The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.

  1. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    There are also a couple of other versions in the big box .... we have take 16 and 17 with alternate mixes, and also a backing track.... unfortunately neither of these have been uploaded on youtube
  2. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Every line in this stunning masterpiece/centerpiece is sheer beauty. I’ll put the tender “Though she's far from home, she is free from harm” and the deep “I'll take you where real animals are playing / And people are real people not just playing” at the very top of Ray’s (thus rock’s) pantheon, because they’re beautiful, profound and you can only read them like he sings them. The music is insane, just four simple major chords but working like twelve, a stupendous strings/mellotron arrangement, fantastic harmonies by Dave (“pi-llow”), splendid Rasa in the back, unstoppable rhythm session… Apart from the calming bridge (that actually does sound like a bridge above the previous' track river), the song never stops gaining power as it goes, a bit like Steam Powered Train, except this time it’s because it has to match the urge in the singer’s plea as it becomes overwhelming, full of impatience, conviction, hope and joy. Not many songs in the rock canon reach out to the listener in such a wonderful peppy way, opening their arms to draw us in and opening our eyes at the same time. Right now I can only think of This Whole World by the Beach Boys with that same quality. This is truly a work of genius. I suspect today will be a day of superlatives !
  3. Zack

    Zack Forum Resident

    Easton, MD
    Another all-time favorite Kinks track (the list is getting long!) What I love about this is that it works a kid's song -- I remember it being an anchor to the mix tape I made my toddler son back in 1991 -- and it totally works as a spiritual allegory as well. The words are simple, beautiful poetry.
  4. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    How many amazing songs can one album have?! This one is up with The Big Sky as the best track so far.
  5. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Ray live 2004 (2nd song after Village Green)

  6. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "Animal Farm"

    Like "Walter", this is another reminder of the strength of this album, in that another song which could well be one of Ray's greatest doesn't particularly stand out from the rest - at least not for me. Played in isolation you can hear its greatness, but played within the context of the album it just seems like part of the fabric. It's also another one where it just seems easier to stand back and admire it as a whole rather than try to analyse it (others have already done a very fine job at that!)

    I don't know if anybody else gets this, but I get a few hints of what's to come in "Apeman" from this one.

    Blur's "Country House" also features the words "animal farm", which I'm sure is no coincidence. Macca's "Heart Of The Country" is still three years away.
  7. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Definitely. This seems like a step in that direction, but without the sarcasm and semi-comedic delivery.
  8. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    So very true! Ray’s singing doesn’t get any better than this. He manages to be in tuen expressive, tuneful, theatrical, emphatic, inspired, growling, entertaining, insistent, almost possessed at times… It's one of the few Kinks tracks (and yes, definitely the first) where we get to hear all his voices in one setting. Amazing, amazing stuff.
  9. Orino

    Orino Forum Resident

    Animal Farm is a standout for sure. If immediately after my first listen to VGPS I'd had to pick 'the' song, it likely would have been this one..

    I think because the lyric is straightforward, light, and focused, it's never going to rival 'Waterloo Sunset' or whatever. A well trod notion, get me out of this city (or the crazy modern world in general), I want to live the simpler (agricultural) life.

    But I think this is a Kinks song where the music genuinely lifts the lyric to new heights. (And with just four chords..) The key shift(?) under the line "that we called our home".. is a magnificent moment, it feels like mounting a hill and seeing the broad landscape for the first time.. immediately followed by a melodic leap of sheer delight on "I wanna be back there".. and finally reaching the 'chorus' proper, which feels aptly (with its descending chords/arpeggio) like a settling down, a relaxing, a letting go of troubles.

    Yes, and with the noted 'slow start', Ray's vocal, and the strings,and everything else.. it's rather a good one, this. :)
  10. Steve62

    Steve62 Vinyl hunter

    Animal Farm
    This is such a wonderfully uplifting song. The return to a simpler life is a sentiment Ray touches on in different ways in the next few years (Apeman, God's Children, 20th Century Man etc) but here I think he captures it in its purest essence. With animals, there's no agenda apart from the necessities of life. What you see is what you get. And the human appeal of this is something I can endorse - for the past 10 or so years I've lived on a property with horses, dogs and a cat and I find it's a great tonic for the mind and heart. :righton: from me.
  11. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    Animal Farm

    This is fun and sweet
    I'm swaying and relaxing
    With Animal Farm
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  12. cwitt1980

    cwitt1980 Senior Member

    Carbondale, IL USA
    There's a handful of songs that give me that fuzzy body feeling. "Animal Farm" is one of them.
  13. sharedon

    sharedon Forum Zonophone

    My high school girlfriend/now ex-wife loved Animal Farm, which I introduced to her. She's long gone, but - I still have the song.
  14. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Despite my best efforts, falling behind again. So anyway, here is a partial catch-up from Courtney and me:

    Johnny thunder
    It sounds like a little boys fantasy of who he wants to be when he grows up. No one can tell him what to do or where to go or even whether or not to eat. I did like the song a lot per usual with the kinks. The music is fun and sounds like a journey.

