Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by mark winstanley, Apr 4, 2021.
Like many, I struggle with Act 2. While basking in the afterglow of Act 1, I put what would equate to side 1 of Act 2. While it was good to now be able to follow the story better, I still found it a step down in terms of melody. But hopefully I will discover a new appreciation over the next couple of weeks.
As a young fan, this second Act of Preservation was my favorite of the two. I got it first and even when the Rhino “A Play in Two Acts” double set came about, I didn’t really “get” Act 1. As @The late man verified, this release had the song Preservation as an opener, more or less ruining Act 1’s flow (though I didn't know it then), and it had an alternate Act 2 artwork (the back cover of the original 1974 double), putting emphasis on it. So for me, except for what some of us would call Act 1’s “playlist material” (= the three Tramp tunes, give or take), Preservation was long all about its second part. I understand a couple of things now after the last couple of weeks: 1/ Act 1 is a stunning mix of crazy music that I underestimated, and a formidable scene setter ; 2/ I was nevertheless – almost – right all along : the whole plot is squeezed in the second Act. This is where things happen. This is the work.
But I was an Act 2 person for a different reason: with few exceptions, Act 2 is a real rock record, with a lot of power, a lot of grit, some stunning guitar work, incredible playing from the rhythm section and all involved… and even though it’s a second act, it is really one of a kind. It resembles nothing in the Kinks katalogue (can’t refrain from doing that, sorry), with its guitar effects, its musical drama, its emotion level. In this record, maybe because of what Ray’d just experienced in his personal life, there’s angst, turmoil and something very serious at play. For once, the stakes are high, you can feel it in the tension, the playing, the singing. When a Solution Comes is almost Lennonesque in delivery and building rage. Scum of the Earth may be another brass-based vaudeville Brecht/Weil semi-pastiche, it’s nevertheless heart wrenching, overwhelming in its soul baring letting go. Nothing Lasts Forever may be the saddest, most bluntly fatalistic break-up love song Ray ever wrote. Apart from the Announcements and a couple of kakophonik (damn…) tracks, it’s got their hardest sound, and no shortage of extraordinary melodies. So many, really, that sometimes, it’s like the songs can’t contain, or constraint, them, and they seem to digress. That's probably what some critics and disappointed fans called "half-baked" or disjointed. I call it melodic fountains overflowing ! Oh Where Oh Where Is Love ? Flash's Confession, Salvation Road ? That's melodic gold in my book. Ray’s the same virtuoso frontman/ring leader/impersonator he always was, but something in this story makes him sing either in a more fragile or in a more manic way than usual, depending on the song. Maybe I’ll change my mind in the weeks to come (as always, I haven’t listened again as a prep, I like to “rediscover” the tracks one by one, day by day with you all), but I’ve never felt the same level of distance, irony, disillusion or relativism in Act 2 as in the other Kinks albums. Sure, I feel humor and extravagance, excess and excessiveness, but in a unabashed melodramatic context. As far as I can tell, this is the only Kinks record like that. The next two are either lighter, funnier, more tongue in cheek, or sweeter. And after that, they'll do more conventional (albeit often excellent) pop rock albums. Act 2 is a rock’n roll melodrama and as such, a more intense listen than any other record of theirs. Maybe some see it as a flaw, I always saw it as an engaging and engrossing experience, if not always a 100% agreeable one. Can’t wait to revisit it. Let’s see what the next weeks will cook up for us!
I'm going to say that I kinda like this cover.
The billboard in the desolation, with the smoke of the burned out horizon floating in the background.... and it's nice and colourful.
The back cover shows pretty clearly that this is going to be some sort of play, with everyone in character.
The inner sleeve is interesting too.... Ray looks so goofy as Flash .... are Dave and the boys Flash's thugs, or Mr Black's thugs?
Preservation Act II
So, back in the 80s, having tried Act I and not liked it, for some reason I ploughed on and tried Act II, and you won't be surprised to hear that I disliked it even more. I think I just about got through listening to the whole thing once, out of a sense of duty. The track that most stuck in my head over the years as being particularly awful was "Shepherds Of The Nation".
