The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    The Contenders

    A nice low key intro, snarling blues/rock lick (with appropriate backing groove that takes me back to their 1964-'65 days), Ray declaring his youthful break out manifesto aims......it's all there!

    But i find the whole to be less than the sum of it's parts and far from seamless or particularly melodic & hasn't Ray spoilt us with melody these last 4 years!

    I know the lyrical references probably wouldn't allow Ray to slip it into the album a bit later but
    it looks dire if we compare it to the 3 previous album openers in David Watts, The Village Green Preservation Society or Victoria as in that company (with it's comparable lack of joy and forced nature) it's not even a contender!
     
  2. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Frederick you are the man!
     
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  3. palisantrancho

    palisantrancho Forum Resident

    I'm not sure if it was mentioned yet, but this song would sound right at home on Exile On Main Street. I never thought of that before, but someone did mention a Stones similarity and now it's clear as day. We just started the 70s and I'm already surprised at some of the lackluster reactions to the first song. Things might change, but I would put "The Contenders" in the top half of favorites on the album. It's short and sweet and gets things off to a rollicking start. Listening to the album now and it really does sound like 60s and 70s Kinks rolled up together, which I guess is what you would expect for an album released in 1970. The last four albums are my favorites, but right about now is when this discussion is really going to get interesting. I'm really looking forward to the next several albums.

    The album cover and the title of the album is confusing. I think it hurt them in terms of sales. Is it a new album? Is there a part two? What in the hell is it? All these years later it makes sense, but I'm not sure if it was a good marketing approach. I like the title and the cover, but somehow it makes it feel as if it's not a proper album. I'm still waiting for part two to put the puzzle together. :)
     
  4. Purple Jim

    Purple Jim Senior Member

    Location:
    Bretagne
    I'm don't know if this has been said but I wonder if the short novelty song was Ray's way of illustrating the front cover and the split/joined faces of the brothers. Ray, lyrical and airy, Dave the hard rocker.
    Also, the track sets the tone for the similar use of contrasts on the title track and Apeman.
     
  5. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    I dunno if it was intentional, but (despite being made up of 4 male head quarters) the composite face on the front of the LP somehow ends up looking ambiguously androgynous, which ties in with ‘Lola’ nicely.
     
  6. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Not at all they would love to hear that and thu$ly open their warm bosom to the bitter, wounded and openly vulnerable artist!
     
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  7. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Except from financially interested parties unless his cover of the Hitler Rap misses the top 40!
     
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  8. FJFP

    FJFP Host for the 'Mixology' Mix Differences Podcast

    Something that tickled me years ago, and if you'll forgive the slight self-centred turn, was that my bandmate designed the covers for our first two EPs with no knowledge of this album cover, and yet both seemed to draw from it:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    As for the final album cover, I'm a huge fan, though the script font and tiny font size in the gatefold for the lyrics is shocking even for someone my age.
     
  9. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Don't let that fear stop you participating @Sear
     
  10. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    What show is that from?
     
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  11. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Yeah we already have @mark winstanley for that!
     
  12. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
  13. All Down The Line

    All Down The Line Senior Member

    Location:
    Australia
    Thanks, processing in order and as usual playing catch up so posting then reading the answers.
    Edit: I do recall the show back in the day!
     
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  14. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    A few days early, but amazingly Radio 2 is playing The Kinks at this very second...and is it one of the usual suspects? No, its "This Time Tomorrow"!
     
  15. FJFP

    FJFP Host for the 'Mixology' Mix Differences Podcast

    I jumped in the car at the exact point it started too! A lovely little treat on this chilly morn.
     
