LP - Limited Edition Black Vinyl.
After their amazing run of mid-sixties hit singles the Kinks became becalmed commercially, if not artistically. The June 1970 release of the single Lola put the Kinks firmly back in the international spotlight, reaching number 2 in the UK and number 9 in the US. The Lola album contained our opening number, the tribute/satire Top Of The Pops. Visually the band may have changed – satin jackets, beards, long hair, garish flares) – but Ray Davies had retained his acerbic wit. Here was a band that had been shafted repeatedly by the music industry and was prepared to make a concept album about it. The fine rocker You’re Looking Fine first appeared on the Face To Face LP in 1966 where it was sung by “Dave (Death Of A Clown) Davies”, as he is introduced here by his brother. The source of the next four songs is Muswell Hillbillies (August 1971), the first LP recorded for RCA. Muswell Hillbilly itself demonstrates Ray’s affinity for country music in general and Johnny Cash in particular. Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues features the Mike Cotton Sound, three brass-playing musicians who became an increasingly significant part of the Kinks live sound, more Acker Bilk than Memphis Horns. A delicate piano introduction from John “The Baptist” Gosling introduces Holiday. Onstage Alcohol would develop into a protracted sermon on the dangers of booze, delivered by a frequently-inebriated Ray Davies: this version is relatively compact and accompanied by the band necking bottles of German lager. Brainwashed is an engaging diatribe from the Arthur LP (1969). Here the brass section really works, reinforcing Dave’s guitar riff and driving the song along.
The first hit single to explicitly mention a transgender encounter, Lola starts gently with Ray singing softly, omitting the crashing opening chords of the recorded version. The band enters for the first verse, lead by the piano of John Gosling with Ray and Dave harmonising throughout. The fragment of Mr.Wonderful that follows is a taste of what was to come, particularly in the US, where Ray and his live audience would engage in lengthy mutual adoration. Skin And Bone is the last track from Muswell Hillbilly, here in a cool rockabilly arrangement driven by Gosling’s piano and Dave’s guitar. A rousing medley of You Really Got Me and All Day Of The Night highlights the band’s way with a guitar riff, ably supported by Gosling’s organ and strong backing vocals from Dave Davies and John Dalton. Recording without an audience gives this session a loose nature allowing us to present multiple takes of Holiday, Alcohol and Skin And Bone so that you can pick your favourite. Ray opines that the first take of Alcohol was the best – do you agree?
What happened next was that Ray turned his attention towards America. A ban by the American Federation of Musicians for “unprofessional conduct” meant that Kinks were unable to tour the US after 1965. When the ban was lifted in 1970 the band were keen to make up for lost time. Their next LP Everybody’s In Show-Biz…would be steeped in American references. Eventually Ray would move to the US and achieve the commercial success he had always craved. But in 1972 the Kinks still retained much of the approach that made them the most distinctive and uncompromising British pop group to emerge from the slipstream of the Beatles. It would not last much longer, so treasure what we have here.
“The Kinks stood aside, watching with sardonic amusement, the pop world chasing its own tail – and they turned out some of the most quirky, intelligent, grown-up and totally personal records in the history of British pop. Their trouble (or perhaps their strength would be more accurate) was their non-conformism, their refusal to join the club. They were, and are, hugely underrated in consequence. “ George Melly, Revolt Into Style (1970)
Sleevenotes: Mr. Pleasant
1. Top Of The Pops
2.You’re Looking Fine
3. Muswell Hillbilly
4. Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues
5. Holiday (Take 2)
6. Alcohol (Take 1)
1. Lola (with false start)
2. Mr Wonderful
3. Skin And Bone (Take 4)
4. You Really Got Me
5. All Day And All Of The Night
6. Alcohol (Take 2)
7. Skin And Bone (Take 1)
8. Holiday (Take 1)
Ray Davies – lead vocals, guitar
Dave Davies – lead guitar, vocals
Mick Avory – drums
John Dalton – bass, vocals
John Gosling – keyboards
Mike Cotton – trumpet
John Beecham – trombone
Alan Holmes – saxophone, clarinet