The Kinks - The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society - Review
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critics' view

In 1968 The Kinks released The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, an album curiously closer in spirit to that year's new sitcom hit, Dad's Army, than to the more familiar rock 'n' roll preoccupations of the day. While his contemporaries were revolting in style or getting mystic, Ray Davies spent much of the summer putting together a concept album steeped in nostalgia for an 'Olde England' of corner shops, custard pies and steam trains; an album which seemed to draw as much on the prewar music-hall of Max Miller as it did the blues. While the rock mainstream embraced Satanism and free love, Davies sang about preserving virginity and Sunday School. The Kinks' latest heroes were, apparently, Desperate Dan and Mrs Mopp, rather than Abraham, Martin or John. It was seriously out of step with prevailing trends.

And it wasn't only the subject matter: with hard-rock bands like Led Zeppelin poised on the horizon, it simply sounded too whimsical. Its potential success was not helped by the injunction which prevented The Kinks from touring the US between 1965 and 1969, essentially isolating them from rock's biggest market. Despite their position as one of the founding-fathers of mid-Sixties British pop/rock, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society flopped big-time.

But over the years, it has undergone something of a reassessment. For many, it's now justly considered Davies' most satisfying album: a creative high point matched only by the band's landmark singles of the period. Only Davies would care that Britain's last main-line steam train finally reached the buffers that year and write an instant retro song like ''Last of the Steam-Powered Trains'', a sort of British Rail ''Smokestack Lightnin'''. Only Davies would bother to think about why people take photographs of each other ('To prove that they really existed', of course!) and write ''People Take Pictures''. But it's not all wistfully genteel: the childlike ''Phenomenal Cat'' is a nod towards psychedelia and there are some sterling Dave Davies riffs in ''Wicked Arabella'' and ''Johnny Thunder''. It's as English as billiards, but with more balls.

Rob Webb
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