Monday, January 17, 2005

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary 1968, 2004)

This re-release is one of the most extensive issues of a rock and roll album ever produced. A 37 minute album is expanded to no less than 3 full compact discs, containing both the mono and stereo mixes of the album as well as a large number of singles, B sides and rarites. Village Green is one of the most whimsical and beautiful rock albums ever recorded. It just came out at the wrong time, The Kinks were turning away from the nasty garage rock that gave them their early hits and moving toward a more narrative oriented approach. The album's songs focusing on quaint villages an sentimental releationships was miles away from the psychedelica that was popular in England at the time and the record sank without a trace except to become an underground favorite and critics darling.

The music itself is some of the most varied of the band's career mixing rock and roll, rhythm and blues and the English music hall tradition and allowed the band a broad palate to frame Ray Davies' short story type lyrics. Village Green is a loose concept album, in which the band gives a tour of a traditional English village and the people that inhabit it. The lyrics are often nostalgic, as if Ray Davies is trying to-conjure an England that no longer exists. In "Do You Remember Walter" he writes a pean to a childhood friend who he is sure is "fat and married and always home in bed by half past eight." In the title track, he lists a number of thigs in English society that he thinks need to be saved. They are still a rock and roll band though, and charge through numbers like "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" and the sinsiter "Wicked Anabella" with abandon.

The re-issue is well done, with a lengthy liner note booklet packed with essays, photos and interviews with the band. The extra material is interesting, but ultimately it's the original album you keep coming back to, one of the most fully realized in rock music. While this three disc set may be for the obsessive-compulsive Kinks fan, the original album is still available as a single CD and anyone who hasn't heard it is in for a real treat.

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