1964 – 1994

The Kinks

Track analysis for “Education

The Kinks have probably recorded more great tracks than any other single artistic unit in the history of rock. Most of the group’s songs have been penned and sung by leader Ray Davies, although brother Dave has also contributed some worthy efforts over the years.

The Kinks were part of the original British invasion of the American airwaves. It soon became apparent, though, that they were more than mere emulators of American blues or rock’n roll. Always the most unapologetically British band of their generation, they became known for several key characteristics.

  1. Ray’s lyrics were always intelligent, articulate, and carefully crafted, while never pretentious, self-indulgent or self-absorbed.
  2. As a songwriter, Ray was a master storyteller. Whatever message he had in mind, it was always woven into an engaging tale featuring one or more interesting characters.
  3. Ray consistently commented on the latest trappings of human civilization from an independent, quirky and ironic perspective.
  4. While the group has had its share of hits over the years, and has always desired recognition and commercial success, they have never pandered to public taste, nor curried favor. Instead, they have steadfastly maintained their own unique artistic vision.
  5. Musically the band has been a restless explorer of multiple styles, using American Country and Western, blues, rock’n roll, power rock and British music hall styles as it suited them. Whatever the genre, though, the band always fully exploited its particular musical conventions to craft powerful and moving recordings.
  6. Ray’s voice is one of the most versatile in all of rock. From strangled shout to smooth whisper, he always chooses his style to match the song. What’s more, he uses his voice as an actor would, changing its tone and shading to match whatever character or mood he is representing.

Always ones to go against the grain of current trends, the Kinks have grandly resisted the current urge to cull out their most marketable recordings and reissue them in various combinations likely to appeal to the record-buying public. In some ways this is unfortunate, since an intelligent boxed set of their best work would go a long way to establishing their credentials as perhaps the most prolific, consistent recording unit in the history of rock. On the other hand, one can certainly have worse ambitions in life than to acquire a complete collection of their original recordings.

Recommended CDs

Album Title: Face to Face

Original Release Date: 1966

Rating: 5 Stars (Essential)

An utterly enchanting album, featuring classics like “Dandy,” “Party Line,” “Too Much On My Mind,” “Holiday in Waikiki,” “Fancy,” and “Sunny Afternoon.” Every track is unique in theme and treatment. Nicky Hopkins graces the album on piano and harpsichord, adding tasteful touches on many tunes.

 

Album Title: Something Else

Original Release Date: 1967

Rating: 4 Stars (Recommended)

Not as consistent as Face to Face, but “Waterloo Sunset” alone is nearly worth the price of admission, and there are many other gems as well.

 

Album Title: The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society

Original Release Date: 1968

Rating: 4 Stars (Recommended)

The title track is a classic, and again there are other worthwhile efforts on the album.

 

Album Title: Arthur or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire

Original Release Date: 1969

Rating: 5 Stars (Essential)

Who but the Kinks could write a rave-up about the nineteenth century English Queen known for her moral propriety? “Victoria” is a sparkling song, contrasting the power of a well-ordered society with the aimlessness of the late 20th century. Other songs elaborate on the overall theme and extend the story, with many great tracks.

 

Album Title: Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part 1

Original Release Date: 1970

Rating: 4 Stars (Recommended)

“Lola” is an essential song, as is “Apeman,” and the rest of the album is memorable as well.

 

Album Title: Muswell Hillbillies

Original Release Date: 1971

Rating: 5 Stars (Essential)

Certainly one of the best Kinks albums in their collection. Here they closely observe a number of elements of modern life. Ray’s tone and approach are as varied as his subjects. After a number of albums of carefully crafted pop, they return here to a harder, more abandoned sound reminiscent of their early hits, such as “You Really Got Me.” A wonderful album.

 

Album Title: Everybody's in Show Biz

Original Release Date: 1972

Rating: 5 Stars (Essential)

My absolute favorite Kinks album. The Kinks draw heavily on their English music hall roots, featuring a full horn section, including trombone and tuba, as well as the more customary trumpet and saxophone. The songs generally take a look at the lives of performers, including Hollywood stars (“Celluloid Heros”) as well as those of the Kinks themselves (“Sitting in My Hotel” and others). Also included is the fabulous “Supersonic Rocket Ship,” which is sort of a traditional British answer to American groups like Jefferson Starship, featuring lines like “We’re going to travel faster than light, so do up your overcoat tight.” Absolutely original and totally unalloyed Kinks.

 

Album Title: Schoolboys in Disgrace

Original Release Date: 1975

Rating: 3 Stars (Worthy)

”Education” alone is worth the price of admission. Many of the other songs are memorable, but originality seems to be generally sacrificed for thematic cohesion. This is one of the Kinks albums during this period that was conceived and executed as an elaborate stage show for their tours. While these concept albums added some variety and challenge to the Kinks live shows, they often failed to make for consistently compelling studio efforts.

 

Album Title: Sleepwalker

Original Release Date: 1977

Rating: 4 Stars (Recommended)

Not consistently great, but the title track is one of their best, along with “Jukebox Music,” “Stormy Sky,” and “Life Goes On.”

 

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