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The Kinks Song Reviews


The Kinks (1964)

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The Kinks

Beautiful Delilah 6.5/10

Dave Davies, of all people, takes lead vocals with "Beautiful Delilah," the first Kinks song on the first Kinks album. But poor Dave doesn't have a voice worth much of anything --- or at least as he chose to use it in 1964. This cover of the Chuck Berry song is about as standard as it gets with not only sloppy singing, but sloppy instrumentals... Hm.

So Mystifying 6/10

This is a Ray Davies original, but it's about as generic as it gets. Poor Ray doesn't even manage to sing this with any level of confidence. You almost don't think he's enjoying himself. This song gets boring after the first thirty seconds (it's so repetitive) and the mixing is so horrible that it's embarrassing... yeesh.

Just Can't Go to Sleep 7/10

A definite Bealtes clone, and it's almost convincing. The hooks are solid enough although points can certainly be docked off for lack of originality. It's a shame this producer didn't bother developing this song past sheer laziness. Yeesh.

Long Tall Shorty 4/10

Dave takes the lead vocals in this cover. I'm not quite sure what the freaking hell is with this song, but it's completely messed up. Those guitars are as choppy and awkward as can be. When they bring in those harmonicas, it's like they're attacking my eardrums with a hammer. Oh, and Dave's vocal performance is ugly --- at least he's louder in the mix than the previous two Ray performances.

I Took My Baby Home 5.5/10

This is a pretty horrible original, but at least it comes off better than the previous track! The melody annoys me --- it's just some knock off of a typical '60s pop band sound. It's a shame that Ray wasn't greatly into songwriting at this point. I guess he's just treading water before he's ready to take off.

I'm a Lover Not a Fighter 6/10

Dave takes vocals again though this one comes off a little better. The sloppiness in the instrumentation is seen here --- that clapping is freaking annoying.

You Really Got Me 10/10

And now the only reason you probably got up this morning. Here is that huge hit from 1964 that sparked a revolution! That riff only consists of a few notes, but I guess that's what makes a great a classic rock song. For once, Ray sings this with some sort of real conviction although he reeks of sarcasm. (That's not a bad thing I guess.) Needless to say, this is the only track of the album with any real energy.

Cadillac 6.5/10

Back to their throwaway covers. But this is a rocking song that seemed to be well written, but these guys don't care enough to give it justice! Maybe they were enjoying themselves. Possibly.

Bald Headed Woman 3/10

OK. What the hell is this. This doesn't even sound like a song. It's more of a song-oid. I'm not sure what they were doing. It starts up with a few clumsily played chords whilst they were singing an old country song. It's bizarre and utterly misfired. Their wierd ideas would turn up gold later on in their career, but this one turns up poop.

Revenge 7/10

This sounds almost like they were trying to make a clone of "You Really Got Me" and then combining it with "Cadillac." It's mostly a furious instrumental that almost works (there's some subdued singing toward the end). I actually like this one.

Too Much Monkey Business 7/10

This is a sloppy old cover of the Chuck Berry song. This one's enjoyable, I guess, because the song is difficult to screw up. You'd wonder about that electric guitar solo --- he's fumbling over himself....

I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain 3.5/10

A horrible cover! Dave sings the vocals again, but it doesn't sound like he was singing directly in the microphone. The primitive instrumentals are boring --- I could be wrong, but it seems like some of them were ready to give up playing this in the middle. I get that impression.

Stop Your Sobbing 7.5/10

The original composition sounds like every other '50s pop ballad. It's slightly enjoyable, but everything was easily lifted from somewhere else. Ray's vocals are completely goofy... He doesn't sound like he cares.

Got Love if You Want it 6/10

It seems like a cover the Rolling Stones would have done, except the Stones would have been fun! Answer me one question: Why does Dave sound like a cross between a duck a squished cat? Is he supposed to sound like that? Why is that freaking drum mixed so loudly? It's not the '80s yet.

BONUS TRACKS:

It surprises me there would be so many bonus tracks. It's a shame that this version of the CD has to be so expensive. Don't they care about Kinks fans???

"Long Tall Sally" sounds like they cared more deeply about it. The Beatles-esque screaming they do in the chorus comes off fun, and there's a decent harmonica solo in here. It's pretty sloppy, but they sound more self-assured than they did in the regular album.

"You Really Want Me" is an original. It's pretty nice although Davies is still being about as derivitive as it gets. His Beatles impersonation comes off much better in "Just Can't Go to Sleep." These hooks aren't as solid as they could have been.

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Kinda Kinks (1965)

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Kinda Kinks

Look For Me Baby 8/10

The solid, mid-tempoed pop-rocker starts off the ceremonies in this Kinks album! It's a solid and straight-ahead track with a nice enough melody. It's clear they're still emulating the early Beatles and other forces in early rock. However, the songwriting is certainly solid and the insturmentation seems smart. It's nothing particularly creative, but you also have to remember that group is still trying to gain its footing.

Got My Feet on the Ground 7.5/10

Dave Davies takes the vocals with this quicker rocker. The melody is less catchy, and I don't really care for his scratchy vocals although he's certainly spirited. The songwriting continues to be derivative --- this one moreso. 1965, the year this was released, seems to be way too late to still be making Chuck Berry inspired rock tunes. That's painfully obvious!

Nothin' But the World Can Stop Me Worrying From That Girl 8.5/10

Ray's taking-on light ballads, and he's proving that'll end up being one of his main strengths. The songwriting is awfully simple, but it's rather engaging. The arrangements are rather simplistic, and maybe that's all it needed, but it seemed like this could have been polished more. (Again, this group is still working out some kinks. They're going to get better!!)

Naggin' Woman 5.5/10

Dave takes on the vocals with this standard blues rocker, and all he ends up doing is convincing me that he shouldn't sing vocals anymore. That's the most annoying voice on this freaking planet --- as he's singing it. The instrumentals are boring, but at least they're not misguided.

Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight 6.5/10

It's painfully simple, but you can really detect some of their early developments here. Notice the chord progressions in the middle of the song --- yes! Good old Ray's starting to really start becoming his own man. Not quite though. These choppy chords that bookmark the track are really horrible, and not enough care was taken for the instrumentation.

Tired of Waiting For You 9.5/10

Here we go! This is a good piece of songwriting. It's not perfect, but can you hear this great, complex melody? The song is structured remarkably well with even a bit of creativity in the instrumentation. (Though it didn't seem like Ray had the disposal of all the studio equipment and session musicians that he might have liked.) Those guitar tones that open and close the song are a bit reminiscent of "You Really Got Me," and they lend this track an interesting feel. The middle completely deviates from this idea and he actually gets rather sensitive. This is such a lovely song!!

Dancing in the Street 7/10

As long as they're going to do a cover, it had might as well be one of my favorite Motown classics!!! It's hardly worth anything compared to the Martha & the Vandellas original, but it's always fun to hear it performed. Ray's vocals are too sleepy for it (and he doesn't appear to be trying). David Bowie's and Mick Jagger's version is better --- I'll let you interpret that statement on your own!

Don't Ever Change 7.5/10

This is an OK Beatles-esque pop rocker except Davies' lyrics get awfully jumbled up. The melody is very simple and the instrumentation is standard. This isn't his finest piece of work, but it's passable.

Come On Now 6/10

Here is a rather boring pop rocker! The songwriting is so simple that I would probably suspect that Ray wrote this in about half an hour! Well, it's not that enjoyable anyway... Its only blessing is that it's less than two minutes long.

So Long 8.5/10

Now, Davies is back to his ballads. Yes, that is clearly where this guy's strength lies. This is a pretty song. It's quite simple but it's pleasant and sounds genuine. Compare Ray's vocal performance here compared to that lackluster cover of "Dancing in the Street." He believes that ballads are his strength, too.

You Shouldn't Be Sad 6/10

This is another rather boring pop-rocker. I guess Ray's songwriting skills were still pretty marginal at this point (which is why this really isn't a recommended album altogether). The melody is quite barren, and the instrumentation is very simplistic for the genre. It's perfectly listenable but not too likable.

Something Better Beginning 9/10

They definitely end this album with quite a song, the eerily appropriate title "Something Better Beginning." This original composition also points to the songwriting glory this band would be responsible for in a few short years. The melody is fairy catchy and the instrumentation is getting a little better. Ray's vocal performance is stronger and more convincing. This is a little too tied up in '50s rock based on what I hear from the structure, but it's also likable and engaging.

BONUS TRACKS

"Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" is an average pop-rocker that's has a bit of an edge about it that makes it quite a bit more entertaining than some of them that appeared on the regular album. It's played at a fast, almost menacing speed. The songwriting isn't spectacular, but this is well enough to get my attention!

"Who'll Be the Next in Line" is kind of interesting. It seems like Ray has one foot into his derivative influences, but there's something startlingly original about it. At the same time, this comes across as rather bland. Even if it's a bit bland, it's original!

"Set Me Free" has a hard-rock riff that starts to sound like "You Really Got Me" except Ray writes a nice, Beatles-esque chord progression that tales it to nice depths. This is really just another Beatles knock-off, but you get the sense that he's really enjoying the sandbox of songwriting here!! (His falsetto vocals weren't such a good idea though.) But hey, this isn't just a good song --- it's entertaining!

OK, here's the official "You Really Got Me" clone. It's not quite to that level but it's close. "I Need You" has a nice hard rock riff! The funny thing about this track is that the riff isn't the catchiest thing about it --- the vocal melody is much catchier. Very nice --- and this is another point where you can sense the Ray Davies we all know from Arthur!

"See My Friends" is freaking fantastic! This is also by far the album's most original composition. I don't think they're using a sitar, but they're sure trying to emulate that sound with some sort of instrument. This fits 1965 (and even a bit later) perfectly with that era's foray into more complex, otherworldy music. The melody is unique and catchy --- it's not too far away from a Rubber Soul era Beatles song. Very good.

After hearing those previous tracks, it's a bit difficult slipping back into their pleasant mediocrity! "Never Met a Girl Like You" is a perfectly nice, and upbeat early Beatles clone. The melody is catchy. It's a bit simpler, but this is easily better than many of the like-tracks that appeared on the regular album. ... It's weird that these bonus tracks are more enjoyable than the actual albums.

"Wait Till Summer Comes Around" is a bit of folk-rock. It surprises me that Dave Davies is credited with the songwriting for this one --- perhaps he had good songwriting skills even though his brother certainly wrote all the great classics. The instrumentation fits the genre and so does the melody. It's catchy and pleasant... Very good.

"Such a Shame" is a solid composition. This one also shows a bit of maturity and originality in their songwriting. It's also a weaker version of something that would appear on their classic albums. The melody isn't that catchy, but it's strikingly solid. The instrumentation is a little more interesting than the group did previously, and you have to love how they structure the song. Yes, this is undeniably a Kinks song!!!

And another interesting early Kinks track is another startlingly original "Well Respected Man." The melody is a tad too much repeated, and the group will only get better at this sort of exciting new song. (This would later be rewritten as the much better "Dedicated Follower of Fashion.") The one thing that might strike you differently about this one is its lyrics --- it's a profile about a person. This group would eventually specialize in that.

"Don't You Fret" is a heavily interesting composition but misfired. It's nice to see Davies sounding so excited about experimenting with his songwriting, again. He's really enjoying himself, and that's never been so obvious here. The melody is OK though a bit too simple. The middle and the end when he strums his guitar a little too fast in a peculiar instrumental build-up was a really weird idea...

And the bonus tracks just get more interesting. I consider "I Go to Sleep" interesting even though it's just a demo. It consists only of Ray singing amidst a rather classically performed piano. The melody is pleasant and Ray's performance is engaging and sweet. This would be worth a full orchestra ensemble, but I guess they were going to go onto different things!


The Kink Kontroversy (1966)

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The Kink Kontroversy

Milkcow Blues 9/10

Easily the best Dave Davies vocal performance to date is on the vicious cover of "Milk Cow Blues." This is a great rock song that's only out-matched by the Rolling Stones in furiosity. Naturally, the riff is wonderful, and they match it by some top-notch electric guitar This is wonderful to hear from them, because their covers have been pretty shoddy up until now. Oh, but this is the only cover on the album! Oh, how they can tease.....

Ring the Bells 8/10

Ray is really blossoming as a songwriter with the ballad "Ring the Bell," but it's pretty clear he still had quite a bit of room to advance. The melody is unique and distinct to this group, but the track isn't exciting or beautiful. You sort of listen to it while bobbing your head and that's it. Not a bad thing --- I've bobbed my head to worse songs.

Gotta Get the First Plane Home 6.5/10

Back to the old school rock. Songs like "Gotta Get the First Plane Home" are what keeps this album from achieving a high score (in my book)! The riff is not original whatsoever, and they don't necessarily make great use of it. This isn't that fun, either. The instrumentals are pretty shoddy --- that's a shame.

When I See That Girl of Mine 8/10

"When I See That Girl of Mine" is an old-school rocker, but it's very fun. The melody is catchier than anything, and you can tap your foot to it most agreeably. It's nice to hear them making such pleasant send-ups of the Beatles. Not better than the Beatles, but few things ever are...

I am Free 7.5/10

Definitely a welcome track written by good old Dave, "I Am Free." It's weird to hear him write a song in more of the new, more unique Kinks style. It's clear that Ray is the better songwriter, but --- well, Dave has talent also. His vocal performance is fine here although you don't hear it too clearly in the mix. The pacing is rather dreary, but the melody is good.

Till the End of the Day 8.5/10

One of the more solid rockers on the album, "Till the End of the Day" is a bit reminiscent of their old "You Really Got Me." The melody is pretty catchy, and I like the instrumentation. The spirit is genuine, and so it's a great rock track.

The World Keeps Going Round 8/10

This sounds like the Yardbirds' "Shape of Things" except not quite as good. This is a thundering track (and fairly lethargic), but at least the melody is catchy. The instrumentation is all right, and quite heavy.

I'm on an Island 9.5/10

What a nice song! Musically, it's based on a simple idea and chord progression, but it's hella catchy. The nice instrumentation consists of simple guitars, drum beat and some very good piano. This points a direct finger at their more music hall future. Solid songwriting.

Where Have All the Good Times Gone 9.5/10

Davies does a bit of a Dylan impression with the otherwise anthemic rocker "Where Have All the Good Times Gone." The melody is great and the instrumentation fits the mood perfectly! This is one of their huge classics --- and for good reason too. These guys can really rock when they want to.

It's too Late 7/10

Eh, back to the so-so songwriting. "It's Too Late" is a mid-tempoed old-school rocker that it's difficult to care about since the Kinks seem to give it average effort here. Ray's original melody is solid, but not too memorable. The sloppy instrumentals destroy much of the potential it had, any-dang-way. This is a bit of a bummer after the previous track...

What's in Store for Me 8/10

A more upbeat old-school rocker "What's in Store For Me" features Dave on lead vocals. He's much easier to hear than he was on the previous Kinks albums --- in fact, he's almost great-sounding. Again, the melody is catchy, but not their best. The instrumentation is a bit tighter, and I like the crunchy guitars.

