The Kinks - Album by Album (song by song)

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

  1. Zeki

    Zeki Forum Resident

    Hmm, singles: off the top of my head I think ‘Complicated Life’ is pretty obvious. DJ: “and here’s something we all know a little bit about, The Kinks with ‘Complicated Life.” And everyone goes singing “la di dah dah da.” Number 1 with a bullet!
  2. markelis

    markelis Forum Resident

    Miami Beach FL
    Muswell Hillbilly: This is another one that although I had tried it out years ago, it didn’t resonate with me so I moved on. In retrospect, I suspect I dropped the needle song by song, didn’t hear Dave’s guitar, and moved on without giving it a fair try. As with Lola versus… I have now been listening to this album repeatedly for at least six weeks in preparation for our thread. I am without a doubt, now a convert. It is certainly really different than anything that came before, and I do agree with some of the other posters that Dave’s presence is missed, but boy, what a great batch of songs and a good job by Ray creating an album that sounds thematically linked sonically (I won’t get into whether it is thematically linked lyrically yet, that can wait for the song by song analysis). I look forward to getting into it song by song, but suffice to say, I must now consider myself a Muswell hillbilly boy!

    …and I like this album cover. I liked Lola too. The others thus far didn’t do much for me, but I can forgive a lousy cover with great songs. A good cover is just icing on the cake, it can’t make a lousy cake taste good but it sure can make good cake taste better.
  3. Wondergirl

    Wondergirl Forum Resident

    Massachusetts, USA
    GREAT write-up, Mr W!

    I don't know if I agree with you on "this isn't the Kinks country album". If this isn't, I don't know what would be. Or maybe the more accurate term is it's an Americana album. This is all thru the clever filter of Mr Davies, so it's very much him and the Kinks.

    I was not as exposed to this album as I was growing up. There are a few songs that are old echoes in my mind.

    Right now, and my mind is VERY open, there are no shining tracks on this album. Like absolute classics. HOWEVER, I think where these songs shine is LIVE. There's a good amount of these songs on YouTube being done live and Ray brings these songs to life(as does the band). I mean, Alcohol LIVE - I would travel back in time to see it if I could. However, we aren't judging the live stuff here, but the actual album and I'm here for it, but not as gleeful as when we all looked at Lola (oo lala).

    Let's have a nice kuppa Kinks!
  4. TeddyB

    TeddyB Senior Member

    I can’t get into writing an analysis just now but want to chime in that this is a fantastic record. It’s a bit downbeat to be sure, but it has emotionally beautiful moments (Oklahoma U.S.A. - OMG!) . I also agree with @Fortuleo that it seems to me as British an album as any by the Kinks, for reasons he has described, along with the socio-political background of the times that others have filled in so well. Also, Dave plays guitar beautifully throughout.
  5. malco49

    malco49 Forum Resident

    i wanted to chip in before the individual songs were being talked about. this album was the first of the kinks lp's i heard in real time so to speak , of course i had heard some singles on the AM dial! this remains not only my favorite kinks lp , but my favorite lp by anyone of all time. it certainly blew my 15 or so year old mind wide open. i still remember walking around the cafeteria in either junior or senior high and just singing "life is so complicated" over an over again.i even had a kinks logo handpainted on the back of my demin jacket by a friend who was a very talented artist. i don't have any pearls on just how important this record was to me not only as a person but as someone who would manage to cobble together a 20 year career as a somewhat successful profesional musician ( well drummer but you get my drift). i didn't get to see them on this tour , or maybe i did but i know i saw them several times in the mid-late 70's. it gives me a little clarity to realize that for a lot of us here the kinks are so very important and the first album we heard , the one we can call our own becomes our favorite. i lost the thread with the kinks when they moved to arista , but they still remain my favorite band up until that point , lou reed nips at their heels a lot and maybe i like him more but the kinks were my first love and as corny as it sounds they still hold the first spot in in my collections of both cd's and lp's as i file by favorites then genres etc. it really warms my heart to read the posts in this thread and that i am not alone in knowing just how important the kinks are.i look forward to reading more posts and might chip in again as this post moves forward.
  6. rfs

    rfs Forum Resident

    Lansing, MI USA
    Muswell Hillbillies was the second Kinks album I ever bought, back in the mid 70s when I was in college, and is still my favorite (the first album I bought was the Reprise greatest hits). It still seems to me to have the most "soul" of any of their albums.
    ajsmith, Fortuleo, TeddyB and 5 others like this.
  7. Smiler

    Smiler Forum Resident

    Houston TX
    I have been sampling the RCA and Arista albums as well as Percy over the past couple of weeks, trying to be open-minded, and am now suffering from Ray Davies fatigue. I find I can get carried away by the enthusiasm here but when it settles out I believe only "Moments" (which, despite the initially off-putting warbly vocal, I find surprisingly moving) and "Dreams" will make my playlist from Percy.

