The Kinks – Arthur: Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire (1969)

AllMusic Review: Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) extends the British-oriented themes of Village Green Preservation Society, telling the story of a London man’s decision to move to Australia during the aftermath of World War II. It’s a detailed and loving song cycle, capturing the minutiae of suburban life, the numbing effect of bureaucracy, and the horrors of war. On paper, Arthur sounds like a pretentious mess, but Ray Davies’ lyrics and insights have rarely been so graceful or deftly executed, and the music is remarkable. An edgier and harder-rocking affair than Village Green, Arthur is as multi-layered musically as it is lyrically. “Shangri-La” evolves from English folk to hard rock, “Drivin'” has a lazy grace, “Young and Innocent Days” is a lovely, wistful ballad, “Some Mother’s Son” is one of the most uncompromising antiwar songs ever recorded, while “Victoria” and “Arthur” rock with simple glee. The music makes the words cut deeper, and the songs never stray too far from the album’s subject, making Arthur one of the most effective concept albums in rock history, as well as one of the best and most influential British pop records of its era. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Victoria” 3:40
2. “Yes Sir, No Sir” 3:46
3. “Some Mother’s Son” 3:25
4. “Drivin'” 3:21
5. “Brainwashed” 2:34
6. “Australia” 6:46
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Shangri-La” 5:20
2. “Mr. Churchill Says” 4:42
3. “She’s Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina” 3:07
4. “Young and Innocent Days” 3:21
5. “Nothing to Say” 3:08
6. “Arthur” 5:27

 

Schill Score: 8.5/10

 

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The Kinks – The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

AllMusic Review: Ray Davies’ sentimental, nostalgic streak emerged on Something Else, but it developed into a manifesto on The Village Green Preservation Society, a concept album lamenting the passing of old-fashioned English traditions. As the opening title song says, the Kinks — meaning Ray himself, in this case — were for preserving “draught beer and virginity,” and throughout the rest of the album, he creates a series of stories, sketches, and characters about a picturesque England that never really was. It’s a lovely, gentle album, evoking a small British country town, and drawing the listener into its lazy rhythms and sensibilities. Although there is an undercurrent of regret running throughout the album, Davies’ fondness for the past is warm, making the album feel like a sweet, hazy dream. And considering the subdued performances and the detailed instrumentations, it’s not surprising that the record feels more like a Ray Davies solo project than a Kinks album. The bluesy shuffle of “Last of the Steam-Powered Trains” is the closest the album comes to rock & roll, and Dave Davies’ cameo on the menacing “Wicked Annabella” comes as surprise, since the album is so calm. But calm doesn’t mean tame or bland — there are endless layers of musical and lyrical innovation on The Village Green Preservation Society, and its defiantly British sensibilities became the foundation of generations of British guitar pop. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “The Village Green Preservation Society” 2:45
2. “Do You Remember Walter?” 2:23
3. “Picture Book” 2:34
4. “Johnny Thunder” 2:28
5. “Last of the Steam-Powered Trains” 4:03
6. “Big Sky” 2:49
7. “Sitting by the Riverside” 2:21
Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Animal Farm” 2:57
2. “Village Green” 2:08
3. “Starstruck” 2:18
4. “Phenomenal Cat” (spelled “Phenominal Cat” on the LP sleeve) 2:34
5. “All of My Friends Were There” 2:23
6. “Wicked Annabella” 2:40
7. “Monica” 2:13
8. “People Take Pictures of Each Other” 2:10

 

Schill Score: 9/10

 

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The Kinks – Something Else By The Kinks (1967)

Something Else by the Kinks, often referred to simply as Something Else, is the fifth UK studio album by the Kinks, released in September 1967. It marks the final involvement of American producer Shel Talmy in the Kinks’ 1960s studio recordings; henceforth Ray Davies would produce recordings. Many of the recordings feature the keyboard work of Nicky Hopkins and the backing vocals of Davies’s wife, Rasa. Two hit singles are included: “Waterloo Sunset” and “Death of a Clown”. The album was ranked No. 288 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time

