The Kinks – The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society
In an alternate universe, this would be my highly anticipated album anniversary for the month, and one of the most important of the year. But it’s not even the biggest anniversary today! That’s not intended as an insult to the Kinks or to The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, released 50 years ago today (Jan. ’69 in the US). It’s a fantastic record, but it’s also fitting in an unfair kind of way that it was released the same day as the Beatles’ White Album in terms of the Kinks’ station on the British Invasion ladder, and that of the 1960’s rock scene in general.
Sure, there are fans who can honestly say they’ve loved this album since its release and have owned it on vinyl, eight track, cassette, CD, and now on vinyl once again, and that the releases by the Beatles and the Stones don’t hold a candle to it. But in terms of sheer renown, this album is not on par with the White Album or Beggars Banquet, and that’s a shame. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is really, really good. I wasn’t exposed to this album until five or six years ago after reading about it on my favorite music forum, and all I can do is plead ignorance for not having learned, loved, and lived it all along. In the small, flyover burg where I grew up, the only Kinks albums people owned or liked were the hits, and songs from Village Green most certainly weren’t heard on the radio.
Village Green was the band’s 6th studio album, and the last to feature the original quartet of lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Ray Davies, lead guitarist Dave Davies, bassist Pete Quaife, and drummer Mick Avory. Nicky Hopkins contributed work on keyboards and Mellotron (he claimed to have played 70% of the keyboards, but that Davies took most of the credit). The album was produced by Ray Davies. Recorded over a period of two years, it’s a very English rock album featuring themes of childhood nostalgia and character sketches of old friends, a hoodlum, a prostitute, and steam locomotives of British Railways. It is, as AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine writes, a lament “on the passing of old-fashioned English traditions.”
The album is considered one of the best and most influential of the Kinks’ albums, yet it was a failure upon release and didn’t chart. But by 2003, Rolling Stone named it 255 on its top 500 albums of all time, and as of this month it was finally certified gold in the UK. Village Green is their best-selling album. Critics have loved it all along.
Relative to how fast rock music was evolving by ’68, this album seemed out-of-place from the day of its release. Perhaps that’s part of the reason it wasn’t embraced from the beginning. It’s a distinctly Kinks and English album, and one that doesn’t really fit into a loose 1968 musical aesthetic. That it is timeless would be another way of saying it. Mick Avory’s snare pops and the guitars have heavy moments like mid-60’s Kinks, but with an overall slightly updated and even gentle sound.
I like every song on this album, but some of my favorites are rockers Do You Remember Walter?, Picture Book, Big Sky, the whimsical and kind of trippy Sitting by the Riverside, the cool rhythm track of Animal Farm, and the driving tempo of the acoustic-heavy People Take Pictures of Each Other. A five-disc 50th anniversary edition was released this past month, and I’ve texted Santa that I want it.
- The Village Green Preservation Society
- Do You Remember Walter?
- Picture Book
- Johnny Thunder
- Last of the Steam-Powered Trains
- Big Sky
- Sitting by the Riverside
- Animal Farm
- Village Green
- Phenomenal Cat
- All of My Friends Were There
- Wicked Annabella
- People Take Pictures of Each Other