    Last of the steam powdered trains
    I love the way this song sounds. It sounds like what it is about. Sounds like a train. I thought this song was just about a train, until it got to the line “And all this peaceful living is drivin' me insane” made me thing it’s a metaphor for a person. Then when I looked again at the lyrics, the following lyrics in order are
    1. “And I don't know where I'm going, or why I came”
    2. “But I live in a museum, so I'm okay”
    3. “And I'm gonna keep on rollin' till my dying day”
    4. And all this peaceful living is drivin' me insane
    He doesn’t know where he is, but he’s in a museum. And he’s never going to stop moving but his peaceful life is making him crazy. Doesn’t make sense. Now looking at the lyrics coming from a person I think it’s about an old man with dementia from a different era confused but alive in his head.

    Big sky
    I think this is about the universe, politics, the sky, god, religious figures etc. he’s speaking of anything “bigger then the individual” and indicating a freeing but terrifying thought. They don’t care about you from afar as an individual, so don’t worry too much about them, and don’t worry too much about your problem. In the picture, you are inconsequential

    “Big Sky feels sad when he sees the children scream and cry
    But the Big Sky's too big to let it get him down
    Big Sky too big to cry
    Big Sky too high to see
    People like you and me”

    I can’t tell if, when he says “one day we’ll be free” he talking about simply accepting that fact of life or if he’s talking about dying. Most likely both, knowing Ray, he needs to be a few layers deep. At the very least he find the concept of understanding how small he is comforting

    “When I feel that the world's too much for me
    I think of the Big Sky and nothing matters much to me”

    …and Mark says:
    Big Sky: OK! Back to the grade A quality of the first three tracks with this one. This one got my attention right away, both musically with a heavier sound (which obviously I have indicated that I like) and the spoken word verses, which I found both attention grabbing and fitting for the parts about how big sky viewed us. Unlike many here, my initial reaction was just to assume Ray really was narrating from the perspective of the actual sky. I can see it being a metaphor for God or a big corporation or governmental entity. Whether the sky itself or one of these metaphors, the narrator is looking down on the billions of people and just seeing humankind as a bunch of ants scurrying around trying to get enough scraps of food to make it through another day. At first it may seem to be a depressing concept, that we are all just one of millions and ultimately we don’t individually matter much. Ultimately though, it could also be seen as freeing, once you realize and accept how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things, you can carry-on with the process of feeding, clothing and putting a roof over your head and trying to enjoy each day you’re alive and successfully do that. Great music too, overall heavy then light, always shifting yet hanging together. Individually, each musician is on fire, great bass, drums and guitar (and Nicky on piano) and Ray’s singing is top notch too, with great backing harmonies.

    Sitting by the Riverside: Another winner. Although at first it seems slighter perhaps than what has came before, the lilting melody combined with the two brief but eerie psychedelic freak outs make it somehow both beautifully relaxing and unsettling all within its brief 2+ minute run time. Ultimately, the song is challenging and more than just a simple pretty dirty like those that Ray seems to bang out in his sleep.
  15. John Fell

    John Fell Forum Survivor

    Animal Farm is one of my favorites on the album.
  16. donstemple

    donstemple Member of the Club

    Maplewood, NJ
    Animal Farm

    Sorry if this is a bit meandering as I'm putting down random thoughts this morning between some meetings.. Upon first hearing the album years ago, this (along with "Last of the Steam Powered Trains") was the song that immediately hooked me. The intro section, the acoustic chords before Ray's strong vocal comes in.

    @Orino describes my overall thoughts on the verse/pre-chorus/chorus buildup and release here better than I could:

    The little piano accent hits after the "the we called our home...", "i want to be back there", "among the cats the dogs", "and the pigs and the goats". The way Ray really annunciates the plural "s" on "goats". I just love it.

    The "its a hard hard world" bridge is so serene and escapist. It's kinda like the opposite of "Sitting By the Riverside". In that song, the escapism was the "swirl" and buildup, and then the return to the reality and calmness of sitting by the river.... Here, the escapism is our dreams, and the calm realization that our dreams may die in a bad bad (busy) world. But almost ironically, then we get sent back to the relative peace of a rollicking rhythm and a bit of a growl where real animals are playing, but in a "quiet quiet life". What brings peace? Just avoiding the big and wild and half-insane bad bad world.