And again, it wasn't until this year that I even considered the idea of going back to this one. Apart from that library copy back in the 80s I don't think I have ever seen a copy of Act II in the wild, and not surprisingly I still couldn't find one this year, so had to resort to Discogs. The copy I bought was a very good price in decent condition.
I've played it probably about six times now - being a double means it's harder to fit into casual listening sessions. I think I've barely begun to scratch the surface of it yet. My general opinion of it so far is that some of it is magnificent and barmy (including the aforementioned "Shepherds"), and some of it is mediocre. I feel it tails off rather badly towards the end, thus I'm left feeling slightly hollow at the end of it. But I'm glad I have it now.
Very belated merry Yuletime to y'all (even the Grinch) and thanks for keeping this train a-rollin' to @mark winstanley , of course.
Bin bizzzzi as fuque and have missed out on the fun for quite a few weeks, so I got a lot of catching up to do. I like the Preservations a lot better when I listen to them than when I think about them, for some strange reason. Haven't listened to the Kinks for some time, as my first all-new Grateful Dead box set from the Fox Theatre has been stealing most of my listening hours. Also on a serious Fela Kuti bender for the moment. But I'll fish out the albums and give them a thorough listening in the afternoonski.
Great write up by Mark. (And @Fortuleo ) I’ll save my more in depth response for the song by song, but this audacious epic is a 9/10 for me on a bad day. This one is seriously due a wider reappraised that I know one day will come. It strikes me as a great injustice that in the Received Wisdom Of Rock, the likes of The Who, Pink Floyd and Zappa are allowed, nay expected to serve us up 2 record sets of uncompromising artistry for the faithful to puzzle over for years, but when the Kinks do it, it’s like ‘no no no, go away and write another 60s style single’. Well I say a great big bollocks to that now and forever! This deserves to be given the same consideration in the canon as Tommy, Quad, Joes Garage, The Wall. A friend of mine described Pres Act 2 as ‘The Wall but funnier’ which I think would be a pretty succinct way to introduce it to the unsure new listener.
Dave looks like he’s meant to be a Spiv, Mick a ‘The Management’ style gangster Heavy, Dalton a Che Guevara style revolutionary, and Gosling a clergyman; I would think that probably breaks down to mean Dave and Mick are on Flash’s side, and Dalton and Gosling on Mr Blacks, but I’m not certain. I think all these personas had names and their purpose was more clear in the onstage version of the show.
In answer to the "is it prog?" question - I'm not the greatest expert on prog, but when I hear that opening guitar figure full of pomp in "Shepherds", I feel it should be leading into a song about wizards and goblins.
This is one of a number of RCA albums on CD, I hoovered up in sales, not sure exactly when. I confess I hated this when I first listened to it, well not exactly hated but I found it tedious and a real chore to get through. The odd good song didn't compensate for vast expanses where nothing interesting was happening. I've been listening to it a lot recently and, although I like it better than I did, my attention still wanders. We'll come on to the structural weaknesses, which are manifold, as we go on. Some of the other problems have been flagged up previously, like Flash being the only character who is any way fleshed out, there are a lot of problems with this album. Two plus points: it sounds a lot better than Act and I really like the cover.
I could be completely wrong, but I get the impression that a lot of the discontent with this album is essentially thematic.
People tend to hate anything with any religious kind of subject matter..... so with this album, we seem to have a situation where non, or anti religion types folks will likely just not like the content, and folks that consider themselves religious are likely affronted by the characterisation via Mr Black.
Fortunately I come under neither category, and so I can enjoy it for what it is.
I think also, it could be easy for folks to get riled up about the content, without taking into account that these are somewhat caricatures .... extreme examples of some misguided, self serving folks, that just so happen to be politicians and a supposed zealot, but more realistically an opportunist, using religious belief to manipulate a certain portion of the people.
Certainly there is a Broadway show feel to some of it, but that has been poking its head into the band's catalog since the sixties, via Music Hall and other outside rock music influences, that the band incorporated into their sound, so it is hard to see why that would put so many off, so much, or at all really
Fair call lol
Even the clergy angle in this album comes across as thugs to me
I confess I never really thought of the religious aspect, I always thought of it as being some kind of Capitalism v. Socialism narrative but it's so confused and superficial who knows?
Is Soap Opera coming up next? Haven't listened to it full since like I don't when. Let's have a listen and see what I've been missing.
