three tracks on disc three are labelled 'BBC session remixes', which actually means the original tracks, overdubbed with a new Ray vocal and slightly remixed, so the Mellotron parts are the same as on the album.

Just to add some confusion to the story, the remastered CD of 1966's excellent Face to Face album contains, as an unreleased bonus track, an instrumental backing track called Little Women, that is smothered in Mellotron flutes and strings, though I've no idea who, why or anything else. It's a fine album, anyway, containing gems such as Session Man, A House In The Country and Most Exclusive Residence For Sale, not to mention Sunny Afternoon, Dead End Street and Mr Pleasant, the last two also being bonus tracks.

2001's BBC Sessions 1964-1977, a.k.a. The Songs We Sang for Auntie, mops up all the band's surviving BBC sessions (a mere half of the total, sadly), although it's pretty much one for the faithful only. Covering studio and live sessions over the indicated period, it veers between their early, raw r'n'b, their sophisticated late '60s material and the flaccid, middle-of-the-road '70s rock they slipped into in the new decade, making it a decent enough listen without being in any way essential for any but the most committed. One Mellotron track, Nicky Hopkins adding strings to Days in a similar manner to its studio counterpart.

2008 brought The Kinks into the modern age, in the shape of Picture Book, a massive, six-disc box set, in the usual format: a handful of rarities spread amongst acres of familiar material and a high price tag. As has been said before, to whom, exactly, do these sets appeal? They piss off hardcore fans who feel they have to splash out the readies for a few unheard tracks (or, often, merely versions of tracks), the casual buyer isn't going to spend this much for the hits, already compiled many times in cheaper form, while anyone genuinely interested in learning about the band's history is more likely to pick up a hits CD and their handful of classic albums (my preferred option). Anyway, disc two is not only the best musically (go on, argue with that at your peril), but the only one with any Mellotron content; of the disc's five Mellotron tracks, four are already available on the Village Green three-CD set, leaving the brief, jaunty Good Luck Charm as the newbie, with a string line, standing alone at the end of the track. Incidentally, as well as regular Kinks tracks (a handful in slightly different versions), we get Dave Davies' Susannah's Still Alive, as so memorably covered by the mighty Cardiacs.


Dave Davies
7"  (1969)  ***/T

Hold My Hand
Creepin' Jean
Dave Davies, 'Hidden Treasures'

Hidden Treasures  (2011,  78.50)  ***½/T

Susannah's Still Alive
This Man He Weeps Tonight
Mindless Child of Motherhood
Hold My Hand
Do You Wish to Be a Man
Are You Ready
Creeping Jean
Crying
Lincoln County
Mr. Shoemaker's Daughter
Mr. Reporter
Groovy Movies
There's No Life Without Love
I am Free (mono)
Death of a Clown (mono)
Love Me Till the Sun Shines (mono)
Susannah's Still Alive (mono)
Funny Face (mono)
Lincoln County (mono)
There's No Life Without Love (mono)
Hold My Hand (mono)
Creeping Jean (mono)

This Man He Weeps Tonight (mono)
Mindless Child of Motherhood (mono)
Mr. Reporter (alt. mix)
Hold My Hand (early take with guide vocal)
Good Luck Charm (rare studio version)

Current availability:

Mellotrons used:

According to the sleevenotes on PRT's 1987 collection of Dave Davies solo cuts, The Album That Never Was, the second best-known Kink released four solo singles over the course of a couple of years, but never completed a projected album, although titles such as A Hole in the Sock of... and Lincoln County have been applied to it. The ten-track vinyl has been comprehensively replaced by Universal's 2011 set Hidden Treasures, unless you're a vinyl die-hard, of course. Death Of A Clown was a huge hit, but Davies couldn't repeat the feat, even with the wonderful Suzannah's Still Alive, memorably covered by the mighty Cardiacs a couple of decades later. With hindsight, several of these tracks are relatively weak and it's easy to see why neither Lincoln County nor Hold My Hand were hits, although they're still vastly superior to the dross that passed for chart pop at the time, or indeed, any other. If the set has a problem, it's that it's too complete; yes, I agree that everything should be made available, but a version featuring every different track, with no repetition of mono and stereo versions might be an easier listen.

Hold My Hand was Dave's fourth and last single and, to be honest, is more notable for its excellent B-side, Creepin' (or Creeping) Jean, although the 'A' isn't bad, with a vague background Mellotron string part, played by brother Ray, apparently, who also adds a few string chords to the flip, only audible on the original mono version. Both sides are, of course, on Hidden Treasures, in mono and stereo versions, while the set adds a 'rare studio version' of Good Luck Charm, featuring Mellotron strings from Nicky Hopkins, clearly an expert on the machine.


Ray Davies
Ray Davies, 'Other People's Lives'

Other People's Lives  (2006,  60.53)  ***½/T

Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After)
After the Fall
Next Door Neighbour
All She Wrote
Creatures of Little Faith
Run Away From Time
The Tourist
Is There Life After Breakfast?
The Getaway (Lonesome Train)
Other People's Lives
Stand Up Comic
Over My Head
Thanksgiving Day

Current availability:

Mellotron used:

Ray Davies may not have produced much groundbreaking work in recent years (or even decades), but anyone who finds themselves unmoved by his best '60s songwriting is, surely, ever so slightly deficient on the humanity front. 2006's Other People's Lives is his third solo album since The Kinks split in the mid-'90s, containing a combination of his expected observational humour (Is There Life After Breakfast?, Stand Up Comic) and more general lyrics concerning, well, other people's lives, all set to tunes that, while good, are never going to match his peak period.

Ray plays his own Konk Studios' EMI M400 on a few tracks, with uncredited flutes on Next Door Neighbour and credited ones on Creatures Of Little Faith and Over My Head, most obviously on the last-named. Committed Kinks fans will surely already own this; as for the rest of you, if you would like to hear an album of good, if rarely great songs by a once-classic songwriter, you could do worse than to check out Other People's Lives. If lacking classics, it also lacks any duffers, with minor Mellotron use into the bargain.


links

Official Ray Davies site

Official Dave Davies site


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