    I've tried Muswell Hillbillies several times. It strikes me as the Kinks' "getting back to someone else's roots" album. I admire them for doing it and I get that it is a lot of people's favorite. However, whether it's country, blues, or Americana, all of these genres have limited appeal to me, so an entire album along those lines is way too much for me. I did have the realization that this is an album I would enjoy hearing while waiting outside for a table at a restaurant in Austin, Texas on a beautiful spring day, but other than that I don't want to listen to it all again. Two or three songs will likely make my playlist though. So enjoy, and I will be following the thread from the sidelines.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  8. Sea Kayaker

    Sea Kayaker Forum Resident

    Bangor, Maine
    2oth Century Man and Oklahoma U.S.A. are absolute classics in my book. 2oth Century Man is kind of Ray Davies' theme song, isn't it? Oklahoma U.S.A. is a shining example of his songwriting. Listen to Yo La Tengo's cover on the Fakebook album.
  9. Fischman

    Fischman RockMonster, ClassicalMaster, and JazzMeister

    New Mexico
    For UK fans. On BBC 4 this Friday at 11:55pm Bob Harris introduces The Kinks in concert at the BBC TV Theatre in London's Shepherd's Bush from 1977, including a warm-up number not featured in the original broadcast.
  10. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Dearborn, MI
    "Helga" - Now this actually sounds like a piece from a movie. Doesn't sound like the Kinks at all. Seems like its part of an old Clint Eastwood western. Nice and short. Good piece. Better than "Whip Lady" for sure. But seems to come out of nowhere and then onto some weirdness.

    "Willesden Green" - This is an odd one to judge. It's not long enough to get tired of and it's not bad enough to hate. It's just a harmless style exercise with some VGPS sentiment thrown in. I first heard this on "The Kink Kronikles" with no context whatsoever. I didn't know what I was listening to. Not that coming up on "Percy" is any different! I always wondered why people loved the tracklisting for the Kronikles compilation so much when it only has 1 VGPS song and THIS is what represents "Percy." Not any of the good songs.

    "God's Children (End)" - This sounds really good.. too bad it's so short. Nice coda to bring the theme back and remind people who just heard "Willesden Green" that yes, this is the same album you've had on.

    Final thoughts on this album: There's 5-6 good songs on here that are buried among instrumentals and experiments. Nothing aside from the "Lola" instrumental is all that long so I don't find listening to the album very arduous. It's a mixed bag of a release with serious reflections on God, love, and memories, with instrumentals that wouldn't fit alongside them if this weren't a soundtrack album.

    I suppose we're not going to talk about three other "The Way Love Used To Be" versions: Film Instrumental Version 1 (0:54), Film Version (2:04), or Film Instrumental Version 2 (1:03)"? There are mono film mixes of "God's Children" and "The Way Love Used To Be" too.
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2021
  11. Pawnmower

    Pawnmower Senior Member

    Dearborn, MI
    "Muswell Hillbillies" is yet another excellent album. I have two copies: The 2004 SACD with 2 bonus tracks and the 2014 CD with a disc of bonus tracks and DVD. We're not halfway through the catalog yet and I've often thought this was the last great Kinks album. I am very willing and eager to change my mind about that with the help of this thread here. There's a lot of humor on this record and some of Ray's catchiest songs. "Alcohol," "Complicated Life," "Holiday," and "Have a Cuppa Tea" are big favorites of mine. Honestly though, one thing I never liked much with this album was the production. The sound is just not very full anymore. Ray's vocals are super dry and in many cases way way low in the mix. It's a completely new vibe now. With a new label, they are still bringing the goods. For at least one album.

  12. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    I am constitutionally incapable of letting factual mistakes go unnoticed so I must regretfully tell you that not much more than 50% of your road trip was on Route 66. To begin with, 66 ran through Flagstaff, about 125 miles due north of Phoenix. It then headed more or less straight east until it turned Northeast at Oklahoma City, heading through St. Louis on the way to its origin in Chicago.