  16. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Strangers

    Where are you going I don't mind
    I've killed my world and I've killed my time
    So where do I go what do I see
    I see many people coming after me
    So where are you going to I don't mind
    If I live too long I'm afraid I'll die
    So I will follow you wherever you go
    If your offered hand is still open to me
    Strangers on this road we are on
    We are not two we are one

    So you've been where I've just come
    From the land that brings losers on
    So we will share this road we walk
    And mind our mouths and beware our talk
    'Till peace we find tell you what I'll do
    All the things I own I will share with you
    If I feel tomorrow like I feel today
    We'll take what we want and give the rest away
    Strangers on this road we are on
    We are not two we are one

    Holy man and holy priest
    This love of life makes me weak at my knees
    And when we get there make your play
    'Cos soon I feel you're gonna carry us away
    In a promised lie you made us believe
    For many men there is so much grief
    And my mind is proud but it aches with rage
    And if I live too long I'm afraid I'll die
    Strangers on this road we are on
    We are not two we are one
    Strangers on this road we are on
    We are not two we are one

    Written by: Dave Davies
    Published by: Hill & Range Songs, Inc. – BMI

    This is one of Dave’s best tracks, and I think part of the reason is you can hear his heart in this one, quite a lot. It’s one of those things that people often don’t recognize about a song that’s fairly simple, but generally it is the most important thing.
    It seems that amongst Kinks fans this is a pretty big deal, and the reading I’ve done about this has led me to believe that for a majority of fans, it seems likely to be considered Dave’s best song, and for a lot, one of the Kinks best songs. The thing is, I can totally appreciate that, because it has this earthy charm, and a sweet melody, and a laconic delivery that does it’s best to drag you into it.
    Interestingly though, this track is probably not known very well outside of hardcore Kinks fans, or people who have and love this album.

    Initially Dave was drawn in by Hank Williams I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, and I guess it is very possible that he was listening to that song while reflecting on who this song came to be directed to. That someone was a guy called George Harris, who was as school friend of Dave’s.
    Dave says
    "We were dear friends. George and I were going to start a band, but he got too heavily into drugs and it kind of pulled us apart. The drug thing was like a three-way affair. He died of a methamphetamine overdose. They found him departed... he was young. I always felt it was going to be me and him. I didn't think at that age that it was going to be me and Ray. So I really kind of wrote it to him; 'Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one.' It was like, what might of been if he hadn't died so tragically."

    As has been stated in the thread already, this track, and also Powerman and This Time Tomorrow, were used in Wes Anderson’s Darjelling Limited, and I gather from the posts that many may have first embraced it there.

    Dave has also stated that he was in a reflective period in many ways. Having been fifteen when the band started he looks back and feels like it hindered him “growing up” to some degree, with the fame and celebrity, and all that goes with it. By the time we get to the Lola album, Dave has entered a period of reflection and looking for new answers and all that kind of thing. The big “Life The Universe And Everything” questions were coming at him, as they are want to do, and with circumstances of life and that searching heart, Dave ended up writing one of his finest songs.

    I think for the most part the song sings better than it reads, if that makes sense. Also I think that the way it is written it could be about anyone. I could see connections to his long lost girlfriend, Ray, and then to read of George, it all makes sense. Probably one of the things that makes this song so compelling is that the listener can easily insert their own person, or in fact people. I could see this being a song that a couple could have a solid connection with. I could see someone reflecting on someone they have lost. I can see all sorts of reasons why this song connects with people and I think that is the secret to why most seem to like it so much. No matter what any of our personal deep beliefs may be, at the core of our being we have a need for connection, even if we pretend we don’t. There is a preprogrammed need for us to connect to people and this song is about that connection, so it instantly gets most of us into its warm delivery.

    The first section seems to look at regrets and self-destructive tendencies, and a want to follow someone for that companionship.
    If I Live Too Long I’m Afraid I’ll Die could seem awkward and corny at first, but is likely inspired by the Hank song, and also can be seen in many different ways. Possibly the fear of being dead on our feet, living so long that we have nothing left inside of us. It could just be the sarcastic idea that the older we get, the closer we are, and the more likely we are going to be afraid of dying. The youthful us, rarely felt too concerned about dying, because we have an inbuilt larger than life function as kids. The world is huge and yet we are indestructible ….. although as we get older we feel all the spots where the scars of that mentality remind us.

    The start of the second section is the hint of what the problem for George was. “So you’ve been where I’ve just come from”. Dave had been living a wild life, and we saw the start of this phase with the Death Of A Clown track, and here we get some secondhand consequences that Dave sees he managed to avoid. Yet he still wishes to share the journey he is on now. Whether in spirit of in heart.