Track Listing

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “David Watts” 2:32
2. “Death of a Clown” Dave Davies, R. Davies 3:04
3. “Two Sisters” 2:01
4. “No Return” 2:03
5. “Harry Rag” 2:16
6. “Tin Soldier Man” 2:49
7. “Situation Vacant” 3:16
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” D. Davies 3:16
2. “Lazy Old Sun” 2:48
3. “Afternoon Tea” 3:27
4. “Funny Face” D. Davies 2:17
5. “End of the Season” 2:57
6. “Waterloo Sunset” 3:15

 

AllMusic Review: Face to Face was a remarkable record, but its follow-up, Something Else, expands its accomplishments, offering 13 classic British pop songs. As Ray Davies’ songwriting becomes more refined, he becomes more nostalgic and sentimental, retreating from the psychedelic and mod posturings that had dominated the rock world. Indeed, Something Else sounds like nothing else from 1967. The Kinks never rock very hard on the album, preferring acoustic ballads, music hall numbers, and tempered R&B to full-out guitar attacks. Part of the album’s power lies in its calm music, since it provides an elegant support for Davies’ character portraits and vignettes. From the martial stomp of “David Watts” to the lovely, shimmering “Waterloo Sunset,” there’s not a weak song on the record, and several — such as the allegorical “Two Sisters,” the Noël Coward-esque “End of the Season,” the rolling “Lazy Old Sun,” and the wry “Situation Vacant” — are stunners. And just as impressive is the emergence of Dave Davies as a songwriter. His Dylanesque “Death of a Clown” and bluesy rocker “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” hold their own against Ray’s masterpieces, and help make Something Else the endlessly fascinating album that it is. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 7.5/10

 

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The Kinks – Face To Face (1966)

Face to Face is the fourth studio album by the English rock band The Kinks, released in October 1966. The album marked a shift from the hard-driving style of beat music that had catapulted the group to international acclaim in 1964. It is their first album consisting entirely of Ray Davies compositions, and has also been regarded by critics as rock’s first concept album. The album was included in Robert Christgau’s “Basic Record Library” of 1950s and 1960s recordings, published in Christgau’s Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981).

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Length
1. “Party Line” 2:35
2. “Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home” 2:34
3. “Dandy” 2:12
4. “Too Much on My Mind” 2:28
5. “Session Man” 2:14
6. “Rainy Day in June” 3:10
7. “A House in the Country” 3:03

Side two
No. Title Length
1. “Holiday in Waikiki” 2:52
2. “Most Exclusive Residence for Sale” 2:48
3. “Fancy” 2:30
4. “Little Miss Queen of Darkness” 3:16
5. “You’re Lookin’ Fine” 2:46
6. “Sunny Afternoon” 3:36
7. “I’ll Remember” 2:27

Review: The Kink Kontroversy was a considerable leap forward in terms of quality, but it pales next to Face to Face, one of the finest collections of pop songs released during the ’60s. Conceived as a loose concept album, Face to Face sees Ray Davies’ fascination with English class and social structures flourish, as he creates a number of vivid character portraits. Davies’ growth as a lyricist coincided with the Kinks’ musical growth. Face to Face is filled with wonderful moments, whether it’s the mocking Hawaiian guitars of the rocker “Holiday in Waikiki,” the droning Eastern touches of “Fancy,” the music hall shuffle of “Dandy,” or the lazily rolling “Sunny Afternoon.” And that only scratches the surface of the riches of Face to Face, which offers other classics like “Rosy Won’t You Please Come Home,” “Party Line,” “Too Much on My Mind,” “Rainy Day in June,” and “Most Exclusive Residence for Sale,” making the record one of the most distinctive and accomplished albums of its time. — Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Schill Score: 7.75/10

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