You Can't Win 8/10

For the ending of an album, "You Can't Win" is a weak whimper, but at least it has a good swing to it! It's middle-of-the-road and fairly catchy (though quite simple). The instrumentation is quite solid and clear, so no major criticisms there.

BONUS TRACKS

Even though this doesn't have quite the elaborate set of bonus tracks as their two previous albums, The Kinks still manage to save the best for the bonus tracks ... "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" is a brilliant old song. It's certainly done in their Brit-pop style with a splash of gospel thrown in for good measure. It's these sort of unique ideas that gives the Kinks their good name. This is easily the best-written melody of the whole lot --- and when they have great melodies, you can bet they're GREAT. Ray's performance is definitely unique. He sings it as if he were playing an aristocrat in a British musical. This one of the group's finest songs ever.

"Sittin' On My Sofa" is an old-school rocker --- and it's not a bad one. It's a bit of a drag to hear after that wonderful, exciting "Dedicated," but --- this manages to sound pretty fresh. The riff is catchy, and so is the melody. Quite nice....

Here's a demo version for "When I See That Girl of Mine." As you can expect, this version sounds more stripped down and rawer. The original version is definitely better....

And now another version of "Dedicated Follower of Fashion." The versions aren't too different, except they really overdid the stereo. Ray's singing in my right ear and all the instrumentation is in my left. Pretty annoying for headphones...

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Face to Face (1966)

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Face to Face

Party Line 9.5/10

Telephone! ... And an old-school one at that. Oh wait, it's just a Kinks song. "Party Line" is an upbeat and poppy track. It seems Beatles-esque, but there's something distinctly Kinksian about it. Yes, my friends. 1966 was the beginning of the Era of Kinks. They dance to the beat of their own music. This is a lovely, upbeat song and an excellent one to start the album. The melody is catchy and the instrumentation is solid (just the usual rock band combo), and absolutely splendid.

Rosie Won't You Please Come Home 10/10

This is a real classic. It's an extremely tuneful, mid-tempoed rocker that not employs the usual rock 'n' roll instruments, but also a clavinet (sort of a new thing in 1966). Naturally, the important thing is that the track is catchy, and it's infectious.

Dandy 9/10

And here is an upbeat pop rocker, and it's another enormously tuneful track. The melody isn't quite as infectious as the previous tracks although you have to enjoy Ray's fantastic chord progressions. They're quite rich!

Too Much on My Mind 8/10

This is a ballad that even more predominantly features the clavinet (or some such olde keyboard instrument)! The melody is fantastic although it wasn't enough to be truly engaging. This is a nice song to sit back and soak up, and that's just what I'm gonna do.

Session Man 9.5/10

A huge clavinet frenzy begins "Session Man" --- you'd wonder what the poor record producer thought of it. After that a bit of a heavier pop rocker pipes up, and Ray sings about a musician! The melody is wonderful and entirely catchy. I love his chord progressions! (Yeah, he was thinking quite deeply about them, because he uses that term in the lyrics.) Brilliance.

Rainy Day in June 9.5/10

A thunder sound effect begins "Rainy Day in June." What ensues is one of the more interesting tracks of the album although it's not my favorite. The instrumentation consists of an ominously strummed acoustic guitar and a pounding drum (that sounds like it's playing a death march or something). I like the melody! The section when Ray almost turns this into a gospel song (and he sings "Everybody felt the rain") is the best part!!

A House in the Country 9/10

Here is a good upbeat rocker--- He takes a bit from the old school Chuck Berry ways from their early days, but this has a distinct Kinks sound. Ray has such a personality that he's able to project out ... excellent. This is why the Kinks are so awesome.

Holiday in Wakiki 8/10

Some watery sound effects begin "Holiday in Wakiki" and then another upbeat pop rocker pipes up. This one doesn't seem that great to me --- the instrumentation is a bit murkier, and the melody it's too infectious. I like the attempt to bring some Hawaiian ideas to the pop rock although it was too little and not enough...

Most Exclusive Residence For Sale 8/10

Nobody can claim these melodies aren't good! Although, "Most Exclusive Residence For Sale" isn't the best one on the album. I feel so spoiled in respect to just having come off listening to Kinks Kontroversy, because I'm quite spoiled now! I like this track, but it's not the best of the album. Hah!

Fancy 7/10

What's next is the acoustic "Fancy" in which Ray seems to go mystical. It's a nice enough idea although the execution was a little dull. Just because the Beatles were doing it doesn't mean that you have to! Well, it's listenable at least. The melody is OK, but it's the album's least catchy tune. Such a high standard we must put them!

Little Miss Queen of Darkness 7/10

Here is a little bit of tropicana music. It's not too bad, although Ray certainly comes off better when he's doing his proto-Brit-pop thing. It's nice for him to write in different styles of music, but it doesn't come off so unique and personal. The drum solo in the middle gives me the impression that they weren't enormously sure about this thing themselves...

You're Lookin' Fine 7.5/10

It begins with a Peter Gunn riff --- it's a nice riff but it's a pretty famous one, so I don't think anyone would think that he originated it. Oh well... They use it nicely enough, and Dave treats us to his vocals here.

Sunny Afternoon 10/10

Yay!!! The album was sagging a bit there, but they pick it back up righteously with "Sunny Afternoon." This mid-tempoed ballad not only has a catchy melody, but it has a wholly unique instrumentation. There's a little splash of Americana influence --- instrumentation even consists of some accordion and ragtime piano in addition to the usual rock combo. This is the signature Kinks style in all its glory --- right here.

I'll Remember 8/10

This is more of a rocker and sort of a weak track to end the album with, frankly. Nonetheless, it's entertaining and tuneful, and I like the riff. This is another track that seems like the production was a tad murky, but not enough to ruin the experience at all.

Bonus tracks:

(Warning: These track reviews were written in 2003 and the rest of the review was written in 2007. For some reason, I don't have the version of the album with bonus tracks anymore! Also, these scores are not tallied in the score.)

I'm Not Like Everybody Else 9/10

Dave sings lead vocals on this one ... and it's as good or better as practically anything on the album! I'm thinking ... it would fit well with the concept, so why wasn't it included in favor of some of those early-60's throwbacks? (It must have been a British single!) The melody is very good and the song was well executed.

Dead End Street 9.5/10

Wow! This one really rivals the best songs on the actual album! And, again, it fits perfectly well with the concept! Yet, it wasn't included. Man! Screw that! But it's good that they added it as a bonus.

Big Black Smoke 9/10

There are some "bells" sound effects on this one. Yet, another track that would have fit perfectly with the concept and greatly benefited the actual album ... I guess that's why I'm including these bonus tracks in the running. The end is perhaps too flooded, but it was a good song!

Mister Pleasant 10/10

More utterly worthy bonus tracks! This one even beats "Rosie" in its pure and utter catchiness. (Though, it doesn't have that appealing "frustrated" quality that I found so endearing.) It's fully equipped with impressive key changes and very good, sort of Ragtime-esque, instrumentals. If I were to include bonus tracks, this would be my favorite track of the album. They should have released the album with this song on it, too. Definitely.

This is Where I Belong 8/10

Ah... here's one that I don't care if they included in the original LP or not. It kind of drones on with nothing particularly interesting to utter. But I can't see any reason to give it anything less than an 8. It was well performed, and I do recognize a good melody.

Mr. Reporter 8.5/10

Again, this track would have been a welcome addition to the album! What's wrong with everybody? Why can't singles be in albums? Hmmm...? The Americans did it! It's one of the few things they ever did right! (Oh shut up... I'm an American and I can say anything I like about it.) I suspect that this was a B-side because it's not awe-inducingly impressive.

Little Women 9/10

Oh man ... that has got to be the most boring movie/book on the face of this PLANET. Screw you, Ms. Alcott! This is a dated instrumental. It's perfectly pleasant ... but who wants to listen to dated instrumentals with a lot of floots? Oh ... I like instrumentals, so I give it a nine.

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Something Else (1967)

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Something Else

David Watts 10/10

This is a peculiar song with somewhat droning tones, but it's unique and infectious. It's one of those great songs that you love even though it's hard to know why --- it's so different from everything else you're used to hearing. Even if you're listening to this on the point-of-view by somebody living in the '00s. It's strange. The production is thick and perfect --- similarly, the arrangements are great. Really, this song is just a piano, bass guitar, drums and vocals, but they're combined to create something unique (along with Ray's brilliantly simple chord progressions). Very creative.

Death of a Clown 10/10

Nice thing that they're getting more usual with "Death of a Clown," which is a beautiful little ballad. This melody is wonderful, and it's a nice surprise to learn that it's one of Dave Davies' songs. It's just perfect --- and I'm more surprised that rock bands don't cover this more often! Maybe it's just too perfect for them. They don't do anything fancy, but they sure know how to combine these simple elements to create something unique. That music hall piano plays while the acoustic guitar strums away and a bouncy drummer does his thing... Probably the most characteristic aspect about the instrumentation is this gorgeous falsetto voice in the background. Yeah, this song is great. You'll just have to hear it for yourself!

Two Sisters 9.5/10

How can Ray Davies have so many hopelessly catchy melodies in his system? "Two Sisters" doesn't even sound like it was designed to be a highlight or hit single or anything, but I absolutely love it. It's pretty simple and not as fundamentally unique as the previous two tracks. It begins with a clavinet and it slowly gains some more rocking instrumentals until the end when this beautiful violin begins to play in the background. Despite the simplicity in the melody and chord progression (which are excellent) this track has perfect development. This one is so easy to take to heart... And Ray seems like he did it without really trying. I guess that makes him more intriguing as a songwriter........

No Return 8/10

This track seems to give a lot of critics grief. It's just a simple old melody and bossa nova instrumentation. Ray was trying so hard to be unique and glorious in other tracks, and this one seems pretty tossed-off. It's not sloppy, mind you, and at least Ray delivers a nice and careful vocal performance. I honestly have no beef with this. Yeah, I wish that Ray would have come up with something a little more original, but --- let's not get spoiled here. If I heard this on a Madonna record, it would be a delightful surprise! (Though perplexing why Madonna's sounding like a man though that'd be less surprising.)

Harry Rag 9/10

This is a bouncy tune with a militaristic beat that's enjoyable to hear. The melody is extremely catchy ... and Ray's love for old-style Vaudevillian tunes was never so evident here. This sounds like an old-style tune set to more modern instrumentation. This is very entertaining!!!

Tin Soldier Man 8.5/10

Similarly, "Tin Soldier Man" sounds like a bouncy Vaudevillian song. The melody is extremely catchy and it's stuctured like an old-style tun. The instrumentation consists of a piano lightly pounding in the background and some usual drums. Goofy tubas, light-hearted trumpet sections deliver their input.

Situation Vacant 9/10

This turns out to be one of the album's more signature tunes. Though that's hard to say considering this album is book-ended by "David Watts" and "Waterloo Sunset." This track has plenty of interesting musical ideas that makes this so unique. A chorus that doesn't seem to fit the verses, but it manages to work perfectly. My biggest complaint is the end, which does this weird fade-in and fade-out thing.

Love Me Till the Sun Shines 8/10

"Love Me Till the Sun Shines" never struck me as much of an achievement. Unfortunately, this sounds a bit too much like a product of 1967 instead of those previous pandering homages to dusty old Vaudevillian recordings. Plus, this doesn't seem very inspired. The melody sounds like a lesser Bob Dylan song ... the fact that Dave's scratchy vocals take the lead doesn't do it any favors. (That said, he's not a bad singer --- he sounds great whenever he has the right material.) Needless to say, this isn't a highlight.

Lazy Old Sun 8.5/10

What an enormously unusual song, and it's a little bit droney to be honest. The song structure is definitely unique, and you have to fall in love with that bending cello that you hear at the very beginning. That trumpet chimes in at a perfect time but it turns out to be rather anti-climactic... Well, this is interesting, and I still like it. It's extremely original, but it might have been better if the melody were a tad more catchy.

Afternoon Tea 9/10

This one is a funny old song. The melody is catchy but unsettling in a way similar to how "David Watts" was unsettling. You'd wonder if the Kinks were only acting like grown-ups ... this is certainly not your average songwriting. The instrumentation sounds a lot like rock 'n' roll (even featuring a very quiet guitar playing some Chuck Berry-esque lines). Not so much infectious, but it's weird and I like it.

Funny Face 8/10

Well, it doesn't get funnier than "Funny Face." I mean, it's strange and I'm not too sure Ray can hide behind this shroud of creativity that he'd been so successful in doing. Well, he's enjoying this sandbox of creativity. The song structure is weird ... it transforms back and forth between a choppy, rocking section and an echoing choral bit. Not that it wasn't bold of him, but this track doesn't seem like he actually had his soul invested in it. Well, it's not unlistenable or anything.

End of the Season 9.5/10

It's time to end this album with a bang, at least. The penultimate "End of the Season" is a gorgeous tune done in an old 20s jazz style --- yet it's so characteristically the Kinks that it's actually in a style that's never been heard before. Ray's singing has a bit of reverb, and it hasn't ever sounded this beautiful. This is one of those perplexedly gorgeous songs that makes listening to Kinks albums so eternally rewarding.

Waterloo Sunset 10/10

But you haven't really heard any perplexedly gorgeous tunes until you've heard "Waterloo Sunset." Not only is the melody perfect, but Davies has a nice idea to inject some convincing Beach Boys vocal harmonies in this. This is absolutely beautiful and intoxicating. Who can't immediately fall in love with the Kinks after hearing this??? ... Well, I guess I couldn't. I bought this somewhere around 2002 and I honestly didn't think much of this song at first. I changed my mind of course! ... What a pretty ending for an album! Let's listen to it again!! ... Or maybe I should go do something else. OK.

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The Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

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The Village Green Preservation Society

Village Green Preservation Society 10/10

And the festivities begin with this wonderfully tuneful track. It's a mid-tempoed rocker and doesn't try to do anything else but be charming and awesome. Its melody certainly ranks as one of the group's finest --- it's just so good that it manages to generate a life of its own! Seriously, these are some wicked pop hooks. The instrumentation is also solid and absolutely perfect. It's neither over-the-top nor under-produced. There's absolutely nothing I would have done differently.

Do You Remember Walter 9.5/10

They let up but only slightly. This track is a slightly more passionate and longing. They nail that mood! The instrumentation is a little less straight-ahead, predominantly featuring some pounding piano chords. Also, there's a strange sounding organ you hear very lightly in the background --- that was an inspired touch. Most importantly is the melody, which is absolutely solid. Excellent!

Picture Book 10/10

This awesome song is another personal favorite. There was a commercial once that featured this song, and it was the greatest commercial ever. It's nice to see that there's somebody in the advertising agency with taste in music. Though that's pretty rare... This song is pretty close to regular British Invasion music in style. It's an upbeat pop-rocker, but it's tight and utterly catchy. The melody is complex and wonderful enough to be distinctly Kinksian.

