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on 5 December 2016
When this was released in late 1971, Glam rock was on the rise, Bowie was yet to be a star and 'serious album music' tended to be self indulgent, with long instrumental passages. This album is so refreshing because it avoids the musical hubris of the era and has Ray Davies delivering sharp and sardonic observations on the changing landscape of working class life. The album is full of really strong songs set in different styles that move from punchy acoustic pop rock, to 'mock country' and even a bit of jugband blues that borders on the jazzy.The playing throughout is superb, with Dave Davies' guitar adding a lot of raunch and roll to give a lot of the tracks a rock n roll edge. Ray's vocals are great, my only criticism is they seem barely audible in the mix on some tracks - but this makes you listen a bit more intently to what he is singing. I declare this album to be one of the 70s lost classics and it's great to read so many other people on here who feel the same.
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Bought this CD for a single track but loved it. To be honest, it was a bit of a revelation as I am not particularly a fan of the Kinks
but for me, this really works - a piece of history, some skiffle, some hillbilly, some thoughtful, some fun some reminiscences. Love the sleeve notes too. It might just tempt me to buy others!
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on 2 December 2014
Great songs and performances, but I find the mix a bit muffled. Ray's voice is often buried and I am puzzled by the choice of effects they used on the vocals. I miss Shel Talmy's mixing and production. A klassic in the Kinks' kanon musically, but not up to snuff in the sonics department.
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on 26 July 2017
A great album good band smashing cover.
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on 23 August 2017
A solid Kinks album
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on 6 September 2017
we met spring 1963 aged 18 yrs .music an integral part of our lives. Muswell Hillbillies perfectly reflects the music scene freely available in pubs throughout the best years of our life.
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on 1 September 2017
Very underrated album and would make a good show.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 9 November 2009
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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on 31 January 2014
Muswell Hillbillies came out in 1971, right after the massive international hit Lola and the somewhat less of a hit Apeman, so probably anything would have paled in comparison. RCA signed The Kinks as a singles band, and this was the first concept album they issued for the label. "20th Century Man" was the single from the album and explored once again songwriter Ray Davies' disaffection from modern times ("I'm a twentieth century man, but I don't want to be here.") The songs are mainly about the People in Grey who know what's best for everyone who were moving people out of their quaint houses into council houses, giving them what they "need." ("Here Come the People in Grey.") I remember Ray in an interview at the time talking about his Aunt Rose who was arthritic being moved out of her lovely old house and into a council flat where the sinks were at a height that she could hardly raise her arms high enough to reach. The concert favorites "Alcohol," "Acute Schoziphrenia Paranoia Blues," and "Skin and Bones" were part of The Kinks' repretoire for several years. "Have a Cuppa Tea" ("Granny's always ravin' and rantin', and she's always puffin' and pantin', and she's always screamin' and shoutin,' and she's always brewing up tea.") is a lugubrious riot of music which sounds like everyone is having a great time. The alternate version included on the second CD is much less enjoyable and more subdued. "Oklahoma USA" is a rumination about a girl walking to her drab job dreaming about the movies, a theme which Ray would return to far more effectively in "Celluloid Heroes" the next year. In "Holloway Jail," the narrator is visiting his beloved in that notorious London facility who was led into a life of crime by "a spiv named Frankie Shine." the girl chorus that would be so prominent in the "Preservation" albums of 1973-75 makes its first appearance here as does the Mike Cotton Sound, a sax, trumpet, trombone trio who would be featured on the next three albums as well. Like "Motorway," as song that would appear the next year complaining about life on the road, the enthusiastic delivery and beat of "Muswell Hillbillies" at the end says that after all that, Ray is perfectly happy to be where he is (Muswell Hill was where Ray and Dave grew up) (essentially a sequel to 1967's "This Is Where I Belong").

There are four songs on the extras CD that were routined for the album but not used. Personally, I don't think they add much to the story. Two of the albums songs, "20th Century Man" and "Muswell Hillbillies," are included there as remixed in 1976; those mixes were included on the LP verson of 1976's "The Kinks Greatest Hits," but are not included on the expanded CD version. Alternative versions of the album's songs are included as well.

The pictures are significant. The front cover picture was taken inside the Archway Tavern (which would be the scene of an IRA bombing in a few years), and the people in it other than the band are locals obviously looking askance at the long-haired freaky people. The gatefold picture inside was the band in front of a construction fence that was hiding a bombed out building left over from World War II (26 years fter the war there were still unrepaired places). The extra pics from that same shoot included in the package make it look like it was cold that day. Dave (especially) and John Gosling look like they were freezing.

The music is mostly basic rock. Sonically, most of the instruments are clustered in the center, which, for me, means the guitars tend to stumble over each other. Dave premiers his slide guitar here and uses it to great effect, but some of the parts are hard to hear. The two 1976 remixes have much better stereo, and the guitar parts are much easier to appreciate. while Dave does not contribute a song, his guitar work in all over this album and nicely carries Ray's vocals along. It's the lack of separation that keeps me from giving the album 5 Stars

This is one of the best of the Kinks' later albums. Ray gets a little heavy-handed in the social commentary and the sound is somewhat muddy, but it hangs together much better than his later concept albums. Dave's guitar and John Dalton's bass anchor the sound and create an overall very satifying listening experience. If you want to learn about the Davies' brothers growing up, this is the album to get.
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on 1 September 2016
A change in direction. Not sure if I really like it.
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