Here is the next little spell of material we'll be covering
Preservation Act 2 - May 74
Golden Hour vol 3 Lola, Percy & The Apemen Come Face To Face With The Village Green Preservation Society... Something Else - 1974
Dave's Decade 1975 tracks (3)
Soap Opera - May 75
Schoolboys In Disgrace - Nov 75
The Kinks Greatest/Celluloid Heroes 1976
Sleepwalker - Feb 77
Father Christmas/Prince Of The Punks Nov 77
Misfits - May 78
20 Golden Greats 1978
Dave's Decade 1978/79 tracks (4)
Low Budget - Jul 19 US - Sep 79 UK
Well as suspected I gained a new appreciation from Mark and the Avids as I listened to the track by track songs and personal breakdowns.
I had remembered little from 20 years ago except that I thought there was some quiet promise that at the time I was not patient to fully attempt unearthing.
It has been stated upthread in better prose than I can muster that the music is a wide ranging miasma of styles and genres and that consequently some stay more positively in the mind than others.
I think rock musicals/plays are a largely acquired taste and that most rock fans (understandably) wishing to take sides early don't place Preservation material in the Kinks basket alongside their golden eggs.
All that said some try through a deliberate Act, they sit patiently with Ray's songs looking for the light of insight to let them into the creation as a whole and they are truly Avid!
Quality control perchance?
Thank you for writing this - it needed to be said - and I agree with you 100%. As a Kinks fan now for 50 years there are times when I think there might be something wrong with me because I don't, and never have, disliked any of their albums. Of course, like everybody else, I have my favourites but I play and enjoy all their studio albums on a regular basis. If one of the so called supergroups had released Preservation it would have been hailed as a masterpiece.
Preservation Act 2
Released on my 18th birthday and one of the first records played on my shiny new HMV record player. This was the first player I owned that boasted wooden speakers so I just knew it would sound better than my previous plastic Denon speakers. It was only serious hi-fi's which boasted wooden speakers and now I considered myself a fully paid up member of the club. I had this player for a couple of years before I upgraded to a Sanyo music centre with FM and cassette player.
I didn't like the Announcements on the album at first but as time passed I began to accept them as part of the story telling. There are some really strong songs on this record but I have always wished it had been recorded differently as I was never a big fan of the sound. Maybe it was a little too rushed with most of the songs having been recorded in the first three months of the year. Act 1 had just been released in November they were back recording Act 2 in January. Looking forward to reading the comments on this one.
Wouldn't it be fun if we could get Maryann Price on this thread around now? She's around but I don't think she's on this forum. I don't know if it has been mentioned in this thread, but she was quite visible at the time as a member of Dan Hicks and his Hot Licks. She's playing maracas in this clip from Sept 1972, Flip Wilson show. This is possibly the worst example of cluelessly implemented canned laughter I've ever seen in a TV show. Great performance, though.
I dropped out of the discussion when we moved out of the 60's, but I've been lurking now and again. hi!
More Dan Hicks:
Not really, to my ears, but I'm waiting til we finish this one to fully flesh out my thoughts about it.
Act II preliminary thoughts:
Album cover: I like it. And it looks like a lot of work was put into the packaging.
I keep saying the same thing, that I’ve yet to be flummoxed or to find myself shuddering at Kinksian content (despite the multiple warnings). Maybe I’m wrong but my impression is that the majority of our happy (!) group has favorably received the Kinks discography to date. 1) The Kinks were supposed to have lost it after the Pye years. Nope. 2) Ah, but wait till you hit the Preservation/concept album years. So far, nope. 3) But ‘Cricket’! Nope. (If my count is correct, the group, in general, liked ‘Cricket’.)
Act II: Here we finally get some coherence in the story plot. I’ve only listened to it in full one time (as I became sidetracked by best-of-2021 concerns) and found myself happily immersed. What’s going to happen next, etc. The announcements make it similar to a old-timey radio play.
I still maintain that both real-time fans and record company executives may have been more accepting if it was released under Ray Davies name (with The Kinks as backing band).
If I knew of this in real-time? I think I would have liked it. ‘When a Solution Comes’, ‘Flash’s Dream’, etc.
Am looking forward to the discussion.
Separate names with a comma.