Johnny Thunder 9/10

They're still not letting up with the pure goodness in "Johnny Thunder." The melody is wonderful but not when you put it next to the three previous songs. Thankfully, the instrumentation is complex and solid, and it's nothing if it doesn't sound fresh.

Last of the Steam Powered Trains 9.5/10

It sounds like they're making a bow toward Bob Dylan with this more straight-ahead rock offering with the heavy use of the harmonica. Then again, they could be honoring The Rolling Stones. Well.... this is a distinct Kinks tune at any rate except this is a mid-tempoed bit of riff rock. The melody, again, is hopelessly catchy, and this is a lot of fun. I like how it gradually picks up a different groove in the middle --- making it seem like a train picking up!

Big Sky 8/10

"Big Sky" is an interesting song and it unfortunately doesn't pick up the same steam and debris as the previous tracks. But I guess everything needs some time to rest and settle! The structure of this song is unusual. I'd classify it as a pop-rocker, but it's not usual... The problem with it is that the melody isn't that catchy. The only thing that's memorable is that pseudo-classical "riff" that the harpsichord plays while Ray speaks his lyrics. And that's not even so great. But is it listenable? ... Certainly.

Sitting By the Riverside 9.5/10

Here is perfect music for, um, sitting by the riverside. It's a nice, laid back song with a fast enough of a tempo to keep it from growing dull. Ray adapts to some French pop music undertones with this one and combines it with his distinct Kinkian style. I like his creepy horror music build-up around the two-minute mark. This guy is awesome.

Animal Farm 9.5/10

I remember that "Animal Farm" initially interested me the most when I first got this album, because I was such a fan of Orwell's book (which was an opinion that made me differ from my high school classmates --- and even the teacher). I quickly found out that the lyrics had nothing to do with the book, but it didn't matter. What I got instead was an excellent song with a remarkably catchy and unusual melody.

Village Green 9.5/10

This was another one of my early favorites from the album. I put it on one of my first mix CDs, so listening to this song seems like revisiting an old friend. For some reason, I love it when Ray uses a clavinet (or something) and rocks out with some severe Baroque classical music leanings. He brings in a pretty woodwind instrument to add to that Baroque feel. Most importantly, the melody is catchier than anything.

Starstruck 10/10

"Starstruck" is an upbeat pop-rocker whose status I want to elevate as one of the best on the album. This song is rather Beatles-esque, but Ray proves that he can write music with the best of them! This is solid and wonderful.

Phenomenal Cat 9.5/10

Some old-style cinematic flutes begin "Phenomenal Cat," but it isn't long before a pop tune starts. This song is hardly usual, however --- there's no major backing drums. Someone sounds like he's smacking on a paper bag to create a beat. Also, they have a weird idea to have a back up singer that sounds 'impish.' But as usual, this is a catchy song --- that combined with the fact that it's a bit peculiar means that this is another classic.

All of My Friends Were There 9/10

A bit of music-hall. The first part is bouncy and the second part is smooth and almost ballad-like. The melody is very good though honestly not one of the album's best. Naturally, it's a lot of fun!!

Wicked Annabella 9.5/10

They're using the bass guitar as a primary instrument, which seems like a take-off of The Who's "Boris the Spider." Naturally, this is a darker song, but Ray seems to be trying to take it as lightly as possible. Perhaps that's a disappointment for people who wanted him to go deathcore, but there you go... I like the sound of this one, it's more unique than most of the other songs (which in themselves were pretty unique), and it turns out to be one of the album's most distinctive and memorable songs. No need to mention that the melody is tops... because that's implied.

Monica 9.5/10

Here is an entirely pleasant pop song that's half-inspired by tropicana. Unlike the bossa nova "No Return" from their previous album, this one seems like an utterly distinct song that was completely thought through. Combine that with another fantastic melody, and you have an instant classic!!!

People Take Pictures of Each Other 9.5/10

And it's over. "People Take Pictures of Each Other" strikes a resemblance to "David Watts" from their previous album. It has about the same people, some funny chanting, and its feel is pretty menacing and droning. It's not quite as brilliant, but it's still a lot of fun. The melody is so catchy and this is done so well that it's hardly worth complaining that they tried this sort of song before...

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Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire (1969)

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Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire

Victoria 10/10

I've listened to this album so much that I don't even have to listen to these tracks as I'm writing the reviews! Oh well, I guess I had better, anyway. This song is a relatively heavy rocker, which is nice to hear since this band invented hard rock. Still, it seems wimpy considering Led Zeppelin already released their first album! The melody is utterly catchy, and so is that excellent riff. The instrumentation is utterly crisp and clean, and they effortlessly incorporate other elements such as a horn section and some excited screaming (thanks, Dave). I have many fond memories singing this song at the top of my lungs while trying to drive on a hot summer through heavy traffic...

Yes Sir, No Sir 9.5/10

Less significant it seems, but the song still manages to be quite excellent. The first part is a mid-tempoed track with some heavy drums and excellent guitar licks strewn throughout. They suddenly jump to more of a music hall song --- giving it a bit of the Kinks' signature! Because, you know, it wouldn't be The Kinks if it didn't sound thoroughly British. Well, the melodies are utterly catchy, so it has my wholehearted support!

Some Mother's Son 9/10

This is a slower and more dreary song, but the wickedly catchy melody is what makes it especially great. This is also fairly unique ... yeah, these guys were true originals! I also like the orchestration --- it seems a little choppy at first, but I also can't think how they would have done this any better!

Drivin' 8.5/10

This was never my favorite song from the album, but I also have to appreciate how well-done it was. Like the previous track, it's quite unusual, and it does have an effective melody. It's not that catchy and it's rather dreary, but it does have a funny, drunken chorus. This isn't one of the best moments of the album, but that's ... like ... pointing out the worst Seinfeld episode.

Brainwashed 9.5/10

This has always been one of my favs. This is an actual rock song for once with real guitar riffs, wailing rock 'n' roll performances and ... um ... even some Blood, Sweat and Tears horn sections. This is extremely enjoyable!! My only complaint is that it's not long enough...

Australia 9.5/10

Another one of my early favorites. They're pointing to the Beach Boys here while still giving it that distinct Kinks flavor that has all the girls going wild... The melody is wonderful, as usual! I especially like how this song develops ... this thing goes through so many different discourses that it's a blast! There are parts sounding like regular pop rock, ballads, novelty-rock and there's even a rock jam at the end. (OK, the rock jam is a little too long albeit fun, but that's not damning enough for it to destroy its credibility.) So, let's give "Australia" some love...

Shangri-La 10/10

The Kinks have been responsible for plenty of utterly gorgeous songs, and this is another one of them. The melody is among the finest that Ray Davies was ever responsible for (and another reason he's considered one of the 20th Century's greatest songwriters if he didn't already convince people of that). This song is pure greatness! The orchestration is also excellent --- it starts out as a heartfelt ballad of sorts with simply an acoustic guitar and a few other instruments subtly brought in. The melody here is just heart melting. He gracefully brings in a more thundering chorus, and eventually to a more rock 'n' roll oriented section at the end. I'd like to go out and say that this is one of the best songs ever written.

Mr. Churchill Says 9.5/10

Dang!! They never let up, do they? This is rather like the previous song except not as well written! Well, it's still great. It starts out as a slower, ballad-type song. But it picks up steam and ends as more pop-rock oriented. They bridge these two sections with an air-raid warning sound effect, which serves its purpose both musically and lyrically... Well, I certainly have no problem with that!

She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina 9/10

Back to that wonderful old music hall stuff. It starts out as an old-timey ballad with some piano and clavinet. Very slowly a drum beat begins to play... The final half consists of a more upbeat, novelty Vaudevillian song that comes fully intact with bike horns and kazoos. Yeah, they were having fun.

Young and Innocent Days 9.5/10

Here is a pretty ballad with not only an utterly heart melting melody but perfect instrumentation. I'll tell ya, I never get tired of hearing that clavinet... This song also has perfect development. It starts out slowly but picks up momentum toward the end, and they gracefully end it with a charming coda from an acoustic guitar. Sweetness.

Nothing to Say 9.5/10

This and the following song point to the Americana/country flavoring that obviously was interesting these guys enough to embark on the genres full-time with the release of Muswell Hillbillies two years afterwards. This is tremendously upbeat and enjoyable... and has a much more epic feel than the following song. The chorus is utterly splendid, and I like the slide guitar!

Arthur 10/10

Less epic than the previous track, but this one's much more memorable in my opinion. The melody is utterly infectious, and the upbeat instrumentation keeps the experience snappy. Again, this is a country-esque song, and it proves these guys had as much of a knack for that genre as they did for anything!

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Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1 (1970)

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Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1

The Contenders A-

The first few seconds of this is a well-constructed ‘20s bluegrass/folk ditty. It’s entirely derivative, but that seems rather like the point. Anyway, it’s probably better than most of the songs from the era! After that, it turns into a rootsy hard rock song with heavy electric guitars, harmonica and a bluesy chord progression. You know the drill. It’s quite fun.

Strangers B-

Just the general uninspiredness of it is the main drawback. The melody is fine, though I can’t admit to being a huge fan of it. The instrumentation is OK though a bit “clunky.” Sloppiness is no sin, but it’s just unorderly and it seemed like it would have benefited with just a little bit of elbow grease. Furthermore, a lack of creativity in general just makes it that much more uninteresting. (This one’s by Dave.)

Denmark Street B

Very much like one of their old-timey music hall ditties that might have appeared on Village Green! The melody is alright, but it honestly feels pretty far away from Davies’ illustrious past. Ah, he can’t remain on top forever I guess. This song’s quite alright, anyway.

Get Back in Line A

MUCH better and more up to Davies’ high standard. This track has a very catchy melody that legitimately could have appeared on any of their previous albums! The lyrics aren’t happy, but the melody is sweet, and it has a nice, melancholic atmosphere to it. That mute guitar (or whatever) was a great idea.

Lola A+

Needless to say, the majority of the general public believe this and “You Really Got Me” are the only song The Kinks have ever done (unless you grew up in the ‘80s and heard “Come Dancing” on the radio). Well, it’s a good song, and that’s that. I don’t need to tell you anything about it, do I?

Top of the Pops B-

More of a return to their garage rock roots. The problem with that was their garage rock roots sucked! … Oh well. Actually the song isn’t so bad as long as you’re willing to accept that it’s a parody and like it for that. The lyrics center around a band making it to the #1 spot on the charts. (Some say that the song was actually “Lola,” which would make sense.) At least the guitars are nice and crunchy. The melody should have been catchier, though.

The Moneygoround A-

As long as you’re going to do silly, overblown parodies, you’re better off making them sound like this! More in the Kinks’ music hall Village Green style except Ray sounds more sarcastic than ever. That piano is awesome and clearly overplayed (as a joke)… the texture it left behind was interesting, at least!

This Time Tomorrow B-

This isn’t bad… actually seems more like a songwriter impersonating Ray than Ray himself having written this! I know… I’m still trying to get over my disappointment in this release! It’s a nice, light-pop rocker with an OK melody. The airplane sound effects were an interesting idea though they didn’t add much to the piece musically, unfortunately.

A Long Way From Home B-

Rather lackluster like the previous song. This one’s more of a piano-led ballad, and it’s a shame that Ray couldn’t have come up with a better melody. It seems like it should have been catchier.

Rats B

Another return to their garage rock roots written by Dave Davies! However, unlike “Tops of the Pops,” this one’s not such a parody. The instrumentation is unfortunately quite a bit worse, and it’s really lacking the sort of power it could have used.

Apeman A

Here’s a great song! Why couldn’t Ray just concentrate on writing these sorts of songs?? Who the heck knows. Here is a quirky combination between the Kinks’ established Brit-pop style and tropicana. The result is very striking! The melody is catchy, and Ray’s goofy voice seems uncannily suited for it. The production seemed full and well-developed (this is especially clear when you compare it to the previous three songs).

Powerman B+

A somewhat bland though entertaining riff-rock song. Again, it seems substandard for The Kinks, but this would be fantastic for any other group from the era (like The Guess Who or The Grand Funk Railroad or something). It’s nicely performed and sadly missing that famous glimmer of creativity!

Got to Be Free A

This is the same tune they played at the very beginning of the album except the tempo is sped up quite a bit, and they incorporate some more rock ‘n’ roll instruments. The Americana dabbling was done so well that, I’d imagine, it directly inspired Ray to think about doing a whole album full of ‘em. Well good on him! This is one of the freshest sounding works on the album!

BONUS TRACKS:

Lola (mono single version)

Not sure why anyone needs this version of “Lola” too unless you’re an audiophile or something. There are probably only 12 of you in the world! (Then again, I could be wrong … I don’t get out much.)

Apeman (demo)

It’s interesting to hear if you’ve heard the album version a billion times. As expected, it’s rawer, but hardly better. You can hear the Chuck Berry influence a little clearer!

Powerman (demo)

Again, it’s not going to be a life-or-death situation if you buy the version of this album without the bonus tracks.

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Percy (1971)

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Percy

God’s Children A+

Excellent song! Through the years listening to Kinks albums, the fact that I’ve missed out on Percy means that I never heard this song before. It’s such a gem that I’ll certainly be revisiting many more times! It’s tone is very sweet and the melody is remarkably catchy. The instrumentation full of sweet pianos, violins and acoustic guitars delivers an intoxicating atmosphere … wonderful!

Lola (instrumental) B

Oh yes, “Lola” was their big radio hit of all time, and here it is in goofy instrumental form! Luckily, I’m not so attached to the original that I won’t be such a ponce and say that it devalues the integrity of the original… but I can understand how some might come to that conclusion. The melody is played with a light-hearted organ… played in a Booker T. and the MGs style. The rest of the instrumentation is well done with an evolving texture and even a nice guitar solo to keep things interesting.

The Way Love Used To Be B+

A singing track! It’s a rather pretty ballad with thick string arrangements and Ray delivering a pretty vocal melody. It’s a tad on the boring side, but this one can really grow on you. It’s two minutes worth of Ray’s charm, and that’s awesome!

Completely C+

Ooooooo… this is where it gets difficult to listen to. A very sluggish R&B tune that would be written off as a too-ordinary knock-off if it wasn’t for the earnestly played guitar soloing and harmonicas. Those really save the day.

Running Around Town B

A one-minute ditty presumably meant as a mood-setter. I’ve listened to a number of soundtracks, and as far as one-minute mood setting songs, this is surprisingly very good. The groove at the beginning is pretty catchy and has a great build-up… and then at the very end, it gracefully metamorphoses into a briefly gorgeous ballad.

Moments A+

This takes it: Every Kinks fan should scout out this album. This sung song is too good to pass up! Ray writes a remarkably pretty melody. A keyboard and picked electric guitar keeps you hypnotized and the atmosphere interesting, and his use of those strings are utterly gorgeous.

