Old sounds for summer. The Kinks were kept out of the States for three crucial years in the sixties, on some spurious basis concerning the undeniable occasional violent outbursts between band members on stage. This must have encouraged them to explore even more deeply than they might otherwise have done the aspirations and foibles of their fellow countrymen. By 1968 they had become the quintessentially English rock group, chronicling the lives of ordinary people with extraordinary insight, making the mundane glamorous.
"The Village Green Preservation Society" runs like a series of pictures, sepia tinted photographs of an idyll that was already in decline. The band utilise a basic rock format of drums, guitar, bass, piano, without the big brass arrangements etc that are employed on a number of later albums. The album is lightly produced, under-produced even, giving it a stripped, open feel. These songs don't need fancy costume to stand out from the crowd. They shine all the more brightly for their near-nakedness.
Throughout there is an underlying air of sadness and regret in these evocations of a world gradually slipping from view. In the edgy atmosphere of 1968 - flower power was so last year - this album, more John Betjeman than Hunter S Thompson, must have sounded out of place and sales at the time were negligible. Fortunately history has been kind and it has since acquired classic status, with complete justification. So we can still enjoy its nostalgic reverie for an England before the DIY superstore and the Drive-Thru McDonalds that to many of us living in towns and cities now seems little more than a dream.
Ray Davies was very much swimming against the tide by 1968 (the year of 'The Village Green Preservation Society's release) when he began writing about his regret of the passing of time and his yearning for simpler days filled with village greens and lost friends - after all this was the period of rebellion, psychedelia and increased drug consumption. This is perhaps the reason this album had been so utterly neglected at the time. However, in retrospect, 'The Village Green Preservation Society' is arguably the best album the Kinks have ever released.
'Village Green' isn't too different in musical direction to the Kinks previous album 'Something Else' with its mellow sound and occasional music hall influences except that it is a lot better produced with a much richer sound and Ray's writing tends to focus on one particular theme - that of the passing of time and loss of innocence. This has resulted in many commentators referring to 'Village Green' as a concept album which is perhaps true yet unlike many concept albums which seem rather indulgent in their grand (and overblown) ideals, 'Village Green' is rather quiet and modest. I think a 'themed' album is, perhaps, rather more fitting.
'Village Green' is uniformlly strong from start to finish but if i had to pick a favourite song it would have to be the title track 'The Village Green Preservation Society' where Ray effectively lays out all the things he misses from days gone by before going into more specific detail in the songs that follow.
'Village Green' isn't self conscious like some of the concept albums the Kinks would record in the future - it's fairly measured and relaxed in tone which makes it a great pleasure to listen to. Because of this its theme is all the more effectively understood by the listener making it one of Ray Davies' most effective and enjoyable ventures.
For Kinks fans in particular and music fans generally 'The Village Green Preservation Society' is indispensible.
For years my only exposure to the Kinks was through a well worn `best of' album, which inexplicably only contained one track (Days) from this masterpiece. It was only when I started collecting their albums a little while ago I discovered the rest of the gems on this impressive album. How I regret having never heard it before then!
Up until hearing this I had thought of the Kinks as an outfit f hard rockers, with such classics as `you really got me', etc. But towards the end of the 60's Ray Davies started to get a new musical vision, and began to move the band away from their roots. The beginnings of this shift can be heard in their previous album, the reflective `Something Else By The Kinks'. However, here the pastoral vision is given full reign and used to make a classic album that holds together as a thematic whole.
The basic theme is the great English countryside and its fast disappearing traditions. It's not a folk album, but it does have a very pastoral theme. Songs are well crafted, with plenty o Kinks style great hooks and melodies, coupled with great lyrics which show a real regret for a world fast disappearing. Stand out tracks are the title track, and `last of the steam powered trains'. There is no filler though. Why more of the tracks don't find their way onto best of albums is beyond me. For my money this is the best and most consistent album the band ever made.
Two versions of the album are presented here, the mono 15 track version, and the stereo 12 track edition, all on the same disk. The remastering is very good and the disk has a nice crisp clear sound. The inlay contains a nice essay about the recording of the album and some photos of the band.
A classic album, well presented. Recommended to any fans of the Kinks, country fairs, steam rallies, strawberry jam in all its different varieties, draught beer and the old, simpler life in general.
on 4 February 2008
Wow, this thing completely took me by surprise. '60s pop has always let me down, yet I ended up listening to this obsessively when I was in New York; something about it just hit me hard. Ironically, it made me value the traditional aspects of England a bit more, as well as invoking strong feelings of nostalgia. Village Green Preservation Society just runs deep with memories, whether it's the physical ("Picture Book") or just recalling those who drifted away ("Do You Remember Walter?"). Despite being near-perfect pop, I'm greatly surprised that this album has so many fans, as it's just so English. This isn't even the England I'm used to either, as The Kinks are strictly down with the Sunday games of cricket, tea, crumpets and churches. These are areas of my culture that I've only had glimpses of when I've left the bright lights and violent streets of Manchester, yet, oddly enough, feel I know all too well.
It's all very quaint, yet extremely and subtly powerful. Not bad for a pop album, eh?
on 8 August 2008
Quite agree with all the previous reviews that this is an excellent album, one of the high spots of the Kinks career and containing some of Ray Davies's finest songs.
But I have always seen the "nostalgia" for an old England in the lyrics as intended to be ironic. The title track, with its references to "God Save Mrs Mopp, vaudeville and variety" is gently parodying the British obsession with the "Good Old Days",as is the song "Last of the Steam Powered Trains" with lines like "I live in a museum". Ray continued this theme with more bitterness in the next Kinks album "Arthur".
