Customer Review

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A classic album preserved after many false starts, 23 April 2011
This review is from: The Village Green Preservation Society (Audio CD)
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 The first 12-track single album was hastily withdrawn amidst arguments about the best way ahead, to be replaced by the better known 15-track version.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.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Jan 2012 13:39:07 GMT
From what I remember on this (I may be wrong) the original withdrawn 12 track release was in Stereo, but you might not know from your review that when it was then released in it's altered 15 track form it was in Mono. The single CD available thus has both these versions complete and in the correct order which is why it appears an odd mix with 5 of the songs only appearing in Mono and 2 only appearing in Stereo.

The problem with this CD set is both Mono and Stereo versions have all the tracks in the 15 track Mono album order. The Stereo CD is a collection of the Stereo versions of the songs on the Mono album and does not represent any actual version. People interested in listening to the original 12 track Stereo version for interests sake have to program their CD player to put the tracks in the right order.

I've not read the sleave notes of this version but looking at the last two tracks I guess the first CD is version of the original 15 track Mono album partly remixed into Stereo used by later pressings thus ignoring the original Stereo mixes of some of the songs (the two alternative mixes at the end) as was common at the end of the 70s when Stereo was more fashionable? Possibly not even with any input from the artist (Ray Davies of course!) which also seems to be common (thinking Beatles etc here). Because the 15 tracks are present in their original Mono form on CD2, I'd rather this CD have the original 12 track version of the Stereo album.

At the end of the day I agree with you it's down to personal preference. I've got the original single CD version and to be honest I've never bothered listening to both versions to compare. Haven't listened to it in a while but I think there's something tacked on to the end of the last song in the Mono version which is absent from the Stereo which is quite noticeable but easily missable unless you are really familiar with one version and play the other, either way it's nothing major.

Posted on 10 Jan 2012 19:23:32 GMT
Thanks for this comment. You make a number of good points and my checks suggest you are right about the better-known 15 track version having been issued on Mono only. Whilst I knew that my own vinyl copy was mono, it hadn't occurred to me that there had been no stereo equivalent. I would imagine that it might have been the last ever mono-only issue of a new LP. The booklet enclosed with this package confirms that a number of stereo tracks are recent remixes.

You are also right about the running order of the original 12-track version. However, as the booklet also explains, its production was stopped after Ray Davies's intervention. Thus, whether or not Ray Davies had approved of the 12-track version's running order must be in some doubt. Ray objected to the 12-track version because he considered it to be incomplete. Two tracks that made the later 15 track version, Big Sky and Last of the Steam Powered Trains, were recorded two months after the first version was pulled.

For my money, Days is a shoe-in for the last track of a 17-track version of the album. It was always a great single, but its lyrics serve as a wonderful finale to an album about nostalgia. One could argue about the placing of Mr Songbird but penultimate track seems as good as anywhere. So my personal preference would still be inclined to the running order on the deluxe CD. Of course, to know the definitive answer to the running order question, you would have to ask Ray Davies, or someone very closely connected. I would also be interested to know which, if any, tracks were not included in either version due to the single-album constraint.

My view is that there are few great pop/rock albums, but that this is one. It is one of the few instances in which I would consider a discussion about track selection and running order to be of serious interest!
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