Animals in the Zoo B

Ray’s also singing in this track, which sounds a bit like “Apeman” from Lola except it’s not quite as interesting. The tropical feel to it is still there, and Ray’s goofy vocals are always fun in this context.

Just Friends B+

This is pretty nice! Sort of an exercise in Bachian baroque music with its violins and harpsichords. But then Ray, being who he is, sings very sarcastic lyrics toward a girl. Funny.

Whip Lady C+

Interesting images flash into mind when I think of a “whip lady.” Not S&M mind you… more like some old woman that sells whips to archaeologists or something. This is one of the more insubstantial tracks of the album. It’s a very brief instrumental that starts up rather twinkly and then becomes a more thunderous piece. It’s not horrible to listen to, but it’s vastly unmemorable. (No fault of them considering it’s a soundtrack.)

Dreams B-

Another nice vocal track! It’s nothing extremely distinctive in the album, but it’s genuinely fun to hear. The song has interesting development, but some of the slower sections weren’t that interesting. Ray didn’t seem too inspired here, but this is still good.

Helga B-

A laid-back instrumental. What sounds like a mandolin is playing in the background and a somewhat lazily played acoustic guitar delivers the melody. You can hear Ray singing the melody using “bum-bum-bum” in the background… I’m halfway wondering if he realized he was doing that. I’m sure he was…. The ending was weak.

Willesden Green C

Here is a country-western song, but the melody and instrumentation don’t do much for me. It’s nothing different from the usual types of music we hear… apart from a goofy vocal performance. (It’s not Ray singing it … I don’t think.)

God’s Children (The End) B+

A thirty second instrumental. Cool.

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Muswell Hillbillies (1971)

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Muswell Hillbillies

20th Century Man A+

Things are off to a great start with this bouncy Americana song… Somehow, he managed to make this last six minutes and have more than enough ideas to fill it up. It’s also clear he seemed refreshed with this new take in his music… well, at least since Lola was so confused. The instrumentals are utterly impeccable and the melody is catchier than anything! This is better than any Eagles song I heard; that’s for sure!!

Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues A

A very playful jazzy tune… it sounds like the music we hear in the movies whenever there’s a New Orleans funeral. That’s probably where Ray picked it up, too! Those jazzy trumpets are rampant, tubas, a ukulele (perhaps), and a honky-tonk styled piano… The melody is remarkably catchy, and the lyrics are pretty dang humorous!

Holiday A

Ray was definitely entertaining himself when he sang this. Hear him sing this like an old geezer! The melody continues to be one of those good old-timey things, though this is simpler than the rest, with the perfect instrumental accompaniment --- jazzy piano, acoustic guitar, a thoughtful piano and an accordion. A perfect thing to sit back on a lazy hot day on your porch in the South and listen to.

Skin & Bone A

They don’t even hint that they’re going to retreat! This is an old-school R&B tune, but don’t think they’re retreating back to the old days in 1964 when The Kinks sucked. The guitars are crunchy and bouncy. There’s a strictly Americana way they’re doing this rock ‘n’ roll anyway… and, after all, rock ‘n’ roll came from America! The melody is rather simple and sounds like it could have been sung by B.B. King or something.

Alcohol A+

This sounds more like British music hall than the rest of the songs and therefore fits easier with their old style. They do bring in some jazzy horns (playing a fun duet), so it still fits The Muswell Hillbillies. This is an utterly playful song with Ray singing a sarcastic song about someone’s life getting messed up by alcohol (a very personal issue for him).

Complicated Life A-

More of an interpretation of old style country music from the 1920s. As is the general theme with the whole album, this is quite a deal more entertaining and tuneful than the genuine article. Plus the electric guitar and full-sounding drums help it! The melody is good, though not quite as good as the previous tracks!

Here Come the People in Grey A-

Again, this seems paler somehow to the other tracks. The spirit isn’t quite as lively and the melody isn’t quite as catchy. But it’s such a relief to be able to listen to an album where a song as good as this would be a low-light… on any other album, it would be the belle of the ball (so to speak… sorry…). This is more of an R&B tune with low-key though crunchy guitars and various guitar solos and a harmonica playing around in stereo…

Have a Cuppa Tea A

Something as extremely British as tea should sound British! And it does!! This is done in their old music hall style, but with some overt country-western overtones. The song development is very interesting … probably one of the best of the album in those terms. The instrumentation is bold and excellent (as always) and I love the melody!

Holloway Jail A

This one starts out to be a fun blues tune with Ray singing like he means it and goofing around at the same time (if anyone can do that, it’s Ray Davies). The accompaniment at the beginning is with the acoustic guitar, but then some electric guitars, drums and a piano come in to give it body! Nice!!!

Oklahoma U.S.A. A+

Gorgeous! Despite the song title, this doesn’t sound as overtly American as the others… this is a very original song. Moody and harrowing pianos give this tune texture and melancholic beauty. Ray sings one of the most gorgeous and sad tunes, surely, of his whole career… The accordion is playing its sad notes in the background. Geez, this is pretty!!

Uncle Son A-

Arguably the weakest song of the album… though I don’t think you’ll find too many people arguing about it! This is another laid back old-style country tune. I love that mood, the tune and those lazily skilled guitar licks (hence the reason it still deserves an A-).

Muswell Hillbilly A+

Always one for theatrics, Ray closes the album with the a “conclusive” song. Upbeat Broadway musicals always end with upbeat songs like this so that we all go home happy! He did the exact same sort of thing on Arthur… not only closing it with the title track, but it enacts the same mood. Also, this is a FANTASTIC song. A memorable and bright riff opens the song and an extremely tuneful melody ensues with some country-western overtones. Excellent!

BONUS TRACKS:

Mountain Woman A

The bonus tracks almost compromise the effort since it was supposed to end with “Muswell Hillbilly” … but who can complain when they’re this good? This is an upbeat, unpretentious rock ‘n’ roll tune … as you might guess, a character sketch on some woman who lives on the mountain.

Kentucky Moon B+

You can hear Ray counting down here, which means this was probably a demo that was cut from the album. It’s easy to tell why, because this would have been the worst song on the album!! Everything about it is fine… the melody is likeable and there’s some nice bluesy licks from the guitars… but it’s all too sluggish.

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Everybody's in Show-Biz (1972)

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Everybody's in Show-Biz

PART ONE:

Here Comes Yet Another Day B+

It begins with a fun semi-Vegas, showbiz funk piece although you do get the feeling that they were just going through the motions here as opposed to delivering a genuine, spirited tune like they could have. Well, going through the motions does sound better when you have a nice melody... and this thing promises to get your fingers snapping in a most pleasantly lackluster way!

Maximum Consumption A-

There's absolutely nothing wrong with this tune, which gives us a bit of that sarcastic wit these guys are famous for. Some silly lyrics about eating a lot of stuff... Musically, the song is pretty eccentric, too. A cheapened version of the type of jazzy music that appeared on Muswell Hillbillies, but it's quite well done.

Unreal Reality A

If all else fails, you can't go wrong with an upbeat song! Give the people something they can dance to! Myself, I'm mildly sedated lying in bed, typing with a laptop on my stomach. But if I was a normal human being, I'd dance to this quite merrily. The arrangements are very simple and even somewhat sloppy (a trend with the whole album), but that just means it's more fun. Quite cool.

Hot Potatoes A-

It's funny that every time I listen to this album, the middle of the album seems more focused and appealing than the very beginning, which always strikes me as distant. Here is Ray sounding like he's enjoying himself here entirely with this jazzy call-and-response style ditty. It reminds me of a few songs he did in the previous album, but that's just a bonus!

Sitting in My Hotel A

BEAUTIFUL! Anybody who thinks Davies songwriting abilities were even a slight degree less than GREAT, I invite to kiss my posterior. On second thought, I don't want you anywhere near my posterior. This is a gorgeous ballad here with a great melody and a British sounding trumpet. This is wonderful, classic stuff!

Motorway A-

This is a cool, country-rock tune. The melody isn't that original, but I like that inventive way they worked in those classical music bits in the instrumental interlude. The hooks are catchy, and the instrumentals are wonderfully laid back. The arrangements and textures are surprisingly textured, if you dare give it a serious listen...like I don't do enough! (This is one of the most under-listened Kinks albums in my collection... obviously that should be changed.)

You Don't Know My Name B+

A skiffle song! They do like their traditional songwriting styles! Even though it might take the form of a simple skiffle song, it interestingly offers a few different textures for you to soak up (especially in the middle when it almost turns into a rock song)... It's quite fetching. It loses some points with the melody, though, which doesn't seem that special.

Supersonic Rocketship A-

I don't know what this song is supposed to be! In my original review, I called it Caribbean. In an earlier draft of this song, I called it another skiffle. Now I'm just under the impression that it's a usual Kinks Brit-pop song with all the frills mentioned above! The musicianship is wonderful, as usual, and the melody is oh-so-catchy!

Look a Little on the Sunnyside A

Another retread of the jazzy Americana from the previous album, and it expectedly sounds sloppier. But that's not old news! The lyrics are a funny jab toward his critics and fans ... and Davies wants to look on the “sunnyside” despite it all. Not a bad attitude, surely, and it's one that'll serve him well in the years to follow!

Celluloid Heroes A+

Surely, this is one of the finest songs ever pressed. It's a beautiful ballad that highlights a number of Hollywood legends... especially those who suffered because of it. The melody is gorgeous and tear-inducing! I have nothing else to say except I know you'll like it!

PART TWO:

Top of the Pops B+

Funny choice to open the live section of the album. It wasn't one of the songs from Lola that won me over, but honestly, I tend to remember this song clearer than many of the others. It's a nice arena rocker, which I suppose makes it a good choice for them to play in concert! It's a nice crunchy song with an appropriately spirited performance from Ray (well, as spirited as that guy ever gets, I guess ... also, he sounds positively drunk at the end, which apparently proves the legend that he was, indeed, very drunk during the whole tour).

Brainwashed A

A wonderful selection from Arthur and another great choice from their repertoire for the live setting. Surely, the original was tighter and featured a less-drunk-sounding Ray, but we're here to get into the sheer rock'n'roll spirit, aren't we? Yes, this is great.

Mr. Wonderful

Davies plays a brief snippet from an old timey jazz tune to produce somewhat creepy results. It's difficult to guess whether he decided to do this off-the-cuff or not.

Acute Schizophrenia Blues A

Of course, Muswell Hillbillies was the most recent album the Kinks had pressed during this tour and therefore Ray's favorite album. (It was no secret that Ray begrudgingly performed his old hits during tours!) The instrumentation is wonderful here, and he took great care to bring some great brass players on the road with him.

Holiday B+

I miss the old-man performance he gave this on the studio album, but he does sound rather spirited here anyway. (I guess the pitfalls of reviewing live albums of bands I like is I'm always so attached to the studio version!)

Muswell Hillbillies A

Ray introduces the band and himself as Johnny Cash (quite funny) and then he says “Eliza Doolittle a song.” (Not really... but that's what happens when you slur your words together!) This is a rendition that's appropriately as rousing as the studio version, which must've made it a dance-worthy experience in the live setting. It seems quite a bit shorter than the studio version, but perhaps that's not inappropriate.

Alcohol A

And the legend of Davies being blind drunk gets positively thought-provoking when he does his rendition of this song! Well, the studio version is by far superior, but Ray's playful vocal delivery was obviously delighting the crowd. And that's exactly what this song is: FUN. It makes me jealous that I wasn't in the audience! (Oh, what I'd give for a time-traveling phone booth.)

Banana Boat Song (trad.)

Another one of Ray's curious excursions into old songs. This one, of course, was the one popularized by Harry Belafonte that was extremely popular when I was in kindergarten thanks to the hit film Beetlejuice. This does sound like it was impromptu, since the band's accompaniment seemed somewhat clueless about what he was doing. Some of his vocal rambling here is pretty dang funny though...

Skin & Bone A-

Another appropriate choice for a live version! (Even though Davies wasn't apt to reviving his old hits during tours, you can't deny that he wasn't a crowd pleaser in other regards!) This'll have you bouncing up and down in your seat for sure!

Baby Face A-

This doesn't sound nearly as impromptu as the previous old standards that he did in this live setting. The trumpets are blaring in all their polished, jazz glory and Davies is doing his best Louis Armstrong impression... Well, it's fun, innit?

Lola B

It is pretty funny that they decided not to perform a full-fledged version of their biggest hit of all time. Rather, they had the audience sing along with the chorus! Gradually, the band decides to join in the festivities, but not for long.

BONUS TRACKS:

Till the End of the Day B

The only song from the Kinks' old garage rock days... and it's nice to hear them play it! Davies delivers more of his humorous vocal exchanges with his audience, which is entertaining.

She Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina A

An old classic from Arthur... I almost like this better than the original. It seems a little more spirited and raucous and not quite so cheesy.

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Preservation Act 1 (1973)

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Preservation Act 1

Preservation B

Somewhat of a glammy tune with crunchy rock 'n' roll guitars and *ahem* a Marc Bolan-esque vocal warble in Ray's performance! The melody is certainly here, and that's the important thing. The spirit is somewhat underwhelming... that's the sort of thing that everyone complains about when writing negative reviews of this album. You could fathom other and more mediocre bands coming up with this song, but I can't deny that it has a good, catchy melody.

Morning Song C-

This is probably the album's biggest clue that calls Ray's creativity in question at this point in their careers. This is a really weird instrumental featuring cheesy “mmmm” vocals. It sounds like it was lifted from a horrible '40s film soundtrack... Kinks fans have good reason to hate this exists. On the bright side, I give it a few points for being “weird” and also its short, two-minute running length doesn't do much damage.

Daylight B

Not bad, really! It calls into memory their earlier Brit-pop albums except, of course, it's not nearly as inspired. The melody lacks the deathly hooks Ray had been known for penning, but it's enjoyable enough. (That layered vocal interchange in the middle does seem like a horrible cop-out for this guy.) To its credit, the instrumentation is smart enough even though it doesn't just what you'd expect it to... The acoustic guitar is tastefully jangly and there's a British trumpet (though I'm somewhat disappointed that the trumpet isn't “prolific” enough).

Sweet Lady Genevieve B+

Easily, this is the most likable song on the whole album. It's very lighthearted and bouncy, and the melody is catchy indeed! I really miss the uncouthness, creativity, warmth and humor that was previously in their music, though. It doesn't help that I have it in my mind already from reviewing their previous songs, but it does sound like they're imitating themselves. I suppose I don't mind it when other bands imitate the Kinks, so why should I bother endlessly complaining when The Kinks imitate themselves? That'll make for good philosophic discussion for the day!

There's a Change in the Weather C

You can tell Davies not-so-secretly wanted to be a Broadway composer, because he starts this off with a nice enough funk groove... but then he interrupts it with this goofy, British-sounding chorus that I wouldn't put past any Andrew Lloyd Webber wannabe ! OK, it's not that bad, but ... it's not the sort of thing you'd really want to hear from Davies. I mean, even if the melody was catchy, I wouldn't particularly want to hear it from him. It's like Aspects of Love without the likable tunes...