    I must also point out that the Davie’s homestead was in Muswell Hills, not Muswell. Of course, this makes the album title even more appropriate.
  13. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    I find Vagabone’s reviews to be extraordinarily reliable. I can uniformly rely on enjoying the tracks he dislikes.;)
  14. LX200GPS

    LX200GPS Forum Resident

    Sorry, but it is Muswell Hill.
    Adam9, Wondergirl, DISKOJOE and 3 others like this.
  15. Scottsol

    Scottsol Forum Resident

    Evanston, IL
    Never be sorry for being right.
  16. croquetlawns

    croquetlawns Forum Resident

    Just listened to the album again in anticipation of the discussion here - some major issues I have with the album is that much of side 1 sounds like (bad) comic songs with Americana music, Ray's vocal choices often aren't great, and the production is pretty muddy. I like Side 2 more.
  17. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    I listened to it again last night as well. I can see why people like it, and it certainly has something - I'm just not sure that what it's got is what I am looking for! Just looking at the list of bands/artists referenced in yesterday 's posts - mostly they are not artists that I've ever listened to or investigated. The lyrics and the theme are fine - I just don't find much of it a particularly enjoyable listen. Whereas I am enjoying the other RCA albums a lot at the moment.
  18. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    20th Century Man.


    B-side "Skin and Bone"
    Released Dec 1971 (single)
    24 Nov 1971 (US LP)
    26 Nov 1971 (UK LP)
    Recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London
    Genre Rock
    Length 5:57 (album)
    4:57 (Celluloid Heroes LP)
    3:57 (single)
    Label RCA Victor 74-0620
    Songwriter(s) Ray Davies
    Producer(s) Ray Davies

    stereo mix (5:53), recorded Aug-Sep 1971 at Morgan Studios, Willesden, London

    This is the age of machinery,
    A mechanical nightmare,
    The wonderful world of technology,
    Napalm, hydrogen bombs, biological warfare,

    This is the twentieth century,
    But too much aggravation
    It's the age of insanity,
    What has become of the green pleasant fields of Jerusalem?

    Ain't got no ambition, I'm just disillusioned
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna be here.
    My mama said she can't understand me
    She can't see my motivation
    Just give me some security,
    I'm a paranoid schizoid product of the twentieth century.

    You keep all your smart modern writers
    Give me William Shakespeare
    You keep all your smart modern painters
    I'll take Rembrandt, Titian, Da Vinci and Gainsborough,

    Girl we gotta get out of here
    We gotta find a solution
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want
    I don't want to die here

    Girl we gotta get out of here
    We gotta find a solution
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't want
    I don't want to be here

    I was born in a welfare state
    Ruled by bureaucracy
    Controlled by civil servants
    And people dressed in grey
    Got no privacy, got no liberty
    Cos the twentieth century people
    Took it all away from me.

    Don't wanna get myself shot down
    By some trigger happy policeman,
    Gotta keep a hold on my sanity
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna die here.

    My mama says she can't understand me
    She can't see my motivation
    Ain't got no security,
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna be here.

    This is the twentieth century
    But too much aggravation
    This is the edge of insanity
    I'm a twentieth century man but I don't wanna be here.

    Written by: Ray Davies
    Published by: Davray Music Ltd.

    Ray said
    "I imagined this man demolishing a row of houses, This 20th-century man shuts himself in with dynamite, locks his doors and is not going to give up to anybody."

    I love this song, but with a clarifier. I was introduced to the song via the One For The Road version, and they are very different songs. The live version is a powerhouse explosion, and this is a more thoughtful, sort of reflective version with a bridge the live version doesn’t have…. and a sort of restraint that holds out until near the end.

    This song is a logical follow on to the Village Green Preservation Society thought pattern. We have a guy that is fed up with the way the world is going and doesn’t want to take it anymore. Whereas back at the village he is hoping for, and trying to encourage this retrospective lifestyle, here, he is at his wits end, and ready to explode.

    To some degree this connects with me greatly because it is somewhat how I feel…. and now we’re in the 21st Century, it seems to have been compounded.

    The lyrics here, to me, are fantastic. We open with a nod to the fact that the whole mechanized empire is turning into a nightmare, and balances off napalm, hydrogen bombs and biological warfare against the green, pleasant fields of Jerusalem.
    One can only imagine that some of this is directly reflecting on the Vietnam war, in a way that only Ray could. He sidesteps the focus point, or place, and just references the issues, or destructive forces. Napalm, aggravation, and insanity.
    Also, I guess, we are now deep in a situation essentially caused by the experimentation of biological warfare … but oh for those green, pleasant fields of Jerusalem….

