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Concept album for a TV Programme never made on Arthur's emigration to Australia richly textured with lots of brass & great songs
on 26 February 2017
The opening track Victoria is a joyous song, one of the albums great highlights, the big hit single that immediately grabs your attention. This album had a different genesis, originally written as a soundtrack to a proposed Granada TV programme, that was then never made, but having worked on the project Ray Davies decided to put out the album anyway. It is a classily produced album, richly textured songs that sometimes have 2 or 3 different sections, and often embellished by brass backing to give it a distinctive atmosphere.
The subtitle of the album is "the decline and fall of the British Empire" . It is partly based on Ray's own family experience, where his sister Rosie and her husband Arthur, a decorated fighter pilot who became disillusioned with life in Britain and decided to emigrate to sunny Australia with his family. Apart from the splendid start with Victoria, other strong songs that are highlights are Australia and Shangri-La. The other songs are all interesting and worthwhile , with no real weak tracks. Inevitably being cast adrift from the original intended TV programme, it did suffer in comparison to other "rock operas" around the same time, like the Who's Tommy, and the critics at the time were a bit bemused by its ideas, and it was only a modest success.
With the benefit of hindsight this was ahead of its time, an important step up in the development of Ray Davies as a songwriter and larger more political and social commentator. The final original album track Arthur, reflects on how titular character was born just a plain and simple man, who tried hard to do his best, but was dealt a rough hand in life, with things never working out quite how he had wanted them to, and other lesser characters coming out better. There are 10 bonus tracks added onto the original album, making this a good value for money collection, with half a dozen additional songs including the hit single Plastic .Man, and some alternative takes of tracks on the main album