Where Are They Now? C

If you have even an inkling of some of the ballads they made on their previous album, you'll feel betrayed by this. So, there's really no reason to listen to this. It'll just tick you off. The melody wouldn't sound too great on an average '90s Brit-pop album, which doesn't bode well for the Kinks at this moment of their career.

One of the Survivors C+

It's a shallow thing I say, but I'm going to continue to say it: If all else fails, write an upbeat ditty! And that's what they do here... It's generic and the lyrics are nonsense, of course, but it'll do well enough of you want to tap your toes unassumingly to anything. Again, that's not what most Kinks fans are looking for in their heroes' music. Their habit of bringing up characters in their previous albums really does make this seem like a mediocre '90s Brit pop group halfheartedly paying homage... That's depressing, actually...

Cricket B-

Not that horrible, I suppose. Davies revisits the Hillbillies jazz trumpets, and that's not a bad thing. It definitely sounds better than reviving their old Brit-pop standards possibly because it was fresher in their repertoire. The melody is OK... but I've listened to this song probably a dozen times, and I can't recall it ... at all.

Money and Corruption / I Am Your Man B+

Certainly one of their better attempts at doing Broadway here... The first section of this resembles a sea shanty with a nicely done verses/chorus structure. The melody is catchy enough, and there's some nice development throughout. The second part is a very dramatic ballad. It's not badly written. It's not inspired, either.

Here Comes Flash B+

It's funny that I hadn't recognized this song better in my original review of this album! Surely, this is one of the more convincing rock opera tracks here. They do an interesting job combining surf rock 'n' roll with theatrics, and they deliver a pretty nice groove, too. The melody isn't very innovative, but it's sort of fun to hear. The development is certainly interesting (at one point, turning into a woodwind ensemble).

Sitting in the Midday Sun B+

Also, this a very nice song! Again, there's a horrible feeling that this wasn't written by the Kinks, but it was a mediocre '90s Brit-pop band trying to channel Davies' spirit. Ignoring that, I do enjoy listening to this tune. The melody is generally well written. The lyrics are very run-of-the-mill and so are the instrumentals. Eh, oh well.

Demolition C

Give Davies some credit for not sounding so utterly faux-Kinksian... Well, he's imitating The Who or Jesus Christ Superstar instead of imitating himself. At any rate, I highly doubt any of those guitar licks are original! The melody could have used more hooks and the instrumentation gets positively weird sometimes. That dramatic ending was a nice touch, though... I can imagine what this album would've sounded like if Ray felt like he wanted to be creative with it.

BONUS TRACK:

One of the Survivors

Not too different from the album version... This might have sounded pretty good coming from Huey Lewis & The News...


Preservation Act 2 (1974)

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Preservation Act 2

Announcement

A trumpet delivers a jingle and a someone reads a news bulletin about a people's army being formed.

Introduction to Solution A-

Already, this sounds better than Preservation Part 1. The melody is certainly catchier and more memorable than the opening of that album, and I even detect a little bit of warmth and humor. The style is typical rock 'n' roll, but it's played with the verve and confidence necessary that it needs. It has a somewhat complex structure, and it flows well, which is another feather in their hat. Very nice!

When a Solution Comes A

This is a slower, more ballad-like tune that Ray delivers with a voice that sounds much sleepier than usual. The melody is another remarkably well-written one from Ray with a few great hooks here and there. What really made this song wonderful, in the first two minutes, has got to be those great electric guitar bits! It gets even better after the two-minute mark when it changes direction and gets more atmospheric. This bit is so polished, creative and beautifully done that I wonder what the heck these guys were doing in their last album?? This is a fantastic song!

Money Talks B

This is similar to the opening track of Act 1 because it reminds me of glam music! I suppose the problem with that is it sounds so common, which is the last thing you want to hear come out of them! But for glam music, this is pretty fun. It has a dumb, simple melody, crunchy chords and a loud drum beat. (Give them credit for its texture, though... a tad more complex than average popsters, surely.)

Announcement

The radio announcer speaks and goes to someone who is on-location. I should reiterate that I'm not paying attention to the rock opera plot when reviewing these songs ('cos I don't care).

Shepherds of the Nation C+

We knew it was coming. Ray was bound to write a straight Broadway number somewhere down the line. But even this sounds better than many of the numbers of Act 1. This is Medieval sounding (except for a refrain involving guitar that sounds like it's from a bad progressive rock band). There's a remarkably hooky bit at the two minute mark, and it's a shame that Davies didn't expand on that a bit more instead of repeating all that Medieval stuff the whole time.

Scum of the Earth B-

I do tend to give extra points to songs that don't repeat the same hook and mood throughout its entire running length. This one goes through a number layers of development with the purpose of advancing the concept. It starts out like a depressing drinking song, and it takes off from there. It's well-written though it doesn't sound particularly inspired. Also the melodies aren't particularly memorable.

Second-Hand Car Spiv A-

I really like that weird groove! A very dark, low-register crunchy guitar is pounding off as some twittering trumpets play around. A tremendously upbeat section comes after that, which manages to take off. The melody is catchy, and it's nicely creative. The “oompah” bit in the middle does tend to drag the effort down, however, even though they slowly up its tempo. (They quote from “Here Comes” from Act 1 at the end.)

He's Evil B+

Pretty dang good! It's a typical rocker though the melody is definitely catchy and even somewhat memorable. The chorus consisting of repeating the song title was worked well within the song... I'd suppose this would be an effective Broadway soundtrack ditty except there's a lot of nicely mixed guitars.

Mirror of Love A-

This one's in a jazz/skiffle style that was common in the Muswell Hillbillies years. Well, it's nice to hear them pick up on that style again, since they do it so well! This is an upbeat tune with a catchy melody. Ray's silly vocal warble throughout is utterly charming and gives it extra texture.

Announcement

Now there's a synthesizer playing that radio jingle!

Nobody Gives B-

Not a poor effort at all, but it takes nearly seven minutes and it never takes off. For all purposes, this is a piece of progressive rock jam packed with quasi-Medieval passages, twinkly piano ballads and classical undertones. This is not so unlike what you'd expect Rush to do around this time except with slightly better lyrics. (As a lower quality Kinks album this is, at least I can appreciate that this is not Rush.) The song structure is interesting to hear, but Ray really should have come up with much catchier melodic ideas.

Oh Where Oh Where is Love? C-

A really dull and trite composition that I'd even dislike coming from someone like Joan Baez. It's too simple and the melody is bland. The instrumentation is OK, though. Someone's lightly playing an accordion, which is always nice! I hope they didn't spend too much time writing this, because they would've wasted a lot of time for nothing! Also, Ray does a duet with some female... that's not why I have a distaste for this song, though.

Flash's Dream (The Final Elbow) C-

I suppose this is where we have to start paying attention to the plot of this silly rock opera. Ray Davies is speaking in a God-like voice with a bit of distortion as he tells Mr. Flash what he was doing wrong. He killed a village. Shame! After that, there's a psychedelic collage and a fanfare at the end.

Flash's Confession A-

This starts with a darker, more funkified quote from “Here Comes Flash.” Ensuing is a tremendously dark, murky and somewhat furious number with tons of flooded guitar sounds and a timpani drum pounding off in the background. That stops and Ray delivers a sparser, more Broadwayish theme, but the snarly tone doesn't relent! The arrangements are an utter triumph, but I might have preferred something a bit hookier.

Nothing Lasts Forever B+

This ballad is rather sweet, and melodically rich. Ray does a duet with a female who sounds a bit off-tune (though not as much as Maureen Tucker from The Velvet Underground... but they do sound similarly)! The melody is memorable and the straight forward instrumentation is smart.

Announcement

I'm getting the feeling this jingle is being used to brainwash/program me in some sinister plot.

Artificial Man B+

Not too bad! The beginning is a sort of bland thing that seems to threaten to turn into an arena rocker, but it turns into a rather interesting pop throwback to the '50s. The focus is curiously shifted in the middle to accommodate a Broadwayish, piano-led ballad. I would criticize the unfocused nature of the song, but I like following all these brash shifts. Despite it all, it flows well.

Scrapheap C+

A cowpoke groove pipes up and the Maureen Tucker sound-alike sings perfectly in tune. The groove isn't original of course and neither is the melody. Somehow, it still avoided sounding too cliché ridden. They used a lot of guitars and, thankfully, none of them were of the slide variety! It's sorta boring, but it's not a poor piece at all...

Announcement

Thankfully, they left the jingle out this time!

Salvation Road C

Oh no! The jingle from the “Announcement” bits were from an actual song! ... And here it is!! I wish I could play this song to myself before I grew tired of the jingle to find out what I think about the song unspoiled. If I might speculate, I don't think I would have cared for it. This hook isn't very catchy at all. In fact, Ray seemed more preoccupied with giving this a proper curtain-closing ending than the real music. Interestingly, he did the curtain-closing thing much better in previous albums, which I mentioned in previous reviews. Imagine Arthur as a Broadway production and leaving the theater on the title track? Yeshhhh...

BONUS TRACKS:

Mirror of Love A-

This was easily one of the best songs from the album, and this seems to be more sparsely instrumented. I gotta prefer the album version, but both these versions are good. It mostly has to do with its melody.

Slum Kids B

This is a live performance of a song that he introduces as being a part of Preservation though I suppose it didn't ultimately make the cut! It's a six-minute long blues number, and I guess that meant there would be more time for the plot if they left it out. It's nothing too riveting, but it's a nice thing to sit through if you're up to it.


A Soap Opera (1975)

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A Soap Opera

Everybody's a Star (Starmaker) B+

This is definitely a throwback to '50s pop music, and it's not bad. It has a nice '50s-throwback groove to it, and the bit toward the end with the clapping and electric guitar solo was especially fun. Ray was doing a bit of play acting here (which would advance the plot of this rock opera). It generally comes off OK. Well, at least he included that in the songs themselves instead of relying on a news anchorman.

Ordinary People A

Good movie! And this is a mighty decent song, I must add. This is an even more obvious throwback to '50s pop music... this was as though Ray was trying to write something to the effect of Rocky Horror Picture Show or something. Well, the melody is catchy, so that's all I care about it. With some flashy choreography, this would've played great on the stage.

Rush Hour Blues B-

Some boogie rock here with a '50s vibe. The groove is catchy, and this is pretty fun to hear. He does an interchange with a female voice actor, which gives this an even starker Broadway feel. The end turns into an almost R&B thing that should have been given a jolt of electricity. It sounds choppy... and the melody isn't catchy anyway!

9 to 5 C

Another good movie released in the year 1980. (Coincidence, or a misuse of psychic powers?) This is a disappointing ballad considering these are usually Davies' strength. The mood and instrumentation was nice enough... it's the sort of thing that might make you want to sway back and forth peacefully in your seat. Problem is the melody isn't interesting whatsoever.

When Work is Over C

That all ended abruptly (?) and now here's another piece of boogie rock. The song's few nice melodic ideas weren't entirely original, and they didn't turn into something too interesting or memorable anyway.

Have Another Drink C

Another disappointingly bland song. It seems like a throwback to the Muswell Hillbillies album except there's no life in it whatsoever. I've sat through too many of these kinds of mediocre songs, and I really don't want to hear that coming out of Ray Davies... Come on, man, write a melody!

Underneath the Neon Sign B-

This has a subdued groove that might just be enough to put a mild smile on your face. Other than that, there's nothing else to take away from it. The instrumentation isn't that notable (going for a lite lounge-style, it seems), and the melody is probably even less so.

Holiday Romance A-

This is cute! It's a minor gem that's possibly their best actual attempt at Broadway-fying their sound. (The melody, while sounding slightly similar to “Sitting by the Riverside,” is distinctly Broadway.) There's even some fun play acting in here... What really matters is the melody is tuneful and catchy.

You Make it All Worthwhile B+

This is so sweet, and the melody is nice, too! The Broadway plot is the typical “love that woman” moment, but it's kinda touching. What I really care about is the melody, which delivers quite a few hooks. I had to take a few points off, because it's just a tad too repetitive for me.

Ducks on a Wall C+

I'm not too sure if Davies was trying to find a regular spot on the Dr. Demento show or not. All the elements are in place: an overly intrusive '50s pop groove, a cheesy scream-performance and a goofy Donald Duck sound popping up every once in awhile. Sealing that connection, there's the bit at the end when Ray says “I gotta get away from these ducks noooooow!”

A Face in the Crowd B+

This is kind of good! It's a very smooth and sweet ballad that's even rather mesmerizing. A chord progression he uses in here sounds right out of a horror movie soundtrack, which makes that even more interesting! Well, that's cool. Other than that, there's little memorable about that... I suppose that's what happens during these classic artists' slump streaks.

You Can't Stop the Music C+

He closes this album with a generic, mid-tempo rocker. It's seems like he wanted this to be an ever-conclusive tribute to rock music all together, but it failed to make it. The melody isn't interesting whatsoever... the only thing vaguely interesting about it is the guitar solos sprinkled throughout. This really needed more life... such a boring album closer...

BONUS TRACKS:

Everybody's a Star (Starmaker) (mono)

The Starmaker had mono. Go figure.

Ordinary People (live)

Yes, anyone who went to a Kinks concert in the mid '70s not only had to listen to material from these concept albums, but they got an elaborate stage production! This version is considerably more guitar heavy than the original, but it sounds even more sluggish. I gotta prefer the album version.

You Make it Worthwhile (live)

Well, I guess this answers my question. The audience did seem to like it, because we can hear them laughing one time or two. In the middle of this, there's a scripted Broadway dialogue amidst some cheesy soap opera organs.

Underneath the Neon Sign (live)

This is just about as good as the album version, which I didn't care a great deal for. OK, thanks.


Schoolboys in Disgrace (1976)

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Schoolboys in Disgrace

Schooldays A-

Hey! This is something it seems like I haven't heard in awhile... A sweet and tuneful Kinks ballad just like mother used to make! The melody is rather gorgeous and reminds us what made Ray Davies compositions so enduring in the past. The mood of the song gives off vibes of nostalgia, which I assume was what they were going for. The instrumentation isn't anything too creative (the usual piano, guitar, electric organ, drum beat), but they're very well used. Best of all, this is just a song. No silly Broadway posturing nor play acting. It's Ray and the guys singing a song. Neat.

Jack the Idiot Dunce B

It wouldn't last, though. This is very reminiscent of the material from A Soap Opera, and there's a little bit of play acting. Despite that, this is terribly fun. It's an obvious throwback to an early Beach Boys song. If Ray wrote lyrics about an automobile instead of an idiot boy, this would've been a spittin' Beach Boys image. ... It's silly and inconsequential, but I like it!

