Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Have only read the first two, but most enjoyable. So far the writing is so..."polite". LOL
Well, it's actually June 2022, so awhile to go. Let's hope we'll be 'in the clear'. I wouldn't want to go to a show at this moment.
Hadn’t seen that before. Interesting. Guess Ian did like The Kinks after all.
The Kinks in the Sixties – The Albums
I guess today, in part one of a sort of sixties summary, I will look at the Kinks as an album band, and the magnificent albums they gave us in the sixties. Tomorrow I’ll try and summarize the singles, and the band/era in general.
You guys can go about this in any way you feel, because it is your perspective on the band that matters here. If you want to look at albums today, and singles tomorrow with me, that’s fine. If you want to do a general summary, that’s fine too. If you want to have a day off, that is altogether fine too.
I wanted to do a summary of each era anyway, but with my vacation popping in the way it did, it seemed a good idea not to dive into a partial seventies thing and then regroup in a week. Fear not though folks, when I get back, we will be full steam ahead into the seventies, and a very diverse decade of music from the band.
The whole exploration of the Kinks sixties catalog has been revelatory for me. The incredible growth of the band and Ray’s writing is quite brilliant, and although some of the covers on the early albums aren’t really going to be among my favourite ever songs, I personally don’t see them as being particularly weaker than the bands contemporaries.
On the other hand, most of the band’s original tracks are very impressive. Obviously, we have the big singles, some of which made it onto the albums, but there are some great album tracks, and I feel pretty confident that I can say there aren’t any Kinks albums from the sixties now that I don’t consider to be good albums.
The debut is very much of its era, and the originals move between some solid tracks that are certainly a part of the feel of the British Invasion, and then we get a track like You Really Got Me which is essentially the root of several new genres that obviously directly grew from this blast of new rock music. I can only imagine how unique this must have sounded in 1964.
Kinda Kinks in 1965 moves things forward, and again, aside from a couple of covers that end up being ok, but don’t set the world on fire, there are some great original tracks, and we see Ray moving in different directions with his writing. Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrying About That Girl, Something Better Beginning and Tired Of Waiting For You end up being a somewhat new direction and show Ray really coming along well in expressing himself through song.
Kontroversy Is just something else again. Aside from a fantastic jam style cover opening the album, we have a batch of all original Kinks. We also Get Dave throwing his hat into the ring with the excellent I Am Free. Although the album is still connected to the British Invasion sound it is leaps and bounds ahead of the previous two …. And although it isn’t normally, for most folks, this is really where I see the Classic Kinks albums starting from. We get that wide variety that has become a feature. We get original songs. We get some punchy stuff, and some mellow stuff, and the guys are just really on it here.
Face To Face is certainly Something Better Beginning. For me, this is where the Kinks album era started. Although they were, and sadly still are seen as being one of the premier singles artists of this era, it is right here where the band, or Ray decided that the wave of the future was the album. They set about trying to set the album up with links that would create a sonic flow, an uninterrupted wave of sound across the entirety of the album. Unfortunately, as would become commonplace among the Kinks sixties albums, Pye wasn’t interested….. they just wanted hit singles, and were altogether the wrong record label for the band by this stage. There are so many highlights on this album that it is hard to single out one, but Rainy Day In June really grabs me.
Something Else by The Kinks, beyond its slightly innocuous title, is a sheer masterpiece of sixties music, and I completely understand why some folks see it as being the band’s best album…. For me the band just keep getting better, but that is not to deny how wonderful this album is. For me there is not one weak track on here, and to have Waterloo Sunset as the big finale, just makes it all the more special. Waterloo may not be my favourite Kinks track, but it really is something special…. And really, I am at a stage where I just don’t know how I would even figure out what my favourite Kinks tracks would be.
The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, the first earlier Kinks album to grab my attention. For a good while it was my favourite Kinks album, but now I find I just love too many of their albums to even guess at some subjectively best album. The reality is this album is just perfect, and there isn’t much one can say in a paragraph that could sum it up. There is certainly a side of me that would love a double album version of it, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t work, but by the same token, there isn’t really anything about this album that misses the mark for me. This ends up being another step forward by the band in my eyes, and probably the peak of Ray’s writing in this kind of style, which is why I think he changed direction somewhat from here on out.
