Monday, 16 November 2015

The Kinks album by album

Needs tidying....March 2019



The Kinks were formed in Muswell Hill, North London in 1963, by brothers Dave and Ray Davies. Ray Davies is the creative force - his brother Dave also wrote songs and was the lead guitar player, but remained a sort of slightly resentful and unsettled figure in Ray's shadow. The band are generally acknowledged as important and influential, but are afforded a much lower status than their contemporaries, the Beatles, Stones and the Who. After being banned from playing in America in the Sixties, success there was limited until the Seventies. They are respected by musicians and critics, but not given star billing, and are largely treated as a quaint, nostalgic Sixties singles band by the public - little more than the Dave Clark Five or Gerry and the Pacemakers. The regular albums are mostly ignored - people often preferring to buy the compilations, and as I am doing this Kitchen Table study, I am becoming aware of why: -  the regular albums were often rushed in comparison to the singles, and most of the singles - the songs we know - did not appear on the regular albums when first released (the CD issues have rectified that by adding them as bonus tracks). With some notable exceptions, I am finding that the albums are not as good as the singles.

I grew up with them as a quaint Sixties singles band, and in the early Seventies I was aware that music critics respected some of their more ambitious late Sixties / early Seventies concept albums: Village Green, Arthur and Muswell Hillbillies, though I never really got into those albums. I loved some of the songs, and Waterloo Sunset is possibly my favourite song of all time. I saw the Kinks at the Hammersmith Palais in 1984, when they sang Waterloo Sunset, and later saw Ray Davies at Rochester Castle in 2007 when he got his timings wrong and wasn't able to do it. I was aware of how much other musicians in the Punk and Britpop periods respected him and either directly covered his songs, or wrote very much in his style. Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)  in particular covered several of his songs very well, eventually having a relationship with him. I respect Ray Davies, and I have always kind of liked the Kinks, but I have never really got excited by them - which is I suspect how most folks feel. Davies writes great songs, but there's something about his and the band's image, which isn't compelling, and the music is often, though well done, a little Tin Pan Alley - competent, professional middle of the road music, created to carry and convey lyrics, but not thrilling, disturbing, or ground-breaking. Indeed, all too often, despite his intellect and song-writing ability, Davies tends to follow the music trends rather than lead them. The claims regarding the importance of "You Really Got Me" have, I feel, been overstated, and its importance is seen more in retrospect through the claims of Davies himself rather than in actuality.  It's a great song, and it was released at an early point in the British blues movement, in the style which has come to be called garage music, but it was an attempt to capture the feel and sound of the Kingsmen's Louie Louie.

The band emerged in 1964 at the height of the British R&B movement  and Merseybeat,  and were a minor part of the British Invasion of the US until their touring ban in 1965. I have been surprised and impressed while doing this study at how early they began recording. Their first singles and album were released in 1964, slightly after the Stones, but just before the Animals, the Who, the Yardbirds, Them, the Spencer Davis Group, the Pretty Things, Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Searchers, the Merseybeats, and the Moody Blues.

They were influenced by a variety of music styles, including rhythm and blues, British music hall, folk and country. The band's breakthrough, "You Really Got Me" in 1964, was their third single,. It became an international hit, topping the charts in the United Kingdom and reaching the Top 10 in the United States. Between the mid-1960s and early 1970s, the group's singles were successful, while their albums, such as Face to FaceSomething ElseThe Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation SocietyArthurLola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround and Muswell Hillbillies (which usually did not contain the singles),  were critically successful but commercial failures. They gained a reputation for Ray Davies' observational writing style, which displayed a wry wit in reflecting English culture and lifestyle.

The band's early 1970s theatrical concept albums met with less success, though they experienced a revival during the late 1970s and early 1980s with albums Sleepwalker, Misfits, Low Budget, Give the People What They Want and State of Confusion. In addition, groups such as Van Halen, the Jam, the Knack, the Pretenders and the Fall covered their songs, reviving the Kinks' reputation for a new generation. In the 1990s, Britpop acts such as Blur and Oasis cited the band as a major influence. The Kinks broke up in 1996, a result of the commercial failures of their last few albums and creative tension between the Davies brothers.

The group had five Top 10 singles on the US Billboard chart. Nine of their albums charted in the Top 40. In the UK, the group had seventeen Top 20 singles and five Top 10 albums. Four of their albums have been certified gold by the RIAA. Among numerous honours, they received the Ivor Novello Award for "Outstanding Service to British Music". In 1990, the original four members of  the Kinks were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, as well as the UK Music Hall of Fame in November 2005.

