Ok, me again... Album Project Update! Have now listened to 'Low Budget' (1979) by the Kinks. This has a particular resonance at the moment, I think! Lots of songs about hard times and having no money. And it's a very stripped down band. It's just Ray Davies, Dave Davies, Mick Avory on drums and a new bass player - Jim Rodford. Oh, and a saxophonist on two tracks. :) I particularly like 'Catch me now I'm falling' (which is a song about America in recession), though possibly '(Wish I could fly like) Superman' is one of the better known tracks from the album. This album is a real band piece, all working together to produce something that feels solidly made. From the themes on the album you can see that though in Britain they were thought of as little more than a nostalgia band (mainly due to Punk), they were making it big in America...
Labels: 1979, Album Project, Low Budget, The Kinks
And another Album Project update - 'Misfits' (1978). I have to say there are some songs on here that are I've really loved listening to, both for their catchy tunes and their social comment. For instance, 'Black Messiah'. It's a song about British race relations, with a ska beat. And 'Out of the Wardrobe' is about a transvestite. I guess the songs are sort of about people who don't quite fit in, hence the title 'Misfits'. But it's a loose collection, rather than a tight concept album. Another album that shows off the individual talents of each of the band members, including a song called 'Trust Your Heart' on which Dave Davies sings lead vocals...
Labels: 1978, Album Project, Misfits, The Kinks
Album Project update! 'Sleepwalker' (1977). It's the 15th studio album by the Kinks, and the first with their new record label Arista. It's a return to their roots, in some ways. No more concept stuff. Just rock that's both edgy and humorous. When I listened to it for the first time I was struck by how the bass on 'Mr. Big Man' doesn't seem quite the same as on the other tracks. This is because I am sad and pathetic, I guess! Or I like bass guitar too much. Anyway, I was interested to find out that that is the only track on this album that was played by the new Kinks bass player, Andy Pyle. John Dalton left during the recording of the album. It's a very slick piece of work, this album, showing off all their talents. I liked it. :)
Labels: 1977, Album Project, Sleepwalker, The Kinks
So, Album Project update, the 14th Studio Album by the Kinks, 'Schoolboys in Disgrace' (1976). It's the last of the Kinks formal concept albums, and the prequel to 'Preservation'. Basically, it's the story of Mr Flash when he's at school. How he ends up hating authority. How he ends up being, well, evil. The album sounds much more like the Kinks, not just Ray Davies with a bunch of musicians. The song 'No More Looking Back' is a wonderful song, with a great bassline, great guitar played by Dave Davies, and great (not overly theatrical) singing. Yes, I did like this album. And though I haven't enjoyed every moment of Ray Davies's strange concept album creations, there have been some moments of true genius.
Labels: 1976, Album Project, Schoolboys in Disgrace, The Kinks
Ok, so 'Soap Opera' (1975) - after the heights of 'Preservation' it's a bit of a let down. It's ok, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I'd hoped. It's basically an album about celebrity and fame - an ordinary man called Norman who wants to be a rock star. The rest of the Kinks didn't really like it much, I think, but Ray Davies had an idea and they supported him in it - best to let him get it out of his system! Mick Avory (the drummer) said they viewed it as a separate project that Ray wanted to do. So there you go. :)
Labels: 1975, Album Project, Soap Opera, The Kinks
Album Project update - I've listened to 'Preservation Act 1' (1973) and 'Preservation Act 2' (1974). I've listened to them quite a few times, once with the CD inlays to try and understand exactly what's going on! The thing about these albums, you see, is that they're basically one very long rock opera. Ray Davies wrote it to create a musical extravaganza with some of the same themes as 'Village Green', though it's much darker. It was originally supposed to be released as a double album but due to various problems it was released in two 'Acts', one of which (the second) contains most of the storyline. Without knowing who's singing the songs and what the scene is, some of it doesn't make sense. It would be brilliant to see the whole thing performed. But due to its length, they never played all the songs in concert, just a cut down version. I'd have loved to have seen them in costume as Mr Flash and his cronies, though.
I will try to explain what's going on...
1. Morning Song (CHORUS) - an opening with no words.
2. Daylight (CHORUS) - sets the scene - there's the village green, the sun rising, everyone getting up and going to work...
3. Sweet Lady Genevieve (TRAMP) - a drunken tramp full of regret longs for his Genevieve.
4. There's A Change In The Weather (WORKING CLASS MAN, MIDDLE CLASS MAN, UPPER CLASS MAN) - some sort of change is on the way - will it be a change for the better or a terrible calamity?
5. Where Are They Now? (TRAMP) - a song about change, basically.
6. One Of The Survivors (JOHNNY THUNDER & CHORUS) - one of the characters from 'Village Green', he stays the same though the world changes around him.
7. Cricket (THE VICAR) - we see the traditional sermonising of the vicar, old fashioned and somewhat comforting.
8. Money & Corruption/I Am Your Man (CHORUS & MR BLACK) - there's unrest as people grow fed up of crooked politicians. Mr Black steps in and says he can put things right.
9. Here Comes Flash (CHORUS & SCARED HOUSEWIVES) - oh no, the evil Mr Flash is on the way! He is the personification of the evil that Mr Black is so against...
