Music is in the ear of the beholder (or something like that).
The two Preservation albums by The Kinks have always elicited strong emotions among the band’s followers. Some people think they were a brilliant phase in the ever-changing career of Ray Davies, while others place them at the bottom of The Kinks’ large catalogue of releases. Like them or hate them, there are few grey areas.
I have to admit that until I decided to review The Kinks’ studio albums, my vinyl copies of Preservation: Act 1 and Preservation: Act 2 had not left their places on my storage shelves in decades. At the time of its release, I considered Preservation: Act 1 to have been incomprehensible. It sounded like a Broadway cast or soundtrack album without the benefit of seeing the film or play. The follow-up made it a little more understandable and palatable, as it provided a context. I think I know what Ray Davies was trying to do; I’m just not sure why he was doing it.
Ray Davies and The Kinks traveled a convoluted journey during the first decade of their existence. There were power chords, psychedelic rock, pastoral music of the English countryside and working people, some country and bluegrass, and now a stop with a couple albums of tunes envisioned for the stage.
Preservation: Act 1 used their Village Green Preservation Society album as the taking off point. The main problem was it lacked some of its laid-back melodies and its overall sense of humor which was a saving grace on a number of mid-career Kinks albums. Still, there were a number of songs that have aged well and are a better listen than I remember. The gentle “Sweet Lady Genevieve,” the energetic rock of “One Of The Survivors,” and the sarcastic lyrics of “Sitting In The Midday Sun” are all nice creations and are a good listen outside the context of the overall album.
Preservation: Act 2 was a sprawling two-disc album in its original vinyl incarnation. It was just a better album pure and simple but was one of those releases that might have benefited by reducing the number of songs. There were a number of announcements that were meant to connect the parts of the album, but I found them to be an uninvited disruption to the overall flow of the music. I did appreciate the rocking nature of a number of tracks as on “When A Solution Comes,” “He’s Evil,” and “Flash’s Confession,” where Dave Davies breaks out his guitar for some scintillating playing with a wah-wah sound.
Preservation: Act 1 and Preservation: Act 2 have been returned to their places on my record shelves. While there are some tracks worth visiting, I find the overall approach to be less inviting as there are a number of Kinks albums that are more worthy of your time. While the Preservation albums have aged well, they are still only for the seasoned Kinks collector.