The song "Village Green" is virtually a spoof folk song, not too far removed from the Bonzo Dog Band, and to suggest that this album is out of step with its contemporaries just seems wrong (remember that one of the most popular stage musicals at this time was "Oh What a Lovely War" and it just precedes films like "If")
There are the songs which document the passing of time without irony, usually the more personal ones such as the magnificent "Do you remember Walter?" - again a theme Ray Davies has continued in more recent lyrics.
So enjoy the gentle humour and affectionate parody of this fantastic album, but don't believe that there ever was an idyllic "Village Green".
The Village Green Preservation Society was released to complete indifference in the Sixties - it was untrendy, out of touch and out of vogue. Yet we now know better!
Time has been the judge of this album and the record buying public has re-discovered this album and found it to be a genuine classic.
The album is quintessentially English, yearning for a time when life was slower and life was more simple. It is a beautiful collection of songs with great lyrics, sweet sentiments and gorgeous melodies.
The expanded version is a treat to behold and gives the album the full treatment it deserves.
on 17 May 2014
For years I suffered the delusion that The Kinks were a greatest hits band......always had a compilation on the shelf and that was it. Of course I'd picked up on the title track and loved it but that was as far as I went. Then on the back of a television commercial and a whim I finally downloaded the album alongside 'Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround'.WOW!!!! One listen later I ordered hard copies of both and began a two week wallow....can't believe that I'd missed 'VGPS' for the last 40 years!! It immediately leapt into my all time top ten. Absolute brilliance...quintessentially English and nostalgic but fully aware of the certainty of change ('Walter', 'Village Green', 'Picture Book') bluesy (change the words and 'Last Of The Steam Powered Trains' could be Creedence Clearwater Revival), eccentric ('Wicked Annabella', 'Phenomenal Cat'), and continually relevant ('Big Sky' for me is one of the great commentaries on godhead and organised religion). Arrangements and production are top notch and compositionally, the songs clearly show that Ray Davis is on a very even par with anything The Beatles proffered on the contemporary 'white' album. Also worth getting an edition which includes both the 15 track mono mix and the 12 track stereo for the track variation and contrasting sound. Now for all the others I've missed......
on 27 October 2009
Never owned any Kinks material but after having bumped into Ray Davies in a pub in Highgate and then having told him how much I admired his work (England's greatest living songwriter, etc!) I thought I ought to buy some.
Having chosen this album based on Amazon reviews it's had an inordinate amount of air-time in home and car over the last few weeks. In fact I liked it so much I've been back and ordered another three from their back-catalogue. This is exactly how I remember the Kinks as a kid growing up in the 60's - at a time when all the cool people I knew were listening to dangerously experimental substance-inspired psychedelia or uncompromising protest songs, their music seemed strangely out of step, quirky and rooted in another time and place. Underpinning it all though, even for a kid still in primary school, was a sense that these were beautifully crafted and deeply considered songs.
The impression Village Green leaves now is unashamedly nostalgic and the album is shot through with a yearning for a simpler, gentler world, all the more poignant today when the unforgiving grasp of global consumer capitalism has extended beyond even the worst nightmares of those sixties idealists.
There is bravery here as well though, in the hint that maybe we should at least consider swimming against the rising tide of the times. Perhaps if we'd taken more time to listen to Mr. Davies' message on albums like this, we'd have realised that some of those traditional values, the ephemera that defined our sense of Englishness, old pals, Desperate Dan, and strawberry jam in all of its varieties, were the baby we were about to throw out with the bathwater.
With the baby out, Thatcher stepped in and ask anyone from the northern mining communities of the time what happened to their traditional values then.
Buy this album and remind yourself of the things that used to make you happy before you owned an i-pod. Oh, and with this CD you get the album twice, once in stereo and once in mono. That can't be a bad thing can it...?
on 10 July 2013
The Village Green Preservation Society is a curious beast. It's undoubtedly The Kinks' most famous studio album but it was a flop on release and contains no hit singles. It's where Ray Davies' very English lyrical aesthetic of afternoon tea and waterloo sunsets reached it's apex with songs largely about yearning for simpler times. The opening title track states this theme explicitly with lyrics referencing Desperate Dan, strawberry jam and tudor houses. As the album goes on there's songs about lost friends (Do You Remember Walter?), lazy, carefree days (Sitting By The Riverside) and memories induced by old photographs (Picture Book and People Take Pictures Of Each Other). The music is amongst the most gentle and pretty The Kinks ever made and although quite samey in places, it doesn't really matter because Ray Davies' songwriting was at it's absolute peak at this time.
How did I ever miss this lovely album in '68? I think I might have heard a track like 'village green preservation society', and dismissed it as 'not underground'. Well, it isn't. This is serious overground music - grounded in real life, and all the better for it. I ordered this earlier this year and have hardly stopped playing it - full of catchy tunes, and with many of the catchy tunes come excellent Davies' lyrics. Yes, nostalgia, but also some quite sixties themes; but all very human, warm, and highly re-playable. Yes, there is irony in the nostalgia, too; but laid-back irony, not cutting as in 'Lazy Sunday afternoon'; gentle, warm irony. An excellent album, and some of these numbers (Village Green, for one) are up there with the best of the Kinks. But all of them (well, maybe except Phenomenal Cat) are very good songs.