The KINKS – ” Are The Villiage Green Preservation Society ” Classic Albums Released 22nd November in 1968

Posted: November 25, 2021 in Classic Albums, MUSIC
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While many other rock artists during the last part of the ’60s dismissed and pushed aside the mores and ideals of their parents and earlier generations, The Kinks embraced them, finding peace and a sense of harmony in the aftermath of the Summer of Love. Frontman Ray Davies invests too much heart and perspective for this song cycle about lost British traditions to be mere satire of the nostalgia and sentiment found in its words and music.

“The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society”, a masterpiece that was completely out of step with Swinging London, while at the same time being utterly timeless. “These were rock/folk tunes,” Ray Davies says now. “But it was unlike anything the Kinks had done before. We were known for ‘You Really Got Me,’ after all.”

Devoid of any obvious singles, or any fancy production techniques, the album is a true pleasure from beginning to end, arguably running circles around the competition in both song writing and cohesiveness, and 45 years later is more influential than ever.

Often cited as one of the most quintessentially English albums of its era, “The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” was venerated by critics though largely overlooked itself by the buying public at the tme. Released in the same year as The Beatles’ “The White Album“, Pink Floyd’s “A Saucerful of Secrets“, and The Band’s “Music from Big Pink, Ray Davies’ concept LP had little in common with the rest of his contemporaries, many of whom were either looking to America for musical stimulation, or tripping themselves into outer space. Instead, Davies turned to his beloved England for inspiration, writing a collection of tunes full of intriguing characters.

Released (November. 22nd) in 1968: after nearly two months of delays, The Kinks released in the UK one of rock’s most enduring concept albums ‘on Pye Records (in the US three months later on Reprise Records); It was the group’s 6th studio LP was the last by the original quartet (with bassist Pete Quaife leaving in early-’69); a collection of vignettes of English life, the album served as a virtual thematic template for the ‘Britpop‘ movement of the ’90s; although arguably the band’s most important & influential long-form work, it failed to chart upon release, selling about 100,000 copies.

The title track is a tender ode to an England that was ever rapidly changing, especially throughout the 1960’s, where Davies and Co. are determined to conserve what remains of their country’s traditionally conservative culture, preserving “the old ways from being abused/Protecting the new ways for me and for you/What more can we do”.

“It was obscure the week it came out,” Dave Davies jokes of the album. “Something Else” is probably my favourite Kinks album, but “Village Green” was just so good. We put those songs together in our front room, and we drew really heavily on our environment and our family, who had supported us, and I think that’s why it has such a distinctive English flavour and why the songs are so intimate in a way. Ray has such a great way of drawing characters. The song ‘Picture Book’ is like sitting in the front room looking at old photographs with your mum.”

The sentimentalism continues with “Do You Remember Walter” (a far more cynical take on aging than McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty-four”), “Picture Book”, and the deliciously languid “Sitting by the Riverside”. Davies laments the demise of old British Rail on “The Last of the Steam Powered Trains”, while yearning for pastoral sanity on “Animal Farm”.

“Village Green” was made at a time when we were banned from touring in America and we didn’t have much airplay,” Ray Davies says. “But I think the reason it’s become so beloved in retrospect is that it reaches people like folk music. Not many people have the “Village Green” record, but many people know it. I think it’s more to do with the sensibility, because it’s very different to typical rock music. I wasn’t worried about airplay and, whether I designed it that way or not, I reached people rather than record companies and little by little it broke through.”

Davies is right about the folky nature of the music. But it’s that very simplicity that gives the album its distinctive, if utterly straightforward, sound. While other records of the time can sound dated or perhaps too precious, Village Green has always sounded fresh and accessible, a work of an immensely in-sync group at the height of its powers, while still retaining a bit of that garage edge that makes rock ‘n’ roll so exciting.

“Everything about it was a low-achieving record, in every sense,” Ray Davies jokes. “But I intended that. We used a lot of ambient sound in recording the drums and things like that. Some people would say that made it sound like it wasn’t well-produced, but that’s the sound I wanted and it added to the poetic value of the record. It was designed to be that way.”

“That was a sound I was really into at the time,” Dave Davies remembers. “Pete [Quaife, The Kinks‘ bass player] and I were trying to get the excitement of our performances on record and that’s just the way it came out. On songs like ‘Big Sky,’ I’d think of a bass part and give it to him and he’d change it around — play off the melody, like Paul McCartney was starting to do at the time, because they both started as guitar players — and it would create something completely different and also really new-sounding.”

Ray was finding inspiration in unusual places.

“I was at a music industry schmooze fest and I couldn’t cope with all the business talk,” he says of the origin of “Big Sky.” “I conceived and wrote it on the balcony of the Carlton Hotel in Cannes [France]. I know it sounds very grand. But I had to share a room with my publisher, and so out of frustration I knocked over the geranium from our fourth floor balcony and the first line of the song, ‘Big sky looks down on all the people looking up at the big sky,’ came to me while I was looking out from the balcony of the hotel. I was in a situation I was not happy in, so I went into this world of irony and pathos and used my imagination that one day we’ll be free from all this. Because I’m sure there are lots of people like me who feel confused in a world that’s going mad and you try to find a spiritual way through it. It’s quite a spiritual record.”

The neo-psychedelic “Phenomenal Cat”, “All My Friends Were There” (which could have been penned by Syd Barrett), and “Wicked Annabella” (I can imagine a pre-T-Rex Marc Bolan grooving to this one), are all cleverly written and arranged, and slowly etch their way into the memory upon repeat listens.

As Ray Davies says in the liner notes contained within the mammoth 3-disc deluxe edition, “It’s the most successful failure of all time.”.  However over the decades appreciation for the album has multiplied, whose whimsical tales of English rural life and quaint eccentrics never seems to date. Many of these tunes have a delicacy as well as poignancy to them, not to mention a sturdy nod to American blues, Psychedelia, and folk-rock, along with a nostalgic measure of old-fashioned Music-Hall.

This is one of those classic LPs that must be absorbed and enjoyed from beginning to end, where throughout Davies paints a picture of a society that was as imaginary as it was genuine. A world invented as much on fact as it was on fiction. That it lacked a “Waterloo Sunset” or “You Really Got Me” was likely the real reason why it failed to reach a wider audience, and due not to any musical deficiency on the part of The Kinks themselves.

Originally issued in mono, “Village Green” can now be enjoyed in stereo (remastered from first generation tapes no less), making for a far superior listen (the mono version has been preserved on disc two for all the purists). However it’s the third disc that will have many a Kinks archivist’s pulse quicken, and is a Kinks fanatic’s dream come true. 55 minutes of outtakes, alternate mixes and other assorted rarities, the majority of which were previously unavailable. Only Ray Davies could have written lines such as “We are the Office Block Persecution Affinity/Gave save little shops, china cups and virginity” .

Tracklist:

01 The village green preservation society 02 Do you remember Walter 02:53 03 Picture book 05:21 04 Johnny Thunder 07:58 05 Last of the steam – powered trains 10:28 06 Big sky 14:40 07 Sitting by the riverside 17:32 08 Animal farm 23:00 09 Village green 25:13 10 Starstruck 27:42 11 Phenomenal cat 30:23 12 All of my friends were there 32:49 13 Wicked Annabella 35:33 14 Monica 37:53 15 People take picture of each other

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