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A classic album preserved after many false starts
on 23 April 2011
Although Village Green Preservation Society was a commercial failure when originally released its reputation has burgeoned over the years. This reputation is well-founded. The songwriting is of a consistently high standard and the band is playing at its best.
At the time, Ray Davies was just short of enough material for a great double album. The first 12-track single album was hastily withdrawn amidst arguments about the best way ahead, to be replaced by the better known 15-track version. Five songs were added by the change and two songs removed: Days (which had become a successful single) and Mr Songbird. The confusion resulted in a botched publicity programme and, when eventually released into the new world of hard rock and revulutionary student politics, the album's unifying theme of memories about people and place had become deeply unfashionable.
Thus, despite its earlier obscurity, Village Green Preservation Society is a first class slice of British pop/rock. The main question is whether you should buy this 3-CD "deluxe" version or go with the single CD, saving £5 or so. The following notes might help you choose.
In the CD age, the fashion for bonus tracks has resulted in versions of the album that include all 17 of the original tracks. However, if you look at the current single CD version you find Days and Mr Songbird buried amongst alternate versions of songs repeated from earlier in the track listing. In contrast, on the stereo version that comprises the first CD in this 3-CD, the long-standing 15 track album is followed immediately by Mr Songbird and Days, the latter finally taking its rightful place at the end of the "full" album. "Thank you for the days....."
CD number 2 is a mono version of the 17 tracks in the same running order, with some good near contemporary songs as a bonus. My own view is that is too little difference between the mono and stero versions for the 2nd CD to offer much value, but doubtless there are some completists who would beg to differ. However, since the current single CD version mixes stereo and mono tracks, either one of the first two CDs in this "deluxe" version is likely to sound more consistent.
The 3rd CD contains a number of rarities recorded from the same period. The best of these is Misty Waters, which would have readily slotted into Village Green's concept. Others such as Lavender Hill and Rosemary Rose might have helped transform it into a classic double album. Inevitably the third CD also contains quite a lot of forgettable stuff including the instrumentals such as "Mick Avory's Underpants" - personally I would be about as willing wear Mick Avory's underpants than listen to it again. But all things considered, the CD-3 is a clinching argument for spending the extra few quid compared to the single CD alternative.