Arthur (and the decline and fall of the British Empire)…. Obviously we have just discussed this album, and it is the album that has gained the most ground for me in our reflection on the band’s career so far. I went from not really getting into it, except for a couple of songs, to absolutely loving it, and it is certainly in line for being my favourite Kinks album…. Obviously taking into account what I said up there about how hard it would be for me to decide on that these days. To me this is Ray heading in a different direction, yet he manages to tie it to the Village Green beautifully. There will always be a nod and a wink to what came before, but with the US opening up again, and the band having so thoroughly covered the art of “British”, and the various styles of tunes that suit that pursuit, Ray forged ahead, and the music and arrangements on Arthur are just superb and show that Ray could tech it up with the best of them. Arthur seems like one of, if not the outstanding album(s) of the sixties, managing to have depth of thought, lightness of heart, compassion, anger, sadness, and a storyline, that once you dive into it deep enough, covers an individual storyline and the history of Great Britain in the first half of the twentieth century…. It is a masterwork beyond compare, to anything else I can think of, in its writing and execution.
We had lots of Pye and Reprise releases that somewhat faffed with the bands catalogue, and certainly some of them are well thought out, and well presented, but for the most part, I am generally interested in a band’s real albums and not the constructs of record companies and such. There is also good reason to believe some of these budget type compiles could well have distracted from sales of actual albums.
We also had the Kelvin Hall or Kinks Live album…. It really doesn’t do much for me… and it isn’t the band’s playing or anything like that, it is just the generally poorly captured nature of sixties live albums, they just don’t generally appeal to me. Certainly there are some that I like, but not generally in the pop/rock field, where the recording, mixing and all of it really just seems to sound like people were still learning how to do it…. and the fact is, really they were. Thankfully we have some live Kinks coming up in future that improves on those recordings, and then the band put together a masterwork of a live album much later on…. but we’ll get to all that. I certainly understand some folks attachment to this live album, but it leaves me just wanting to put one of the band’s albums on instead.
So as far as the albums go, the Kinks sixties studio albums stand up with, or generally above anything else I am aware of in the sixties. Obviously I like the Beatles, The Stones, The Who and a lot of other bands from the era, and all those bands and more have albums that I consider to be all time classic albums…. You know, the albums everyone must hear before they die type stuff. For me though, I think the Beatles are the only band that can compete with the consistent quality that the Kinks produced, and to some degree this is the most surprising aspect about this thread to me so far. The Beatles are undoubtedly one of the greatest bands of all time, and I have been listening to their music since before I hit double figures, but the journey of the Kinks is wholly remarkable and I can’t for minute suggest that the Kinks album output isn’t as good, if not better than the Beatles.
The Kinks had an awful lot of adversity, or bad decisions, or self-inflicted wounds through the sixties, but somehow managed to get it done. I think their record company ended up becoming problematic. I don’t think the record company really knew what they had gotten themselves in for with this band. I think Ray matured too fast for them, and I think the band moved into being an album act before the record company had come to terms with the changing times in music. We had delays in releases, which set up a false narrative about where the Kinks were in comparison to their contemporaries, and to be fair, I don’t think that was always Pye’s fault, but they didn’t seem, from what I have seen here, to have the wherewithal to deal with the band’s potential, direction and again, the changing times in the music world.
We had Shel Talmy, who was certainly important in the early years of the band, but essentially, like The Who, The Kinks should have moved on from him earlier than they did. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the band made leaps and bounds improvements after Shel moved on, and Ray got to direct his vision for the band through the songs and how they were presented.
It is also reasonable to note that The Kinks didn’t have the state of the art recording studios that many other band’s in the sixties had. The Kinks certainly have their own sound, but on occasion it seems like it would have been nice for the Kinks to have had access to all the top line equipment for recording, rather than the functional, but lesser equipment that Pye had available to them.
Then we have the US situation, where the unprecedented step of banning the guys for essentially four years pretty much muted their exposure into the biggest market for music in and from the western world. We see the band explode into the US initially, and then a slow decline in sales that seems to be directly linked to the lack of exposure. Another side effect of this is the fact that while The Kinks were pretty much locked down to the UK and some European countries, the other British Invasion bands were getting regular touring and exposure to the huge US audiences, and this also gave those bands much needed experience in playing to large crowds, and also keeping their names current, and keeping their chops up. It’s really no surprise that The Who and The Stones have long been regarded two of the best live bands in the world, because they really gritted it out on the US touring circuit for years, and for all the discomfort that can cause, it pays dividends in loyal fans, and that special spark a live band needs to conquer its audience. So really it is hard to fathom how deep and damaging the effects of this ban really were for the band. They certainly went on to be a big draw, and sold a lot of tickets in the seventies and eighties, but they have never really been held in the same esteem as their contemporaries.