Education C

This seems to borrow from “He's Evil!” I can't imagine this is a whole lot better, either. The melody, while somewhat formidable, doesn't prove to be especially memorable. The instrumentation is sort of fun, but they're not doing anything unique with it whatsoever. (You know, the usual guitars, drums, etc.) Making it even worse is its 7+ minute running length when it could've been half that, easily. The half-hearted musical transitions were pointless... geez, Ray's well must've been pretty dry...

The First Time We Fall in Love A-

It's funny that all these Beach Boys throwbacks have been popping up lately! Well, whatever. It seems to be revitalizing his songwriting, that's for sure. The songs starts out as a sweet soft-rock ballad with a catchy (though derivative), and it features a particular section when Davies sings in a beautiful falsetto voice. It creatively turns into almost a stadium rock song middle of the way through, and it gets rather exciting. The end is a more fast paced and resumes that Beach Boys posturing. This song is rather wonderful!!

I'm in Disgrace B+

Not too shabby! It's a nice little guitar rocker with a few good hooks here and there. Ray isn't trying anything spectacular with it (it's a three-minute song, after all), but the structure is complex enough to keep it nice and punchy. The guitars are crunchy, which adds to the fun. Cool!

Headmaster B

This is a bit too closely related to arena-rock, actually! They're using power-chords here... uh oh! This starts out as a mildly catchy piano ballad, but it turned into a rock 'n' roll jam at the end. It could've used a catchier melody, but it has its moments. I'm glad he's now favoring guitar solos instead of play acting... that's definitely a nice thing!

The Hard Way B

Here's another nice guitar-led rocker that's pleasant enough to sit through, but it never takes off. Davies playfully screaming with those extremely choppy guitar riffs is kind of fun, though! Nonetheless, I have to fault him for failing to write a catchy melody! Come on, man, those used to flow outta you more natural than a natural spring.

The Last Assembly C+

This is a short ballad done in the style of an old-time country western tune. (For some odd reason, this reminds me of Procol Harum's “Pilgrim's Progress” even though they're not that closely related.) It turns into a cheesy ensemble chorus by the end, which makes it seem silly and cheesy. ... If you're going to do that, you'd might as well add to the novelty value! Plus it wouldn't have hurt to come up with a more original melody!

No More Looking Back B+

Hey, this is pretty good! I'm not such a fan of that arena-rock riff (which is OK, but it doesn't sound that Kinksian, and it lacks any real creativity). But they incorporate an array of interesting musical ideas in this mix, which includes a creepy, atmospheric bit at the beginning and an interesting, rhythmic synth-horn section at the end. The melody still could've used a jolt, but whatever. This is a likable song.

Finale B

A one-minute revisit of the album's opening track. They turn up the tempo at the end to give a quasi-mayhem feel about it! Er, whatever. Say goodbye to Ray's theatric period, kiddies!


Sleepwalker (1977)

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Sleepwalker

Life on the Road A-

Nice! This starts out sounding like it'll be a nice, tuneful Kinks ballad. Sure, I never suspect that it'll be as great as a Kinks ballad in the days of yore, but it's still a likable one that would get my head swaying. But then this mid-tempoed hard rock song pipes up fully equipped with upbeat guitars and some new-wave-esque synthesizers. Well, this is a lot of fun! It's sort of a sweet blast from the past and it nods to the then-current musical movements. I can't complain about nothin' then.

Mr. Big Man B

Geez, these guitars are heavy! What is are The Kinks becoming, a rock band? Also, does this song title remind you of their old, silly character sketches? Oh, how I love this resurgence of taste! The melody is even pretty hooky although Ray seems to be ceding his melodies to the electric guitar, which plays the usual thing. But this is a normal, wholesome song with good melodic ideas and a great bass line to boot.

Sleepwalker B+

Another piece of riff-rock, but it's a catchy riff! Those guitars probably could've stood to sound more vicious, but I don't care about that. As a polished piece of rock, this is as enjoyable as ever. In the second half, they bring it down to a twinkly piano ballad and then back up to a rock 'n' roll jam sort of thing. It's not revolutionary or anything, but it's very fun.

Brother A

This is a sweet ballad with a great melody and a somewhat unorthodox chord progression. Indeed, if it wasn't evident that Ray's songwriting prowess was back, you need look no further! It's easy to think this was written for his own brother, who was feeling a bit isolated through those rock opera years. Hey, Dave was right... Anything to get Ray to start writing gorgeous, soaring ballads like this again is a most welcome addition. This is easily the best Kinks ballad ever since “Celluloid Heroes.”

Juke Box Music B

This is good! It's an anthemic hard rock song with a simple albeit catchy melody and a bunch of electric guitar solos. It seems a bit weird for a Kinks album to have so many electric guitar solos (and, while fine, they're not *great* ones). This is a fun song, and you can get caught into the spirit easily if you let it. Since I always find something to complain about, I don't think every song they wrote requires a lot of electric guitars.

Sleepless Night A-

Yay!!! Here is another upbeat song with a melody as catchy as ever. They let an electric organ and a guitar solo side by side this time, so the instrumental sound is a bit more ear engaging than some of the other tracks. Above everything else, you can hear Ray writing interesting chords progressions again (instead of borrowing from cliches and other sources)... It's a normal rock song on the surface, but some of these ideas were very unorthodox.

Stormy Sky A+

They hit gold again! This sounds like it could have been a radio hit if their promoters would've marketed it better. Hear how catchy and wonderful this melody is. It starts out quietly and it gradually turns into an anthemic rocker, and I'm with it all the way. Everything about it sounds just right... The instrumentation isn't anything revolutionary, but everything from the guitars, drums, the electric piano and those little “oohs” are doing just the right things. This is wonderful and memorable.

Full Moon B

This is sort of like the previous song. It starts out quietly, but gradually turns into an anthemic rocker. It's nowhere near as compelling as that, but what else is? The one nice thing about this we can hear a banjo, or something, lightly in the background. This is an enjoyable song, even though Ray's trying to sing like a normal rock star or something!

Life Goes On A-

Here's another track that can be identified as “just a good song.” It has great flow and a few great hooks in the melody. He brings in an accordion (or harmonium or bandoneon, or whatever) as one of the back-up instruments, which was a nice touch. He's definitely not writing the same kind of vastly experimental songs as he used to, but nice touches like this are another pleasant reminder that the songwriter Ray Davies was back with us.

BONUS TRACKS:

Artificial Light B+

Get a load of these bonus tracks! Don't even consider purchasing a copy of this album without the bonus tracks! This is a bouncy tune with a goofy and above all else, this is fun! The groove sounds like any number of '50s pop songs, but the appeal is hearing what Ray does with it!

Prince of the Punks A+

YAY!!! Isn't it great to hear A+-scoring songs from The Kinks again? This is a funny song about a middle class guy who becomes the prince of the punks, because he can't play any other sort of song. This reminds me of those old character sketches that he used to do! Hooray!! There are some nice, crunchy electric gutiar licks, and the bass-line is wonderful! Most importantly, the melody is catchy as hell. Oh baby!

The Poseur B+

I'm not sure why this song wasn't released... it's pretty dang good! The chord progression is creepy, and I like the cool, laid-back groove. The melody is catchy and likable... Well, we get to hear it now, which I suppose righted that wrong! It's not a great song or anything... but you'll probably like it.

On the Outside (1977 mix) A

How could he have so many great songs and not put them on an album? This is a gorgeous ballad with a melody catchier than anything... The instrumentals are the typical, straight rock 'n' roll, but it's well played. This is another reminder of those classic old Kinks songs... and this is something of an underplayed classic. I LOVE THIS!!!

On the Outside (1994 mix) A

This version sounds more sparkly, but it's basically the same thing. I guess I prefer this version to the other. ... And this must be one of this few times I listened to and enjoyed side-by-side remixes in an album's bonus tracks!


Misfits (1978)

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Misfits

Misfits B

Every I review a rock album that begins with a ballad, I'm going to comment that it's weird. OK, I can't guarantee that, but this is an uncommon practice. But I say, if there's anyone who should start an album with a ballad, then it should be Ray Davies. Time and time again, he proved how fantastically marvelous he is at it! ... That said, he has definitely done better than this. This song is strictly run-of-the-mill without any real charisma. Davies writes a simple and over-repetitive melody with an uncharacteristic lack of hooks. ... That's definitely a harsh criticism considering it makes generally fine entertainment, but I want to impress upon you that this is nowhere near their best! It seems Ray's going through the motions.

Hay Fever C+

This is a generally good song with an OK riff. The whole thing could have used more bite, though. If you're going to write generic riff-rock like this, then why not use more gruffy guitars? The melody lacks everything these guys were known for. I don't know why The Kinks were so interested into becoming a cutesy retro-band. Nobody needs that!!

Black Messiah C

Since when were these guys being bluntly political! Here is a generic and cutesy piece of reggae where Davies demand that everyone be treated equally. He asks us not to shoot him for speaking his mind, and I'm not planning to. But this sort of broad political hullabaloo in pop music serves no purpose. ... Of course, the C is not for the lyrics... it's for the musical quality, which is pretty shoddy. I mean, cutesy reggae? Come on!

Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy B+

Much better! This might be closest thing we had to “Celluloid Heroes” since the song itself... The melody is quite good, and I like the lyrics about a guy who lives his life in rock 'n' roll separated from his real life. (Lucky, while I have no life, I don't sit around all day listening to old rock music ... I definitely wish I could!) Trying to pick up some drama toward the end seemed like it was badly executed. They were just layering on the noises without much regard to their effect. The songwriting was good, so I think the fault lies on the sound engineer. This should have been an A-scorer.

In a Foreign Land B

This is pretty good. It's nothing other than an ordinary rocker with a normal melody and usual instrumentation. I'll give them credit for the somewhat complex song structure, because it continually seems to want to go to a ballad. Some of it seemed awkward, but this is a very pleasant song to sit through. Those “aaaaah” sounds at the fade-out were an excellent touch.

Permanent Waves C+

It starts out with a neat, really dark and fuzzy guitar, but what ensues is a real mess. This is another instance when The Kinks decide to aimlessly add on layers of noise to their songs for no apparent reason other than to make noise. The songwriting wasn't too horrible... it's a generally fine riff rocker that reminds me a little of “Bang a Gong (Get it On).” It could have been fun, but I feel too bombarded to really be enjoying myself.

Live Life B

What is with this album? Here's another song that could have been much better, but certain elements really hurt it. This time, it's the lyrics... Ray going off on another one of his uncharacteristic political ravings. I hope he quickly realized that nobody cares if you're just going to make broad generalizations. But let's talk about the music. This is by far the most guitar heavy song here, which I suppose by default makes it one of the better things here. The guitars are loud and the guitars are furious. Nothing about the melody is memorable, but it's enjoyable enough to sit through.

Out of the Wardrobe C

I think Madonna later wrote a song about the same thing! (Oh no... that's not a good sign, Ray!!) Er, I have nothing against the lyrics (about some guy who's not gay but he likes to put on ladies' clothing), but the music is quite tepid. I don't know if this sound engineer fell asleep at the wheel, but this sounds like a demo. Eh, never mind, this is one of Ray's least compelling melodies on the album yet.

Trust Your Heart D

Better production or no, this is positively awful! This sounds like what Glam-era David Bowie would be if he sucked miserably. This is an aimless song with no melody and no flow. We just get a lot of silly guitars and Dave singing at the top of his lungs. Dave wrote it, too. Gee...

Get Up B

Another mess, but a glorious one. He seems to be attempting to channel The Who ... it starts with a bunch of poorly produced power-riffs and sort of upbeat, highly evolving thing that incorporates all sorts of messy instruments. Some parts sound like they were trying to be danceable, and other parts sound like they're trying to be a huge rock anthem. (What's with those 'ooo-ooo-ooo's they give? Come on, did you really want it to be that obvious?) It sounds like those electric guitars were made by Fisher Price.

BONUS TRACKS:

Misfits (remix)

I can't say I've been more interested in hearing remix versions before, but considering how awful the album was produced, maybe they improved it! ... Eh, it's a little bit better, I guess. I had more problems with its cheesiness and boring lyrics.

Father Christmas A

Hey! Where was this level of songwriting on the main album! ... I guess this proves that Ray Davies was still out there somewhere. The melody is catchy and the it actually seems musically challenging and united throughout. The guitars sound catchy and well produced, and that furious drumming that appears in the song occasionally was a good idea. The lyrics are even great, which takes a fully cynical and hilarious take on Christmas. (“Father Christmas give us some money / Don't mess around with those silly toys / We'll beat you up if you don't hand it over / We don't want your bread so don't make us annoyed / Give all the toys to the little rich boys.”) Anything to make the holiday season a little more festive, eh?

Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy (remix)

Ah yes, this did improve. Replace this with the original on your playlist!

Live Life (remix)

I liked the original OK, but I can't say I'd score this remix higher than a B. I don't respond that well with generic-style hard rock songs...


Low Budget (1979)

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Low Budget

Attitude A-

Yay! You could probably call this bubble-gum rock if you wanted to, so go ahead. Here is Ray Davies having fun writing music again. Their guitars sound like they're putting up a front of sounding mean and gruff, but really they're polished and pretty. The melody is poppy and memorable with a nice chorus. Ray's snarling vocal performance is full of energy and adds to the fun. Nice song!

Catch Me Now I'm Falling B+

Here's another song where they upped the guitar, and it sounds great here. That coupled with Ray's catchy melody makes this another memorable experience! Something tells me this could have had more drive, which is why I can't bear giving it a higher rating, but I like it anyway. It's a gas!

Pressure A-

If anything, Ray nods to the new wavers. Its tempo is quick, the mood is furious, it has a wonderfully catchy melody and it's well under three minutes. I guess they wanted to be hip, after all! This is a lot of fun, and that seems to be exactly what they were going after. They should do that more!

National Health B

This is a silly song that I probably would have hated if it wasn't for a number of goofy instrumental oddities they throw in here. There's that bouncy synthesizer that playing a silly loop. There's an electric guitar popping up sometimes that sounds like someone's ice-skating in electricity. The riff is fun and bouncy, and the melody, albeit one of the weaker ones, still manages to interest me. This almost sounds punky, but the tempo is far too slow.

(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman A+

Disco, now? Do you know no bounds? ... Well, I guess Blondie did it, so why not The Kinks? The melody is the catchiest that I remember hearing from them for some time. Ray's decision to write straight-out pop songs seemed like a good idea ... especially if he ended up coming out with something this endearing. The guitars are remarkably crunchy and glorious. I don't think it fared that well on the disco floor... but I'd wager this was more enjoyable to listen to.

Low Budget B

Here, The Kinks are entering Kiss territory, and they manage to come out with something surprisingly entertaining. I hate to say it, but there are a number of Kiss songs I like better... But you've got to appreciate how Ray's able to causally foray into so many different genres! The tempo is a little slow, but they make up for that with some wicked-dark guitar licks. The melody is derivative, but they make it sound fresh. These lyrics are hilarious!