    The third section moves into an anguished section that seems to be looking for someone to blame, to some degree, but of course we choose where we walk and how, and consequences are what they are.

    For me the whole song hangs on the hook/chorus/ whatever we want to call it. Strangers on this road we are on, we are not two we are one … whether in a marriage sense, a friendship sense, a combined purpose sense or whatever else we would like to put there, this is the part that gets into our hearts, because we all want someone to share the journey with to some extent, and we want that feeling of oneness that is so precious, and sometimes feels so distant, even when it isn’t.

    It is strange to me how many Dave tracks seem Dylan inspired…. And I could almost see this on something like John Wesley Harding. I don’t know enough about Dave to say much about it, but so many of his tracks in this heartfelt balladish type of style evoke a Dylan thing, or a love of Dylan filtering through.

    Also interestingly, on the whole this track is slightly different in its theme or message, but most importantly it manages to link to the opening track ... At the end of contenders we have Ray, almost as if singing to Dave, saying
    We're not the greatest when when we're separated
    But when we're together I think we're going to make it
    Then we get to Strangers and we have Dave coming in and almost feeling like he is affirming or replying this notion with
    Strangers on this road we are on
    We are not two we are one
    So although the song isn't really directly related to The Contenders in its backstory, in the context of the album, they actually draw each other together in theme, and it really does feel like it works as the two main members of the band stating that they are in this together, they both have the same aims and dreams, and they can only succeed at this if they do it together.
    One really important thing in a band is that the members are close and united, and from an album perspective, both of these first two tracks emphasize this unity, before The Man comes into play with the wheeling and dealing of business.

    We open with the acoustic guitar and the piano starts off in a whispered hush kind of way, and gradually raises itself up to meet the emotion.
    I assume the piano is John Gosling, and although Nicky Hopkins is a big loss for the band’s studio work, I think John does a very good job of playing emotive musical keyboards that connect with the songs and the band.
    We get the organ swelling in also, and it adds a density that feeds the heart of the song.

    The song runs up to this musical crescendo and we get the drums walking away from the fading organ. The drums here work really well, and a couple of the toms seem to have an effect on them, or they are modulating or something… maybe it’s just one or two strikes or maybe I am imagining it. I don’t know. Either way it is really very effective, and that walking out of the song gives us a little moment to reflect as the shadow of our friend/partner fades away into the dream that the song presents us.

    Another thing that strikes me about this song is Dave comes across very smoothly vocally, and I think that the sometimes harsh delivery that some folks struggle with when Dave sings, isn't really a factor here.
    I also like the way that Dave sings the harmony as the melody in some of the chorus lines.

    I really like this. It wasn’t a love at first listen song for me. As I have said earlier in the thread, when I was listening to this album for the first time, that period was always too shallow of a listen. That cursory glance, rather than a face full stare into the heart of it. As we have been going through these albums, I have been listening hard to what we are on, and cursory listening to what’s to come, and gradually focusing deeper as the sound and feel gets more comfortable, and with this record, I found a lot of treasure that had been hiding behind its seemingly more simple approach, and straight forward styling and delivery.

    This track found its way into my listening close world, and it deserves that spot there. An excellent piece of work by Dave, that is very human, and real, and works because of that, for me.

     
  17. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    Just a note, and for you guys that are more knowledgeable about these things. The Super Deluxe has The Contenders and Strangers with "Ray's Kitchen Sink Mix"es, and also 2020 stereo mixes, but neither appear to be on youtube. I assume these were done specifically for the box
     
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  18. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Location:
    Scotland
    A decent track, but not my favourite Dave song. I always thought that this track didn't really fit the theme of the album, but thanks to Mark's write-up, I can now see that it does!
     
  19. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    A (nother) fantastic write up Mark, although I'd take issue with one thing: I don't agree that 'this track is probably not known very well outside of hardcore Kinks fans': I'd say quite the opposite: as far as I can observe, starting from the big bang of it's use in by Wes Anderson in The Darjeeling Limited, this song has grown arms and legs to become the Kinks sleeper hit for the 2010s and millennial generation: I mean, just put 'Kinks Strangers Cover' into youtube and see the amount of results that appear before you!