10. Sitting In The Midday Sun (TRAMP) - still cheerful, the Tramp sings that things aren't so bad as long as you can sit in the sunshine.
11. Demolition (FLASH & HIS CRONIES) - they're knocking everything down and building cheap houses to line their pockets. Boo!
12. Announcement - Mr Black has formed a People's Army to overthrow Mr Flash.
13. Introduction to Solution (TRAMP) - Mr Black is waiting for the right moment to strike, Mr Flash is in his den drinking. A battle is looming!
14. When A Solution Comes (MR BLACK) - in his attic, Mr Black bides his time. He plans to change the world!
15. Money Talks (FLASH, FLOOSIES & SPIVS) - Mr Flash sings about how you can corrupt anyone with money.
16. Announcement - Mr Black is to address the people.
17. Shepherds Of The Nation (MR BLACK & THE DO-GOODERS) - Mr Black tells the people of the puritanical moral standards that are needed to fix things.
18. Scum Of The Earth (FLASH, FLOOSIES & SPIVS) - Mr Flash sings about how he's only human... Good and evil exist in all of us.
19. Secondhand Car Spiv (FLASH, FLOOSIES & SPIVS) - Mr Flash came up from the gutter and now he's in charge of the country.
20. He's Evil (MR BLACK & FOLLOWERS) - a party political broadcast about how Mr Flash is evil!
21. Mirror Of Love (BELLE) - a song by Flash's special floosie. She loves him even though he's cruel.
22. Announcement - Mr Black and the People's Army have won a major victory.
23. Nobody Gives (TRAMP) - the normally cheerful tramp despairs. People never give unless they get something in return.
24. Oh Where Oh Where Is Love? (TRAMP & THE DO-GOODERS) - what happened to love, hope, sympathy and trust, faith, joy in simplicity, regard and respect? Why's the world become so BAD?
25. Flash's Dream (FLASH) - after a hard day campaigning, with Mr Black and his army closing in on him, Flash dreams that he is visited by his soul. It warns him that his end is nigh...
26. Flash's Confession (FLASH) - following the dream, Flash confesses all the evil he's done, all his cruelty, ego and conceit.
27. Nothing Lasts Forever (FLASH & BELLE) - on the run, Flash turns to Belle for help. They agree to go their separate ways.
28. Announcement - Mr Flash is captured by Mr Black and the People's Army!
29. Artificial Man (FLASH, MR BLACK & MAD SCIENTIST) - Mr Flash is taken to a secret hideout to have his brain cleansed and his mind conditioned. If the only way to make the world perfect is to mess with everyone's minds then it doesn't sound like such a perfect world...
30. Scrapheap City (BELLE & THE FLOOSIES) - Mr Black's new world is featureless and, ultimately, less appealing than Mr Flash's corrupt old world.
31. Announcement - a state of emergency is declared, with curfews, rationing, the closure of places of public entertainment, TV and radio stations.
32. Salvation Road (EVERYBODY) - the people got what they wanted. There's an end to corruption. Everyone's the same. But there's no freedom, only fear...
So there you go. I haven't done it justice in this brief summary. The basis of the story is that to start with you think Flash is evil, Mr Black is good. But gradually you see that Mr Black is more evil than Flash was! It probably would have worked a bit better if it hadn't been released as two Acts, since it is fairly disjointed, but, well, it's amazing. :)
Labels: 1973, 1974, Album Project, Preservation Act 1, Preservation Act 2, The Kinks
I have done something a bit interesting, while I think about it, I went to a talk by the historian Michael Wood last night. It was about his Kibworth TV programme. He was very good! :)
Oh, and we had a good laugh about the canteen's menu this week. It seemed to feature soups such as 'Vegan & Parsnip Soup with Basil Croutons', 'Vegan & Broccoli & Stilton Soup' and 'Vegan & Leek & Bacon Soup'. It seems a bit mean to eat Vegans with meat. I mean, cheese is bad enough, but bacon? That's just being ultra mean.
Hmm, I have to admit I have hit upon a section of The Kinks that I like a lot less... Since I last blogged I have listened to 'Muswell Hillbillies' (1971) and 'Everybody's in Showbiz' (1972).
'Muswell Hillbillies' is the first album The Kinks made with their new record label RCA (they had formerly been with Pye). They set out to make an album that had no obvious singles on it, since Pye had been promoting singles to the detriment of the albums... I think the reason I like it less is the 'pub jazz' flavour bought to it by the Mike Cotton Sound (who stayed with The Kinks for many years). Still, it has some interesting songs, some of which are very dark.
'Everybody's in Showbiz' has the same sort of sound as 'Muswell Hillbillies', still featuring the Mike Cotton Sound. But it has a couple of songs I love, like 'Celluloid Heroes'. And it was a double album, with a second disc - a live show recorded at Carnegie Hall in 1972. For four years of their early career The Kinks had been banned from touring America, and now they were in and (apparently) big hits. 'Everybody's in Showbiz' (and indeed 'Muswell Hillbillies') do have a certain American flavour to them. Perhaps that was where the band wanted to make it big. I don't know. Apparently The Kinks had often had a bit too much to drink when they performed live, resulting in often shambolic performances. The live album does seem to reflect this!
Labels: 1971, 1972, Album Project, Everybody's in Showbiz, Muswell Hillbillies, The Kinks