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North London Country Music...And It Works!,
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This review is from: Muswell Hillbillies (Audio CD)
As others have mentioned, the Kinks new record label - RCA - must've been rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of a new Kinks album in 1971. They'd revitalised their chart status in 1970 with hit singles in the shape of 'Lola' and 'Apeman' (and how did Ray get away with using the F-Word in 'Apeman', a top ten UK singles chart hit, when he had to to change 'Coca Cola' to 'Cherry Cola' in 'Lola'?), and were finally allowed back in the USA to tour. However, 'Muswell Hillbillies' was a hit-free zone. Not that it isn't one of the finest albums released under The Kinks name, though. For a band whose 1960s status was based on the oft-used phrase 'Quintessentially English' lyrical themes, 'Muswell Hillbillies' saw Ray Davies re-cast the band's musical base by utilising a set of predominantly American styles - including Dixieland Jazz, Bluesy themes, and horror of horrors (for the time) - Country Music. However, the lyrics couldn't be more English, or, more pertinently, London-centric. Davies looks to his own experience - being moved out of King's Cross to leafy Muswell Hill as part of the post-war 'Urban Renewal', and then considers all sorts of social issues that arise - alcoholism, urban paranoia, depression, 'fallen women' (the wonderful 'Holloway Jail'), even excessive slimming, and the escapism that Hollywood provides ('Oklahoma USA' - "with Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae"). It's a frequently mordant collection, littered with sardonic and bittersweet humour, and some of Ray Davies' finest songs. He said that the album was partly informed by seeing Irish Country groups performing in the Archway Tavern pub (the band are depicted in the pub on the cover), and it was their failed, if noble attempt to replicate that sound and style that influenced the album. Or so he says! Anyway, 'Muswell Hillbillies' is a wonderful, wonderful record, with the band musicianship and Davies' lyrical excursions on tip-top form. You may have to give this album a little time to grow on you, but when it does, it reveals new things with each play. It's a fine record, and one of the most 'London' albums you'll ever hear. Highly recommended.
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Initial post: 20 Dec 2010 23:15:18 GMT
Apeman: he presented the lyrics sheet with "fogging". I have always heard it as "fugging". I don't know if it's a word, but my family uses it of windows opaque with condensation.
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