    More than any other Kinks track, it seems to me that this one has really been 'put on the map' via it's soundtrack use: that kicked things off but then the songs deep and yet widely applicable to most human experiences soulfulness, not to mention it's un-intimidating for the novice guitarist 3am campfire strumalong qualities did the rest and ensured it's newfound belated low key standard status. It's almost threatening it's albummate Lola's position by this stage! I think any Kinks greatest hits collections of the future will have to feature 'Strangers', whereas I don't think any of the 20th century did, nor would you expected them to have done.
     
  20. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    Location:
    England
    "Strangers"

    My impression has always been that, although this album has a storyline, that storyline dips in and out, and this is one of the tracks where it dips out. However, Mark makes a convincing case for linking it with "The Contenders" and thus into the narrative.

    I think it's one of Dave's very best songs, and vocal performances, although strangely I've never paid that much attention to the lyrics other than the main hookline. Initially it seems to have a bit of a gospel feel, but once the drums and organ come in it maybe swings towards prog. Either way it's an impressive stately ballad, and perhaps a tad heavy in its approach for the second track on an album. But then the next track comes along to lighten things up. Mick's resounding toms on the outro sound fantastic.
     
  21. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Live in 1970. The Kinks played it a fair bit in the early 70s, then dropped it. Interesting spoken word intro by Ray on this one!

     
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  22. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    Dave solo live for Paste Magazine in 2017. This is definitely a song you can age gracefully into:

     
  23. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Location:
    Glasgow
    I had no idea til a few minutes ago that there was a Red Hot Chilli Peppers cover!:eek:

     
  24. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    That may well be the case.
    My wife is the movie buff, and she's introduced me to Wes Anderson, I really liked Moonrise Kingdom, but haven't seen Darjelling.... I'm a little out of touch lol
    I'll take anything that increases the band's popularity, as they certainly deserve it.
     
  25. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    This has long been widely acknowledged as the best Dave song of them all by most fans. Usually, I try to shy away from common wisdom and make my own mind. And I also tend to think that having ONE obvious crowning achievement could mean the rest of your output is not that great in the first place. Strangers is the exception to both rules: on this thread, we’ve talked through some twenty Dave tracks so far, and a good half of them were remarkable. It’s just this one is stunning. In every way. The sound, the voice, the feeling, the aching melody, the emotion it brings across. Stunning.
    This time, Dave’s habit of cutting his melodies short to come back to the riff or the hook is used to the best effect. The verse is such a long stretched out ascending crescendo that the little haiku catch phrase, “strangers on this road we are on / we are not two we are one”, works beautifully as a release of tension. It’s not a chorus – there’s no chorus –, just a seemingly never ending melody ultimately breaking down and coming back to the bottom of the mountain, to start climbing again. The deliberate pounding scansion gives the song a Lennono-esque feel (a new term I made up for plastic ono era Lennon) and once again, Dave sounds a lot like Rick Danko. But there’s something truly heartbreaking going on, something beyond style, something real. I remembered reading somewhere that childhood friend story. This could’ve made it another one of Dave’s cryptic lyrics that need to be explained autobiographically to start making sense. But it’s not the case. This time, like for the music, Dave’s turns an usual flaw of his into an asset : the lyrics work indifferently as a conversation between himself and a lost friend, between himself and his brother or any band mate or his wife to be, between himself and his younger self or his own consciousness, making it his first overt metaphysical piece. In retrospect, it could be said all of Dave’s previous songs were building in that direction.

    This is a very special performance, one that anyone, Kinks lovers or not, may relate to. I know when we first got together, my wife didn’t care too much for the Kinks because of Ray’s theatricality, but she always looked up whenever Strangers was on, and said “who’s that?” with that urge in her voice that meant “what a fantastic song this is”. And she’s not alone in this. There’s something uncanny in this performance, where all Dave’s idiosyncrasies and/or flaws (be them lyrical, musical, vocal) are turned into miraculous wonders. A masterpiece, if there ever was one.
     

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