As a teenager what first attracted me to the music of The Kinks were the power chords of “You Really Got Me” and such singles as “A Well Respected Man,” “Sunny Afternoon,” and “All Day And All Of The Night.” While I came to appreciate the brilliance of such albums as Face To Face and Something Else; at the time of their release, they just slid under my radar.
Such was not the case with The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. It immediately caught my attention upon its release during late 1968 and is probably The Kinks album that has spent the most time on my turn table.
Artists such as The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, The Who, and The Beach Boys were producing some of their legendary albums during this era, and then along came The Kinks with a rock sound that ran counterpoint to just about everything that was being released at the time. It can be labeled as pastoral rock as Ray Davies produced a concept album centered around his thoughts and feelings of the English countryside, home, and harth. It was a critical and creative masterpiece but a commercial disaster, as it remains their only studio album not to chart in The United States.
The music is mellow and just meanders along. His series of vignettes captured British life at its most basic and nostalgic. Its only handicap was the cohesive nature of the music as there was a sameness to it, which meant fewer surprises than the aforementioned Something Else and Face To Face. Still, there was no denying the allure of his melodic character sketches set to music.
From the opening notes of the smooth title track with its thoughtful lyrics, Ray Davies announced that he had created something special. “Johnny Thunder” was an entertaining track about being bored. Tracks such as “Do You Remember Walter,” “Picture Book,” “Sitting By The Riverside,” “All My Friends Were There,” and “Village Green” were witty, wistful, and thought provoking as they presented a lifestyle that is just beyond the reach and memory of most.
The only song that traveled in a different direction was “Wicked Annabella,” which contained an odd melody and distorted guitar work to support the dark lyrics. It was a rare Ray Davies composition to feature a Dave Davies lead vocal.
At the time of its release, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society was a unique release and ultimately a subtle rock masterpiece. Time may have tempered its unique nature a bit, but it remains an interesting look into the mind of Ray Davies and British music of the era.