In a Space A-

Whenever I listen to this song, I'm thinking they're singing “Innerspace,” which is a movie that I really like, but really they're giving the Brooklyn pronunciation of that “Innaspace.” Sorry about that. Count this as another song like “National Health” that I wouldn't have liked nearly as much if they didn't think to incorporate all the quirky instrumentation in the mix. A rubbery synthesizer in the background plays a goofy loop, and a bouncy bass guitar were both just the right touches. That bit in the middle where Ray starts snarling, and the drummers' pounding away was another joyous addition. Cool!

Little Bit of Emotion B

Ray Davies writes a nice melody but the song lacks real inspiration! Funny that's what the lyrics seem to be about. This is a likable song, but it's not likely going to be the ones you remember most from Low Budget.

A Gallon of Gas B

A very familiar bluesy riffs opens this and Ray starts singing something about not being able to purchase gas no matter what you do. This might be the funniest example of how Davies completely gave up trying to be original ... but honestly, he could have done worse things. At least the delivery is earnest, and they turn in a few nice guitar licks here and there (that are strangely subdued in the background). Some of this is fixed a bit in the remixed version!

Misery C+

Even for a silly take-off, this one fails to capture the imagination. At least the guitars are crunchy, which makes this a step up from the previous album. The melody is bland, though, and everything about this seems routine.

Moving Pictures B+

Rush??? ... Er, no. This is the Kinks. In all their kinky glory, and this is a silly piece of pop that provides an OK but not spectacular conclusion to the album. I like the groove that's not particularly memorable, but well-used. Perhaps it repeats too much, but you could probably say that about all these tracks. So... there you go.

BONUS TRACKS:

A Gallon of Gas

Yes, the guitars are louder here, and that's for the better. If you're going to write such a generic cliché blues song and your guitars aren't totally awesome, then what good is it? It still could have been better, though.

Catch Me Now I'm Falling

Another remix. Not bad, I say, not bad.

(I Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman (extended disco remix)

The sound is a little better, but I liked the original more. Six minutes is too long though...


Give the People What They Want (1982)

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Give the People What They Want

Around the Dial B+

There's nothing wrong with making generic hard rock songs if you can write catchy melodies like this! Yeah, it's cheesy as hell, but that's the point of it. Despite that, the guitars really ought to have sounded grittier... or at least louder. Ray wanted to make sure people could clearly hear his lyrics, I guess. The song starts out with some radio frequency noises, and this theme pops up throughout the song.

Give the People What They Want B-

Some thunderous drums open up this as they chant “Hey, hey, hey,” sort of reminiscent of glam music. The song gets worse after that, progressing into a dumb rocker. I like the bouncy riff, but apart from the opening this whole thing seems like a stale exercise. Come on, guys! Give the people what they want: Ray Davies' unmistakable personality and knack for melodies! We don't want heavy guitar rockers.

Killer's Eyes C-

The problem with this song is Ray is repeating a boring four-chord progression through too much of this and it starts to get on my nerves. He changes it for the chorus, which is just as harmonically boring. The pacing is going at a snail's pace, which adds to the dispiriting atmosphere. Come on, Ray! This is really substandard songwriting. You can do better than this! Hear how he just cuts off the song at the end... he couldn't even muster up enough creativity to come up with a real ending. Boo.

Predictable B

This song is OK, even though the pacing still leaves something to be desired. Ray wrote a better melody and gave it a bit of a reggae flavor. It's nothing exciting whatsoever, and you get the feeling they were just going through the motions for this one. Where's all the creativity? ...OK, I'll fall for it. This song is predictable.

Add it Up A-

If you're otherwise going to be at a loss, make the song upbeat! This song is pretty fun, and they're also bringing in a lot of the creativity that was lacking so much on these other songs. They're using a rubbery bass-synthesizers to give this an infectious synth-pop feel. I almost want to dance with it! Along with that, Ray's melody is pretty dang hooky. That's all we wanted, dang it!

Destroyer B+

This sounds exactly like “All Day and All of the Night,” one of the Kink's biggest hits from 1964 ... in fact, it's probably the same song. Everything from the riff to the vocal melody is a dead ringer. Just the instrumentals are polished and bouncier. I suppose ripping himself off wasn't the best thing he could've done, but I don't mind it that much. I admit I like hearing this.

Yo-Yo A

Holy cow, this is a great song! The melody is wonderful, and the production sounds wonderful. Davies' vocal performance was also nailed. At one point, he slides his voice much like this yo-yo he's talking about, and other times, he's singing as passionately as he probably was willing to go in 1982. I like the bass guitar, too, which provides some excellent bounce to the mix. The chorus is surprisingly rather uplifting. Cool.

Back to the Front B-

Here is another one of their heavy rockers... It starts out with some thunderous drums and Kiss-like electric guitar licks. Of course, it's pretty good, and I like hearing Ray's guttural vocal delivery! I still think the melody could have been less generic, but I guess that's the nature of writing such songs. The calculator synths we hear lightly in the background were a good touch, but they do little to redeem this dumb song.

Art Lover B

Geez, these are creepy lyrics. This chronicles a middle-aged man's obsession with a girl who's probably underage. He states that he's not a flasher in a raincoat or a dirty old man, but an art lover! Later he goes onto say that she can't see him staring at her because he's wearing sunglasses. I assume he was being tongue-in-cheek about all of this, but still ... creeeeeeeeeeeepy. Musically, this marks a nice return to the sort of ballads these guys wrote in their heyday. Though apart from a decent central hook, it's not incredibly appealing. It does seem to repeat an awful lot, and the instrumentation is rather standard.

A Little Bit of Abuse B

Here's another fitfully enjoyable heavy rocker. They have some nice, crunchy guitars, which this song would've been nothing without. The pace seems too sluggish, though ... it's as if Ray originally wrote a ballad but tried to turn it into a heavy rocker. Who knows. The melody definitely has its moments!

Better Things B+

A bright and upbeat mid-tempo rocker that provides a decent end to this album. Ray was too nice of a songwriter that even these throwaway-sounding songs typically turned out to be pretty good. That drum sounds like it was lifted from a cheap Broadway soundtrack (and trust me, I've heard enough of those). I won't say this is memorable, but this a sweet song, and I'm enjoying listening to it at the moment.


State of Confusion (1983)

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State of Confusion

State of Confusion A

Now this is what Ray should have been doing all along. A phenomenally catchy song that makes us remember that the guy is often called one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. The instrumentals consist of the typical thing for the '80s ... a loud, forceful rhythm section, crunchy guitars and synthesizers. Even some barroom piano for good measure and some heartening “ooohs” in the background. And all of this is done perfectly. There is absolutely nothing shoddy about this whatsoever. The melody takes some excellent turns here and there ... and the harmonies are well-crafted, too. This is a wonderful tune!

Definite Maybe B

He might be writing a little too much for the '80s. We have a rhythm section that sounds a lot like “Footloose.” Yeah, that song came out a year later, but it's not like Kenny Loggins was original or anything. This is a generally well-done song, but a few of the ideas in the arrangements come off as a bit sloppy, and the melody isn't anything to write home about. That choppy guitar sounds like it's playing “My Sharona.” ...But I think he had enough good idea to sustain this throughout. Songs with pounding '80s drums are fun, after all.

Labour of Love C

I guess this isn't dismally bad ... this just sounds like something coming from their previous album, and I think we all know how uninspired that was. It starts out with someone playing Wagner and then it turns into the world's cheesiest heavy-metal song. I don't necessarily have a problem with cheese-metal, but I have a problem with dumb melodies that are this predictable.

Come Dancing A

......As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, Ray Davies is writing unrestrained, great songs again! This is a really cheesy one, but it's catchy as hell. The keyboard sounds are sort of cheapish, but it's all in good fun, right? Besides, this is another example of Ray's ability to write good hooks when he's hard pressed. This also joins the ranks of “You Really Got Me” and “Lola” as one of the few songs that were big radio hits.

Property B

This moderate-paced adult contemporary song has enough fresh ideas to keep it going for two minutes, but it gets stale for the last two. This is a lightly paced song with an OK melody. It would have worked better if they upped the atmosphere ... and perhaps thought of a few unpredictable melodic twists or two. I like that bit in the middle when the snare drum gets louder ... but the melody stays the same, for the most part. Seems they were getting a bit too comfortable writing for the radio!

Don't Forget to Dance A

Seriously, if you're going to write an adult contemporary song, make it like this. What's so appealing about this song, above everything else of course, is its great melody! I believe this one became a minor hit on the radio, too, probably on some station that I would rather stab myself in the stomach with a fork than actually listen to. But this is a sweet old song that's engaging from beginning to end. Perhaps a little heavy on the synths, but they're well used and sometimes even mesmerizing.

Young Conservatives B

Ray takes a dig at all the young '80s yuppies who don't care about anything else about their image, materialistic wealth and not thinking for themselves. Yeah ... we know how those guys were like from such cinematic classics as Back to School and Revenge of the Nerds. They always have it in for the little guy, don't they. But the nerds always win in the end, because they know how to put on a cool rock show. This melody is quite catchy, but not the best thing on here. I like the seething lyrics!

Heart of Gold A+

Beautiful! I wonder how “Come Dancing” became such a huge hit when “Heart of Gold” is so clearly better. This melody is so great that I wouldn't have a problem placing this in the same league as songs like “Waterloo Sunset.” Of course, it's an entirely different sort of song than that... it's a light, upbeat radio number. But if this doesn't get your toes tapping, then there's something seriously wrong with you. This is '80s pop of the highest caliber.

Cliches of the World (B Movie) A

When I read this title, I immediately think of a similarly titled song that Blondie did. But the comparison ends there! This is yet another pretty dang good song! Ray gives us another melodic gem although it's perhaps not as memorable as the previous song or “Don't Forget to Dance.” One main difference, though, is that the atmosphere here isn't cute whatsoever. There's some heavy guitars playing in the background playing around like they were in a Neil Young record. But the drumming and bass is still playing as if it was upbeat pop-rock. That piano loop is excellent! In the middle of this, all the action is slowed down and Ray starts giving us a silly, melodramatic monologue ... Cool.

Bernadette C+

This is OK, I guess. We have a retro-'50s rock thing going here, but it doesn't have the great melody we would have hoped. It's a thunderous, upbeat song that's sort of fun if you're thirsting for something that's rocking, and you can't think of anything else to listen to. Dave gives his best rollicking vocal performance here ... I suppose it's nice to hear him sing once in awhile.

BONUS TRACKS:

Don't Forget to Dance (original extended mix)

There, if you wanted more of that song, your prayers have been answered.

Once a Thief B

Not only was the album good, but they had enough decent material to release a few non-album tracks. This is a hard rocker that's a tad more convincing than the standard from their previous album. The melody is fitfully catchy and this is rather fun to hear. ...It doesn't really have that Kinksian charm that I love so much.

Long Distance B+

Yeah, somehow Ray was coming up with all these good songs and not even putting them in the usual album! Here is yet another nice mid-tempo rocker with usual pop-rock instrumentation. But it goes on for five minutes and its good flow is never interrupted. It's not likely something that will move you, but you'll surely find it a pleasant listen.

Noise A-

This is exactly the sort of thing they should've done on Give the People What They Want. It's a heavy rocker with Ray giving a snarling, rough performance. It has a really funny intro, too ... and a bit in the middle that sounds like he was about to go Arabic. It's really an interesting song!


Word of Mouth (1984)

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Word of Mouth

Do It Again B

He opens the song with a power chord. I guess that's OK, but he goes off on a discourse that's pompous and not that hooky. Eventually a crunchy guitar part comes in, which is somewhat enjoyable I guess, but it all seems like an empty discourse. A few of the guitars are nicely crunchy and they throw in a few nice textures here and there. Enjoy it while it lasts, because “Do it Again” is the best song here.

Word of Mouth D

It's not a good sign that they're ripping off another Rolling Stones song. (It bears an uncanny resemblance to “Start Me Up” ... I tell you just so you won't have to hear it.) It's also not a good sign that the melody is devoid of life and spirit even compared to “Do it Again.” It boggles me how one could even make such a lifeless thing out of a Stones riff. It doesn't help that the electric guitar sounds like it was made by Fisher Price. Ray's screaming like he's a washed-up maniac. It's not even kitschy, so this isn't even fun. A poo stain.

Good Day B-

Much better. Ray's peaking his head out of from beneath the sod for this one. This is a pleasant song that has a few nice hooks in it, and a twinkly synth groove. I don't know what happened, but this production is horrible. That's such a shame since State of Confusion sounded so nice throughout. That drum is trying to murder my eardrums.

Living on a Thin Line C+

Well, at least I have some idea what they were trying to do here. Those drum machines were stolen from some cheesy '80s pop star. That thing's pounding away while a crappy sounding guitar is playing a bunch of silly licks. This production is awful. Where are the keyboards? I can hear them a little bit, but that's not enough. If you're going to submit yourself to '80s cheese, then you must have as many keyboards as possible. It's best if we can't even hear the singer. (Actually I just get tired of hearing him sing “We're livin onna thin lineeee.”) The sad thing is this song really isn't that bad. It gets too repetitive at the end, but until then, there are a few nice melodic twists. This was written by Dave apparently.

Sold Me Out C-

Well at least he had the guts to put a song like this here ... though Ray had officially sold out on Low Budget. Here, he's just washed-up. I'm serious, there aren't enough keyboards here. I want to drown in synthesizers! If they were going for a minimalist song, then you shouldn't have used such fuzzy guitars. The melody wasn't bad, I guess, but it sounds stale the way they presented it. Blah. Those vocal echoing effects get tiresome, too.

Massive Reductions B

I guess this isn't so bad for an attempt at writing for Flashdance. Those pounding drums sound a little more constructive as opposed to headache-inducers. This is about as unoriginal as it gets, but I suppose it's semi-enjoyable. Also, he ends it at just about the right spot.

Guilty C-

Ya know, I get the feeling that they put “Word of Mouth” so far in front that we wouldn't mind so much that they wrote non-quite-as-abysmal stuff. This isn't so much difficult to listen to as much as it's just an empty thing that was tossed off like one would toss off used toilet paper. Yeah, some of the guitar riffs are OK for the first 30 seconds, but even those grow tiresome. There is nothing of value here. Dave is singing here, and he's rattling off these silly things...

Too Hot C

Geez... I guess they made this album sound so awful, because mediocrity wasn't an option or something. It's like they picked a hobo off the street and asked them to produce this. Those drums are too loud, and we have a keyboardist who doesn't sound good enough for a high school band. The one decent thing about it is a goofy build-up we hear by the end. It's completely misfired, but this time it's almost gloriously so.

Missing Persons F

I am BORED OUT OF MY MIND. The worst thing about this is it's a ballad, and I used to think that was sort of Ray's strength. We have a drum pounding way too loudly, and a really high pitched synthesizer assaulting my ears. Meanwhile, Ray's singing like a bad beauty pageant entertainer. Disgraceful.