    There's certainly a theme of repeating certain words (hard hard, bad bad, quiet quiet). And a clear lack of rhyming in the pre-chorus lyrics "shack", "bark", "home", "there", "dogs", "goats", "farm".... but then after "home", "harm", "fear", we get the expected rhymes to comfort us "she is by my side", "and the sky is wide"...

    And just to complete some of these callback lyrics.... "The (big) sky is wide, so let the (lazy old) sun shine bright on Animal Farm...."

    In summary, I just love this and never get tired of listening to it.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
  17. Toad of the Short Forest

    Toad of the Short Forest Forum Resident

    90220 Compton
    Animal Farm

    The string arrangments are very good on this one. Next to Village Green, I'd say this track has the most obvious orchestral embellishments. While the song obviously fits into the album sonically and lyrically very well, I always thought it would have worked better as a single track instead of an album track... though I'm sure it did see a single release somewhere overseas since virtually every other track from the album did.

    According to Wikipedia, the song was started in November of 1966. This would have been to late for inclusion on Face to Face, but I can just imagine an earlier arrangement of the track on that album ... maybe segued with some animal noises per Ray's original concept for the album. Always though it would have been one of the later-recorded tracks for VGPS, since it sounds closer to Arthur than Something Else imo.

    Love the slight distortion on Ray's voice too. That effect really only seems to be present on a few VGPS, but it works so perfectly. I think it's more apparent on the mono mix ... "she's by my side" ... "I wanna be back there" ... really emphasizes the emotion of the song.

    Also, Wikipedia states that the strings are played on a mellotron, but I'm dubious.
    Last edited: Jul 19, 2021
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  18. Brian Kelly

    Brian Kelly 1964-73 rock's best decade

    Animal Farm
    Another great track from a great album. I really like the music, especially the middle part, but all of it is good. As usual with the Kinks of this era I enjoy the lyrics as well. A nice way to start off side two.
  19. Steve E.

    Steve E. Doc Wurly and Chief Lathe Troll

    Brooklyn, NY, USA
    Wonderful post.

    I guess the Kinks have decided that the mono mix is the "official audio". But I think the vintage stereo mix is THE mix on this one. Much dreamier, and the instrument balances are perfect. In fact, there have been times in my life where this old stereo mix was THE standard of how I wished my own music to be recorded.

    I have a strong suspicion that there are some real strings on this one. Coulda been from the "Polly" or "Lincoln County" overdub session?

    I'm gonna have more to say about this song later. Boy, do I love this one.

    I love the couplet
    "Though she's far from home"
    she is free from harm"

    The parallelism of
    "Far" and "Free" ("f" and "r" sounds)
    and "Home" and "Harm" ("h" and "m"),
    held together by "from" in both lines (an "f" and "m") sound,

    With the "ar" of "Far" circling back in the word "Harm",
    and the word "harm" echoing "Farm," even though it's some distance away from it, just technically masterful writing, and so pleasing to the ear. It doesn't get better than that. And that's just one tiny detail in this impossibly great song.

    As I mentioned earlier, this song was held back from the 12-song "VGPS", though it was recorded relatively early among the 1968 songs, and was to be included in the US "Four More Respected Gentlemen" album, whose tracklist had been finalized earlier. Which makes no sense to me at all. This song feels so central to the album.

    Ray was on fire!! what, he was writing one or two of these a week in this period?!?
  20. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Not sure I believe Wikipedia on this one: I suspect it may be the case that the recording date span for the LP as a whole (which started with ‘Village Green’ in Nov 1966) is being blanket applied to this track on its Wiki entry.
  21. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It got a b-side guernsey to Village Green I believe
  22. Martyj

    Martyj Who dares to wake me from my slumber? -- Mr. Flash

    Maryland, USA
    I always heard it as buy a dirty old shack--as in purchase, rather than by, as in next to.
    mark winstanley likes this.
  23. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It's interesting that real strings are heard...

    I thought/think they sound real too.

    Honestly I just took wiki at its word, which is often dubious
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  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    It could well be. There's no real way to discern that, unless Ray steps in here and tells us.

    How cool would that be.... :)

    Carn' Ray, we love you mate, join our little party celebrating your music
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  25. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    If we're picking holes in the online lyrics, I've always assumed that the little girl is playing beneath a willow - a) it rhymes with pillow, b) it ties in with the mention of the willow tree in the previous track.

    Just as long as we don't get another "arm sweat" episode...
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