If you read the lyrics to the songs that form The Kinks’ 1979 release, Low Budget, you may think that Ray Davies had some sort of concept album in mind. When the music kicks in, however, you realize that The Kinks were in full rock mode.
Disco and punk rock were in in vogue when The Kinks went into the studio during early 1979. Ray Davies may have been influenced by these two popular music trends but it was on his own terms. His witty sense of humor and ability to see ordinary life from odd angles combined with what best can be described as hard-driving, American-type rock and roll. It all added up to one of their better albums, and their fan base responded by making it one of the best-selling studio album of their long career.
It was always a good sign when the album credits did not have an extended list of musicians and contributors. Low Budget only lists the basic band of guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, bassist Jim Rodford, and drummer Mick Avory. The only other addition was saxophone player Nick Newall.
When Dave Davies guitar kicked in on the opening track, “Attitude,” and Ray sings about making fun of a fool, it was quickly apparent that The Kinks were in fine form. “Pressure” and “Misery” continued the all-out rock attack.
The album’s best two tracks occurred back-to-back on the second side of the original release. “A Gallon Of Gas” was a stripped down bluesy piece that told the story of being a star but not being able to find any gas. There was hash but no gas. “A Little Bit of Emotion” was one of the better ballads of Ray Davies’ career.
“National Health” is a song that resonates today as the topic is relevant again. “(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman” moved in a disco direction and has a number of clichés, which made it a near-perfect Ray Davies song. The album ended with “Moving Pictures,” which was a message about not taking life too seriously.
Low Budget is an album that has held up well over time. It found The Kinks at the top of their game and helped them end the 1970s in style.