Summer's Gone D+

This song is fine for the first 30 seconds, but it gets depressingly dull after that. I'm very upset at those drums. Are my eardrums fodder for your every whims? I like that “Monster Mash” style piano, though.

Going Solo D+

...Ew. I don't know how they've picked up the uncanny ability to write songs that grow really tired after the first 30 seconds, but .......... well at least they're consistent at it. This is another hard rocker with drums that are too loud and no keyboards and no melody. God, I'm glad it's over.


Think Visual (1986)

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Think visual

Working at the Factory B+

Nicely done! After that unforgivably messy Word of Mouth, it's nice to just hear something coherent. And once we can gloss over that shock, we can nod our heads politely to Ray's formidable melody. Indeed it has a few nice hooks although you'd probably agree that it's considerably more flat than what we're used to hearing in his classic works. The instrumentation is polished and the drums aren't too loud and the guitars are well-blended into the mix. Oh yes, they had a real producer for this one, too! Good old MCA!

Lost and Found C+

This is a nice little ballad that's certainly well-produced, but it's melodically weak. The hooks Ray's writing aren't too interesting, and he tends to repeat them over and over again. In the last minute, it's almost comical how he's just not letting the song end. It's a five-minute song from, a kind estimate, two minutes worth of ideas. Some bits I'm hearing in the instrumentation ... some bell-sounding synthesizers or whatever ... were nice additions. Even that wussy lite-guitar solo is a welcome addition. None of that really makes up for the fact this is boring.

Repetition B

This is likable. It starts as a light piano-pop number with some well-mixed electric guitars helping matters. The melody has a few nice twists here and there although it rarely seems to come out of its shell and actually start delivering melodic hooks. (That said, I like the chorus.) For a song titled “Repetition,” it doesn't repeat all that much (saving themselves from an obvious pun)!

Welcome to Sleazy Town B-

It doesn't start out all that interesting, but then it starts to gain life when they bring in the chorus. I suppose the hooks there aren't too original, since I've heard that sort of thing plenty of times, but it still catches my ear. They seemed to be going for a blues-rock thing here that isn't so compelling. Some of its developments are interesting, though ... I guess it proves that Ray was again thoughtful about his work even if it might not sound that inspired.

The Video Shop A-

Wow... I really didn't like this song when I reviewed this album before in 2005, and I have no idea why. I listen to this song now and find it utterly delightful! It's a lighthearted pop tune with a slight hint of reggae. While you can't mistake the decade it was released in, it's not embarrassingly dated or anything. The melody is easily the catchiest song of the album thus far, and it's even somewhat complex. I'll admit my favorite bit is that fanfare in the middle that's worked rather well into this. Cool! This is good pop that's of the same caliber of the stuff from State of Confusion.

Rock 'N Roll Cities B-

This title is perhaps a little too reminiscent of that notorious 1985 pop hit. (Oh wait a minute ... I like that song.) I wonder if that was done intentionally. Anyway, this is a rather dumb rocker, but Dave has definitely been responsible for worse stuff. That riff isn't particularly memorable, but it has its fun appeal. I reiterate that this album really benefited from its polish... even Dave's rockers are sounding nice. It's about 30 seconds too long, though.

How Are You? B+

I'm fine, thank you. In my original review, I really liked this song, and I still do. Though perhaps not as much. This is another nice, lighthearted song with a very neat little groove. A very nice mix, too, with some crunchy electric guitar and very light synthesizers brought into the mix. Ray even makes a beautiful use of a vocal effect in the chorus. The chorus actually consists of a sequence that strongly reminds me of another song that I know... and it might come to me later. There are a few other nice twists here and there, which means it seems to have enough ideas to fill that four-and-a-half minutes.

Think Visual B-

This is another silly song. It's not quite as interesting as the previous track, but Ray put in a 5-second music-hall section that recalls their '60s work. That's interesting to hear, and it's not bad... why not just concentrate on that part? The rest of it seems to be a stale rocker except for one bouncy little refrain that reminds me a bit of Oingo Boingo. This song is crazy enough to be fun, but not incredibly compelling.

Natural Gift C+

They had a few good ideas here, but I'd say this was on the boring side. I wouldn't put this sort of thing past Foreigner ... except perhaps more tolerable. The melody isn't that compelling. The groove is fine, but it's not creative enough and it's a lot like other songs from the era. It has a certain charm to it, though, which must be because of how well the song flows. They're also not repeating the same old thing over and over again, and that helps matters to. That bit with the orchestral hits is neat.

Killing Time C

This seems to have its heart in the right place, but this is really stale this time. I'm listening to it waiting for a good hook or an interesting developmental turn, but they're offering me nothing. Not an offensive song, surely, and you'll probably listen to it without feeling ill. But this light, mid-tempo ditty is dreadfully mediocre. Sad to say.

When You Were a Child A-

God, here's another Dave Davies composition that's oddly likable. Maybe the guy had nice ideas all along, but now they had a producer who was willing to give him some heed. This seems to be more in-tuned with the '80s than the rest of the songs here, but it's not embarrassingly so. A light synth-loop is playing in the background, and the drums are bombastic but not obnoxious. The chord progression is a weird thing... there's a funny medieval quality about it that should be out of place, but it seems to fit. There's a vague chance I'm overrating this, but I liked it in my original review ... and thus my two collided worlds hath been in agreeance.


UK Jive (1989)

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UK Jive

Aggravation C+

For a six minute song, I guess this is OK. It changes around its textures and melodies enough, and the sound of it is crisp and clear. You could date this easily to the late '80s ... that was sort of the time when all these dinosaurs were releasing some of the most horribly bland songs that I've ever freaking listened to... Of course, Ray should have done more than that and actually came up with a real melody. And those drums are way too loud and those guitars are terrible. I know that was the style, but that's no excuse.

How Do I Get Close D+

This is where Ray conclusively proves that he had no interest in being better than Kiss. This is exactly the sort of song they did in the late '80s. A really sterile rocker that has no redeeming value whatsoever. Really bland chord changes and the melody is stupid.

UK Jive D-

*Groan* I must be in rock 'n' roll purgatory. Certainly the sort of thing you wouldn't expect Ray Davies of all people to be associated with. But there he is and his recognizable thick British accent, so it must be him. Unless he turned into a zombie or something, which I wouldn't put past him. Here is an upbeat song with absolutely no melody and a lot of sterile riffs... It doesn't make me want to get up and dance, unless we're talking about the dance of smashing my head in. I really don't know how he could have done something like this... I really don't...

Now and Then C

Well, it's not “UK Jive,” which can immediately be called a benefit of almost any song. But this isn't good, either. It's a ballad featuring Ray giving a tacky vocal performance to a boring melody. The one thing I do like about it is the atmosphere... and those wispy voices playing a different melodic like in the background. It also tends to get more heavily orchestrated as it goes along, which would have been pretty effective if it had a nicer melody.

What Are We Doing? C-

Now that's the question. I know it's good that you're busy recording songs, but why aren't you writing better songs? Those trumpet hits are about the stalest things I could possibly think of. The melody doesn't give me anything, either. ...To answer his question in the lyrics, yes you're drifting along and going with the flow.

Entertainment C+

I'm grasping at things to like about this song... and I guess I like the crunchy guitars. It's sort of like “Simply Irresistible” except without anything catchy or memorable about it. The melody continues to be bland, but there's a certain spirit this one does a passable enough job. There's not much entertainment here, but it'll pass the time... if you are really that interested in wasting your life....

War is Over B

Hey!!! It's almost like an oasis in this bleak desert! A far cry from everything that used to be Ray Davies, but it does actually have a few good hooks in it. There's a synthesizer playing some classical music trills in the background, which gives us vague hints of their old Brit-pop days. ...Oh, how I miss those days. Even some of the guitar riffs have value. Miraculous!

Down All the Days (Till 1992) C-

Those church bells opening the song reminds me of Kate Bush's “The Sensual World,” which was one of the best albums released that year. So... there's your album recommendation. This is just an average song ... the moments the actual song pops up, it makes me think it might turn into a good song, but it keeps the same tone and mood throughout that it grows staler by the second. It's really boggling how on earth these guys could be so boring... Why this had to be five minutes long is another mystery.

Loony Balloon D

This could have been something, but the bland atmosphere and worth-nothing melody compromised the effort. For once, this doesn't immediately sound like a typical '80s song. A militaristic drum and an echoey guitar starts off the song... but thinking about what sort of thing this song could have done will be far more useful than waiting out the dead-dull things Ray thinks to do with it. I only have five years left of my twenties, and I fear that it's going by too quickly. On my death bed, I'm going to remember “Loony Balloon” as an ode to my wasted life.

Dear Margaret D-

And if you thought the “Loony Balloon” was bad, wait until you get a load of what Dave did. That guy had such a fascination for heavy metal, and you'd wonder why. The guitar riffing is like a sluggish elephant, and his singing is annoying the crap out of me. For some reason, they stop that awful thing in the middle and go off in an even worse discourse. This is a poor Kiss imitation ....... geez, it's like it would kill you to use your creativity. I mean, it was God who allegedly gave you a brain... of the Wizard of Oz...... whatever the heck the Davieses believed in.

BONUS TRACKS

Bright Lights C

I was tempted to give this a B, but I fear my standards had been lowered! Taking a moment to take a deep breath and contemplate, I have to note that Dave is not giving us much to work with. I like certain aspects of that groove and the happy piano pounding away in the background. But all of it's standard, and it's too noisy. If they're going to do a song like this, they should actually try making it *spirited* and the only way they're going to accomplish that is by writing better melodies.

Perfect Strangers D+

That chord progression has a slightly gothic quality to it that might have worked. I still think Dave hadn't much of an idea about what he was doing. Some of this is actually compelling enough to keep this from achieving real dismal results. The guitars are well orchestrated ... except they rarely change their structure and sound ... and when they do, they just make it worse. There's a real klutzy synth loop playing around... By the end, this just grates on my nerves.


Phobia (1993)

Read the full review:
Phobia

Opening B

A light synthesizer sound, some generic electric guitar licks and then a few pounds of a drum beat. It's only a minute long. Er.... thanks?

Wall of Fire B

Now this isn't bad. It's a guitar-heavy pop song with Ray delivering a snarling a vocal performance. The guitarwork isn't any better than it was 10 years previously from Give the People What They Want, and I guess that should be no surprise. But it sounds fine here. The melody isn't too memorable, but at least it's lively enough to keep from being boring. The main problem with this song is it's more than five minutes long and only had enough stamina for three.

Drift Away C-

This is also five minutes, but it only had enough stamina for one! Compared to what some other critics said about it, that statement is being too nice. This is a riff-rock song with a dull riff and an even duller vocal melody. Ray seems to be trying to make up for it by being “snarling.” That approached worked, more or less, in the previous song, but not so much here where he just sounds like an out-of-touch old guy. Ah well.

Still Searching C-

Ooooooh nooooooo! He's writing disinteresting adult contemporary ballads! It's bad enough that he was trying to write hard rock songs again, but now he's writing music that sounds like an Oasis imitation. An Oasis imitation?!?! Dear God. Well, the good news is that ... I've heard worse ... The melody is OK. Very pale. The instrumentation is horrendously typical for adult contemporary. Nothing interesting about this.

Phobia D+

Yeah, the faux-hard-rock is better than the faux-ballads. This song actually has some development, so there is more-or-less of a reason for this to be five minutes long. The problem is the musical ideas are mostly bad, and the transitions between them are awkward and thoughtless. The hard rock section with Ray singing “phobiaaaaaaaa” is memorable like a bad accident. ...This is really dumb. Ray's singing like some punkster with his head in a paper bag.

Only a Dream C+

The good news is this ballad is better than “Still Searching.” The bad news is that wasn't really good news. The melody has one nice hook, but Ray just keeps repeating it over and over. The fact that he had to quiet the instrumentals and start talking blandly in the middle was a sign that he needed to do something with it. I suppose all things considered, this is one of the album's better songs. (Icky!)

Don't D

Don't write songs like this anymore! ... Seriously! This is another bad ballad, except it's WORSE than the other two. None of the vocal hooks are interesting whatsoever. There's actually more musical development than “Only a Dream,” but they're awful. It sounds like a bland synthesis of what Ray was listening to on the radio. Whatever happened to this man?

Babies D+

Sheesh! OK, here's a regular mid-tempo pop-rock song, but without all those messy electric guitars and cheesy radio instrumentation, it doesn't cover up these horrible melodic ideas Ray was having. This is really stupid.

Over the Edge C-

Similarly to the previous song, this is a mid-tempo rocker. It's really dull and there's no compelling reason for it to exist, but at least the melody doesn't strike me as being so stupid. It's really disconcerting to hear this sort of thing from The Kinks. I would have accepted it from the sophomore album from a flash-in-the-pan band, but ... not The Kinks. Say it ain't so!

Surviving C+

Funny, I find myself glad to hear those hard-rock guitars. Well, it slows down and Ray delivers another one of his nothing-melodies. Surprisingly, there is something of a nice progression in the middle of this. This would have been one of the least tedious tracks of the album, but for some utterly insane reason they had to make this six minutes long. I don't know what the heck they were thinking... maybe they were under the impression that they actually had to fill all the space that a CD could hold. More time to torture me!

It's Alright (Don't Think About it) D+

Geez... This makes Kiss seem pretty suave. We get to hear Dave sing this, but I don't think he wrote it. I'm surprised anyone would want to take credit for this! The smartest thing about it is they only made it three and a half minutes, but that was three and a half minutes too long.

The Informer D

Another ballad. I'm bored out of my skull, but I'm OK because I'm thinking about a good-looking woman I saw on the TV recently. Maybe I should start working out?

Hatred (A Duet) B-

Yeah, the battles between Ray and Dave through the years were legendary. Read the stories if you have the time! I guess the good news about this song is it has a better drive and more pace than the other songs. They're half-rapping through this, which means the lack of vocal melody is more acceptable. Again, here's a six-minute song. Do they think minutes out of my life grows on trees? Kinks fans might find this comic dramatization of their love-hate relationship interesting... that's a stretch, but ... possible. Maybe.

Somebody Stole My Car B

This pub-rock ditty actually has a nice, party-time atmosphere to it. It's possible this song is actually enjoyable, or my taste has gone out the window! Oh, the melody is an insanely far cry away from their best material of course, but this one is OK. They made it four minutes long, too, which is the best thing about it, easily. (And then they quote the Beatles at the end. I guess this is their response to “Drive My Car.”)

Close to the Wire C

Another mid-tempo song that's pretty ineffective an unmemorable. It goes on for four minutes, and it goes nowhere. It doesn't offend me either, however, and I guess that's worth something. It's not assaulting my ear drums that much. Yup, thanks Dave.

Scattered C+

A really cutesy pop-rock song that isn't the worst thing I heard. By this point, anyone expecting this album to go out with a bang would have already had their hopes shattered. But anyway this is non-offensive and sort of nice, so I guess it turned out better than what you might have been expecting.


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