The Kinks released original material singles and extended-play singles in between albums, so for a complete picture I am putting singles and other interesting material in between the albums, though not Dave Davies singles, as I don't find him interesting.

Debut release is a cover of "Long Tall Sally" (Feb 1964), the b-side is a R'n'B song by Davies, "I Took My Baby Home", which appears on the first album. Unremarkable.

"You Still Want Me" (Apr 1964), a Beatlesque song by Davies. Has only appeared on compilation albums. The b-side, "You Do Something To Me", is more of the same. Unremarkable.

"You Really Got Me" (Aug 1964) is a Davies original that appears on the debut album. This is the song that made them famous. Clearly a copy of The Kingsmen's "Louie Louie", including the legendary guitar break, but still insanely good. Dave Davie's  guitar break is neat, but it's a copy of the Kingsmen's original, and is fairly wet anyway, what really works is the menacing da-da-da-dah riff throughout the song which is carried by all three guitars, combined with the steps in intensity, and the bringing in of the threatening background vocals. This is an intense track - full of menace. The b-side, "It's Alright",  is an R'n'B song by Davies that could have been recorded by Them or the Yardbirds - it has a lot of energy, but has only appeared on compilation e-plays and albums.


* * *


Kinks  (Oct 1964)
The debut album contains competent R'n'B covers and originals. This album fits in well with other top British R'n'B and beat groups of the period. Good songs well played. It's a lively and impressive debut, and it contains the garage rock of  "You Really Got Me" and the MerseyBeat-like "Stop Your Sobbing". Not bad! The lyrical idea behind "Stop Your Sobbing" is fascinating, and shows a writer who is interested in exploring some interesting and unusual ideas.

Wikipedia; AllMusic;

Best song: "Stop Your Sobbing", and, of course, "You Really Got Me"

Score: 4/5

* * *

* "All Day And All Of The Night" (Oct 1964), another blistering single with a crazy inept guitar solo in the style of Louie Louie. This one only appeared on compilation albums.  B-side is a Davies R'n'B song "I Gotta Move".

* Kinksize Session (Nov 1964), an EP with a cover of "Louie Louie" (of course!), and three Davies R'n'B / MerseyBeat originals, "I Gotta Go Now",  "Things Are Getting Better", and "I've Got That Feeling". None of the songs appeared on regular albums, just compilations and US albums. Unremarkable.


* Recorded as a demo around 1964, but never released as a Kinks song is "I Go To Sleep", which was later released by The Pretenders. This awesome song was never released. And this man has never even been nominated for a Grammy. Stunning.

Lyrics to I Go To Sleep:

When I look up from my pillow I dream you are there with me
Though you are far away I know you'll always be near to me
I go to sleep and imagine that you're there with me

I look around me and feel you are ever so close to me
Each tear that flows from my eyes brings back memories of you to me
I go to sleep and imagine that you're there with me

I was wrong, I will cry, I will love you to the day I die
You alone, and no one else, you were meant for me

When morning comes once more I have the loneliness you left me
Each day drags by until finally night time descends on me
I go to sleep and imagine that you're there with me

* * *


Kinda Kinks (March 1965)

British R'n'B. Ray and the band were not satisfied with the production as it was recorded in short spurts before, during and after a tour of Australia, then rush released. Mostly plodding, apart from the no.1 single Tired Of Waiting, which had been recorded more thoughtfully earlier in 1964, and deliberately held back for the album. This is not in itself a good album, though it does indicate both in itself, and in the songs written and recorded around this time, that Ray Davies was a particular, if unrecognised, talent. Also, as a point of comparison the Beatles For Sale, released a few months earlier, is not that good.

Wikipedia; AllMusic;

Best song: "Tired Of Waiting"

Score:2

* * *

* Set Me Free (May 1965) a ballad style R'n'B / Beat number by Ray. At this point I think all the compositions are originals, almost all by Ray, but the odd one here and there by brother Dave. B-side is the punchy I Need You in the style of All Night And All Of The Night.

* A curiosity - Kinky Music - The Larry Page Orchestra plays the music of The Kinks (June1965)

* See My Friends (July 1965) - a slightly psychedelic tune with an Indian raga sound that pre-dates the Beatles and the Byrds, though the Yardbirds had got there a month earlier with Heart Full of Soul / Unreleased sitar version. B-side was the unremarkable Never Met A Girl Like You Before.