We have the stories of violence and actual fighting between members of the band. We have Ray and his fragile emotional state. We have the band somewhat carrying on regardless of what the industry types thought or did. The Kinks were a law unto themselves, and in some ways the Kinks seem like they were the real bad boys of the sixties rock and roll scene. The band intentionally stayed away from certain scenes, the hippy, psychedelic, blues, and regular rock and roll scenes. The band introduced world music into rock and roll before anyone else, that I know of. They mimicked Indian music with western instruments. They invented the ground zero for hard rock, punk britpop and the alternative scene. They made music hall and vaudeville music part of the landscape. They respected their home country and didn’t put on American accents, for the most part. They created a wholly unique space for themselves to exist in, and as such found a very loyal base of fans that loved them dearly. They had enough success to remain in the scene, and grew into one of the most formidable recording acts in the industry, but for some reason the sales and adulation seems to never have reached the standard of the music…. It’s a strange old world we live in.
Also, when we take into account all the push and pull of the aggression, Ray’s depression, and generally unusual ways, the band made some of the most thoughtful and beautiful music going. They also made some of the more unusual music that could be considered mainstream…… I guess what that is making me feel, is that the Kinks were a wholly human band, and in them we see all of our quirks and oddities play out. In some ways walking contradictions, and in others passionately focused, totally themselves and worthy of the career they have had….. Perhaps that is why they have always been amongst my favourite bands, even though up until this point I didn’t necessarily think they were a great album band, but now, it is very clear they were all those things….
For the sake of it, I guess I rate the albums pretty much in reverse order
God save the Kinks!
My ranking would be
As I've never owned Kelvin Hall I don't feel that it's fair to rank it, but I suspect it would be last or second last.
Mark - your review of the Kinks’ albums of the sixties is outstanding. I’m still clinging onto VGPS over Arthur as my favourite of their sixties albums. But you make a compelling case for Arthur, which is worth quoting.
And you make a great point about how the Kinks weren’t served well by Pye.
I’ve loved the run through the sixties and can’t wait to get stuck into the seventies.
I just saw this article on Ray and Nicky Hopkins. It may interest someone
The Kinks song Ray Davies wrote about the greatest session musician of the 1960s
I almost put Village, Arthur and Something equal first, but I bit the bullet and made a decision. Ranking stuff isn't something I'm very good at. The best album is the one I feel like listening to right now
“But after the release of The Village Green Preservation Society, Hopkins incensed The Kinks frontman by maintaining that “about seventy per cent” of the keyboard work on the album was his. Davies, however, had already credited himself.”
I thought it was the other way around. That Ray incensed Hopkins.
It looks like Mark started writing this around 2 in the morning! Well done.
Yes, for me, too.
Again, I agree. I still can’t figure this part out (and so don’t bother to try. Too much to absorb as it is.)
Yep. Growing up in Japan, I was exposed to UK and US releases pretty much indiscriminately. And I was in a boarding school. So lots of records being passed around. No Kinks albums. Just singles. I can only conclude the ban had a big-time effect.
Well, they tried the blues thing. But, as was said in that one documentary we saw: The Kinks weren’t a good blues band.
Note: to date! Because they get better.
Ranking (to date):
1) Village Green at the top. This is one of two Kinks albums that I have a history with (with all the connections that entails) so that gives it an advantage.
2) Something Else. I mentioned this before, but this is the first time I’ve had an upstart, new-to-me, no personal connection, 100% this-thread-inspired album soar into my personal top 100 albums list. Will it stand? I don’t know, but it’s a terrific album.
3) Arthur. The highs are dizzying.
This, especially. From what I have been able to find out about Pye's original studios at Great Cumberland Place (and there seems to be precious little information available), they were adapted from facilities that were originally built as television production studios for ATV (hence the occasional reference to their location as "ATV House").
Pye converted these spaces in rather workmanlike fashion, but were restricted by the original architecture of the design somewhat. The control rooms for both studios were long and narrow spaces twenty feet long and barely eight feet deep -- designed for a row of TV production personnel rather than as a recording control room. Both recording spaces were arrayed identically, with grooved wooden wall panels and hard linoleum floors. The ceilings were very high to permit the hanging of television lighting -- in fact, the unused grids were still in place when Pye took possession of the spaces. The dimensions of Studio 1 were approximately 40x30 feet, with Studio 2 coming in at a much cozier 20x20 feet. Both rooms had 20 foot ceilings.