    That next verse is wonderful, and really does reflect how these outside influences mess with the minds of ordinary folk just trying to live their lives. No ambition, just dissolution …. I don’t wanna be here.
    Mama don’t understand me because I should be so happy with the evolution of mankind. She can’t see my motivation to be against all this madness, because the homogenized reality being sold to Joe Citizen seems so wonderful, but behind the curtain an evil Prince is creating a havoc beyond imagining.

    This need to get away from the modern insanity causes him to reflect, and I really like the way this section is phrased. You keep all your smart modern writers, You keep all your smart modern painters … their pseudo-intellectualism and self-importance is part of the problem. I’ll take Shakespeare, Rembrandt and Da Vinci. It is simple, but it is direct and has more subtleties than may first be apparent.

    Over the course of the song, we see a growing frustration, and in the live version Ray explodes early and keeps up the anger. In this version it feels like he is hanging on to it. He is letting this stuff stew inside. The slow build leads to the explosion after the building aggravation….. the kind of thing that causes people to just snap and do something completely crazy.

    At this point he turns to his partner, We Gotta Get Out Of Here, We Gotta Find A Solution!
    I Don’t Wanna Be Here!

    Then we get the bridge, which has a poignance that is really only just being realized fully today. The infiltration of our personal lives. There is no private life anymore. There’s a camera in every phone, on every street corner. The government is so deep in our personal stuff, that there is nothing personal anymore.
    Born in a welfare state. Placed in a position of being under the control of the ruling authorities, by default, they supply my needs, and I become a drone in their system. No chance of being an individual…..
    A prisoner of a bureaucratic nightmare.
    Controlled by Civil Servants …..
    To understand the Civil Servants, you need to watch a show called Yes Minister a British comedy show that was watched by politicians at the time, because it was so accurate in its portrayal of how the government system worked….. It is hilarious, but when you look underneath the sharp humour …. Well, it is kind of scary and disheartening. I highly recommend it…..

    Ray closes out the song by readdressing earlier thoughts and stating he doesn’t want to get himself shot by some trigger-happy policeman, and the way he is feeling if he acts out of it, he likely will.

    This is a fantastic piece of observational writing. Some could see all this as paranoia, but sadly I just see it all as basic facts of reality….. and I have never been the paranoid type.
    I think it comes down to the idea that for all we have gained, look how much we have lost. Which I think really was the point of the Village Green Preservation Society in the first place.

    Musically this is perfect too. We open with an acoustic guitar that starts off playing a few little things very quietly, almost inaudible, and then it starts chugging like a train across the musical landscape, getting the album to pull out of the station for the journey. The snare cuts in and we’re on our way.
    Ray’s vocal comes in, and he has a sort of disenfranchised delivery…. It is like he “don’t wanna be here”, and it works well, but it did take me a couple of spins for it to click with me.

    Before the “My Mama” verse we get the resonator guitar with a slide, and it sounds great, and adds a nice texture to the song.
    Ray’s downbeat delivery, once you get used to it really works well.

    The next little instrumental section introduces the resonator being picked, and it sounds like it has a slight overdrive on it, it isn’t distorted, but it has a bit of dirt to it, and I would call it Americana, but I certainly wouldn’t call it country. It is another nice dynamic lift in the proceedings, and this leads us into the bridge.
    The bridge takes pause. The drums drop out and we are surrounded by these wonderful floating arpeggios and Ray’s vocal. There is a deep slightly hidden sadness in here.
    As I say when I first heard this song it was One For The Road and the bridge doesn’t exist in that version, and I understand why, it takes the drive out of the song….. the conclusion that I have come to is that the live version is perfect for the live version, and the studio version is perfect for the studio version.
    When I first heard this version, I was taken slightly aback by the changes, but I have gotten used to them now. We have a similar scenario when we get to Celluloid Heroes actually, but we’ll get there.
    The whole delivery of the bridge speaks volumes to this version of the song. This person is defeated. The powers that be, have totally removed this person’s will to live in this manufactured world of lies and deceit, and that tone comes through in Ray’s voice perfectly.

    From here we slide back into the chugging train and the organ comes in, and we move into a more powerful section. The discontent of our storyteller is growing. This grows into a really solid piece of seventies rock. After the still held back Don’t Wanna get Myself shot, we move into the next section, and finally the bubble bursts and Ray moves into shouting out his frustrations ….. this I can totally relate to.

    The tension release of this section is beautiful. Mick is bashing the crap out of his drums. Gosling is searching his inner Jon Lord, Ray is standing on his box yelling at the crowd.
    The whole set up for this explosion at the end is wonderful ….. and as the anger subsides we are left with that acoustic guitar that brought us in, still chugging from station to station, because nothing can stop it…. It is in control, and none of us plebs could stop it, even if we really wanted to.

    I love this song. It is among my favourite Kinks tracks, and it gets the album off to a great start. I connect with the message and the music and it remains, in both its forms, a firm favourite of mine.

  19. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    The Single Version

    Interestingly the song has two minutes cut from it.
    I have never heard this version I don't think.

    We get the noodling guitar from the beginning taken out. In fact we get whole sections taken out.... It is a rather different version.
    Having been familiar with the two versions I know well, this version is rather unusual..... I'd take the other two versions I know over the one.

  20. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    I'm not sure of the source, but this is an odd chop together of various clips

  21. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    This may be better audio for the single

  22. mark winstanley

    mark winstanley Certified dinosaur, who likes physical product Thread Starter

    And finally here is an alternate instrumental take, that I believe came out with the Legacy edition.

  23. ajsmith

    ajsmith Forum Resident

    Ray solo, 90s or early 00s era. It was a keystone song in the Storyteller show he started his live solo career with. You’ll note here that he switches things around so the bridge in the original and that was omitted from the 80s version now opens the song as a scene setting prelude:
  24. ARL

    ARL Forum Resident

    "20th Century Man"

    I don't have a problem with the album's opener - this is a fine track.

    As I suggested yesterday, this is perhaps where Ray's 80s lyrical modus operandi starts to take shape. We get the thing where Ray is ending lines with rhyming multi-syllable words - "machinery", "technology", "bureaucracy" etc. He hasn't been doing this before, but he certainly does many times afterwards. We get the first use of the word "aggravation" in a Kinks song - later it will get a whole song to itself! And of course, for the final two verses "Shouty Ray" is railing against modern life in a way that will become familiar later on.

    Musically - I don't hear a lot of Americana in this. Over the last year or so I've been discovering Rod Stewart's Mercury albums, and that's what I'm hearing, especially at the point where the drums first come in - it has that kind of raw sound of those albums. (I'm now prepared to be told that those albums are "Americana" too!) It builds very nicely over its near-six minutes, and the bridge is a very welcome addition, and something that I think is lacking from many of the other tracks on this album.

    Overall it's very powerful - a statement opener. I wish I liked the rest of the album as much as this one.
  25. Fortuleo

    Fortuleo Used to be a Forum Resident

    Yep, this is a genius song. At this point, Ray is definitely an “auteur”, someone whose previous work informs whatever he does next. 20th Century Man resonates with many great Kinks albums and songs. It’s a direct follow up to both Arthur (the song can almost be read as a sci-fi nightmare coming after the 1969 requiem to the 19th century vision of all things British, except it's not sci-fi at all…) and Village Green (he doesn’t "wanna be here”… well, we can imagine he'd rather be somewhere by the riverside or by the old oak tree). It’s also directly linked to Dead End Street, not really social but sociological desperation, a dead end space of mind. I understand where @Mark's coming from regarding the live version, but to me, the bridge makes the song. Before that, Ray sings in character like the Victoria guy, but for this very personal bridge, where he confides about where he was born and where he stands, there's no "character voice", I swear it's Ray himself talking. The music is just fantastic. Up until that point, it's very obtuse, like a rambling blues, the guy mumbles and grumbles, rage and frustration building and building, and then we get to that epiphanic bridge, one of the best melodic clearings in the Kinks’ œuvre, and the exact moment I fell in love with the song and the record. It cuts the song in half, and it did the same with me when I first heard it : it cut me in half, and it still does every time I listen to it (he does the same trick on the song Misfits). I suspect there might be a Plastic Ono Band influence in the heavy muffled rhythm section, this paradoxical sense of both claustrophobia and space between instruments, that creates an almost physical sense of alienation. And the release in the last part of the song is just stunning, both Ray and the band in full rock’n’roll splendor, the kind of which they’ll return to in the Low Budget era (as @ARL alludes to), except in this song, it’s not gratuitous at all, it’s been carefully built by the whole song.

Share This Page