The console in Studio 2 was an all-tube design cobbled together by maintenance engineer Kenneth Atwood, and featured twelve inputs and four outputs. Only the most rudimentary EQ was available -- basically high and low shelving types, controlled via large Bakelite knobs. This console was in place until 1968 or 69, at which time it was replaced by one of the first transistorized Neve consoles.
(Source: The Great British Recording Studios by Howard Massey)
Really good info
Well I was a naughty boy and actually put it together yesterday lol
I knew I wouldn't have time this morning lol
As a Kinks fan since 1964, I'd like to say that this is one of the best things about them I have ever read. Thank you, Mark, and for everything.
Headmaster Winstanley, you did a fine summary of the Kinks in the 60s, which is most impressive since you weren't as familiar w/the material like me, who's been a fan since the late 70s. I would have to put the VGPS not only as the best of the 60s Kinks, but their best period. I think like Pet Sounds is to Brian Wilson, the VGPS is to Ray Davies, a very personal album that brought out the best in him.
I do understand, however, why you would choose Arthur as your favorite 60s Kinks album, especially as it continues several themes in the VGPS. Did your own personal history have something to do w/your admiration of Arthur?
Super post, Mark. I agree with your ranking 100%
As the Autumn (Almanac!) approaches, I'm having a big musical palate cleanse, trying to exclusively listen to different or new (for me) sounds. So afraid I did not really get into the Arthur chat, but it's an album I cannot believe remains so forgotten and underrated. (Still, WE love it and that's the main thing, right?)
Ranking wise I suppose I'd put VGPS top, above Arthur (but only just), followed by Face to Face, Something Else (which are close-ish), then Kontroversy. (With a K, if you please, autocorrect). And I do like Kontroversy, it's just the others are so damn good.
Never owned/heard the first two albums. And not being a collector/completist I'm very unlikely (a big lottery win aside) to re-buy the albums in the super-deluxe double disc editions.. but I wonder if there are any particularly good non-album/single tracks that I'm seriously missing out on. My 90s double kompilaton seems to mop up the majority of notable other 60s stuff.
And apart from hit songs like Lola and Apeman I'm not au fait with the 70s onwards at all. One day I might treat myself.. I'm sure there's plenty of great stuff. There was an 80s Kinks doco on tv recently and the then 'new' songs sounded pretty good to me. And what I heard of Muswell Hillbillies a while back tickled my fancy too. So you never know. I'll check in here and see how it goes.
God save the Kinks!
My feeling for Arthur is more to do with how well constructed and written it is.
Perhaps at the moment its freshness to me is what gave it the edge, today...
I don't think it is particularly my life circumstances that got it to tweak with me.
As someone who has been writing songs since I was 14, the way Ray managed to pull off the songs, and dual themes is quite astonishing to me.
Essentially though, as I have said, and will likely again, I'm no good at rating albums. I love albums, and I probably have a couple of hundred albums that on any given day could be my best of all time.... generally I would just prefer to have a day or two to write out a list of what I think the essential albums are that I have heard.... Kontroversy through to Arthur would likely be on that list, definitely Face through to Arthur. Prior to this thread only the Village would have made it.
This has been, and I hope will continue to be a really educational, fun and totally enjoyable thread. That's all down to you guys, and the spirit with which you have all approached it. It's a beautiful thing.
Thanks for the kind words guys.
I only learned all of this because of your participation in the thread, and I greatly appreciate it, because I'm learning a lot about a band I have always loved, but seemingly knew very little about.
I spent my time walking the dog thinking of appropriate ways to address The Leader. Your/His Excellency, etc etc. Pilot of the Good Ship....and so on and so forth. But ‘Headmaster’ is especially appropriate after working methodically through Arthur.
I have decided that I need to add some more early Kinks to my library. These are the titles I am interested in adding. Can anyone provide recommendations for CDs based on best mastering of each?
The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies
The Kinks – Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire
The Kinks – Face To Face
Muswell Hillbillies - Rhino
Arthur - West German PRT or Reprise
Face To Face - West German PRT
Oh damn, just call me Mark lol
Separate names with a comma.