* Kwyet Kinks (Sept 1965), an EP with a song by Dave, and three by Ray: the unremarkable Such A Shame, Don't You Fret, and the slightly more interesting A Well Respected Man.


* * *

The Kink Kontroversy (Nov 1965)
The band's second album of 1965 continues with the British R'n'B popular at the time. Though competent, it comes over as weaker than the Stones, the Who, Them, and the Yardbirds. There are elements of Bob Dylan in songs like "Where Have All The Good Times Gone", which hint at Ray's later more developed and thoughtful songs.

Wikipedia; AllMusic;

Best song: "Where Have All The Good Times Gone"

Score: 3


* * *

* Dedicated Follower Of Fashion (Feb 1966) This is the first Kinks song I can remember hearing as a kid. I loved it. Odd that it only appears on compilation albums. B-side is the unremarkable Sitting On My Sofa.

* Sunny Afternoon (June 1966) Another great Kinks pop song I remember from my childhood. The song does appear on the Face to Face album released later in the year, but the intriguing b-side, I'm Not Like Everybody Else, does not.


Lyrics to I'm Not Like Everybody Else

I won't take all that they hand me down,
And make out a smile, though I wear a frown,
And I'm not gonna take it all lying down,
'Cause once I get started I go to town.
'Cause I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else.

And I don't want to ball about like everybody else,
'Cause I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else.
But darling, you know that I love you true,
Do anything that you want me to,
Confess all my sins like you want me to,
There's one thing that I will say to you,
I'm not like everybody else.
I'm not like everybody else

And I don't want to ball about like everybody else,
And I don't want to live my life like everybody else,
And I won't say that I feel fine like everybody else,
'Cause I'm not like everybody else,

I'm not like everybody else.
If you all want me to settle down,
Slow up and stop all my running 'round,
Do everything like you want me to,
There's one thing that I will say to you, I'm not like everybody else.
I'm not like everybody else.

And I don't want to ball about like everybody else,
And I don't want to live my life like everybody else,
And I won't say that I feel fine like everybody else,
Cause I'm not like everybody else,
I'm not like everybody else


* * *


Face to Face (Oct 1966)

I had this record in my collection. It's a fine album of mid Sixties rock/pop songs. It shows Ray's ability as a song-writer. The band chug along nicely and professionally, though add little character to proceedings, indicating that by this stage The Kinks were essentially just Ray Davies, and it didn't matter who his backing musicians were, and they could well have been session musicians. This is probably their best album, and one of the finest albums of the Sixties.

Wikipedia ; AllMusic; BlogCritics; DanielRachel; Sputnik; Crawdaddy (1967); RateYourMusic; Furious;

Best song: Sunny Afternoon (though this is an album chock full of great songs)

Score: 8

* * *


* Dead End Street (Nov 1966) Another of those great Kinks singles that never appeared on a regular album. Powerful song, yet also so throwaway with it's music hall pastiche and mock jazz refrain lines.


Lyrics to Dead End Street

There's a crack up in the ceiling,
And the kitchen sink is leaking.
Out of work and got no money,
A Sunday joint of bread and honey.
What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No money coming in,
The rent collector's knocking, trying to get in.
We are strictly second class,
We don't understand,
Why we should be on dead end street.
People are living on dead end street.
Gonna die on dead end street. 

On a cold and frosty morning,
Wipe my eyes and stop me yawning.
And my feet are nearly frozen,
Boil the tea and put some toast on.
What are we living for?
Two-roomed apartment on the second floor.
No chance to emigrate,
I'm deep in debt and now it's much too late.
We both want to work so hard,
We can't get the chance,
People live on dead end street.
People are dying on dead end street.
Gonna die on dead end street



The b-side was Big Black Smoke, which again didn't appear on a regular album, just compilations and re-releases.

* Mr. Pleasant (Apr 1967) with b-side This Is Where I Belong. OK songs that didn't appear on a regular album.

* Waterloo Sunset (Apr 1967), this appeared on Something Else, though the b-side, the country yokel Act Nice & Gentle, which is a concert favourite of the Black Keys, did not appear on a regular album.

* * *



Something Else by The Kinks (Sept 1967)

This continues the sardonic, observant, neat pop rock songs of Face to Face, but is far more trivial, uneven and ends up feeling like a compilation of mostly b-sides, and comes over as less than the compilation albums that outsold the Kinks regular albums. There is little unity between the songs. They work as individual pieces. Some folks rate this as the Kinks best album. It does contain Waterloo Sunset, and has two other good songs, David Watts, and Two Sisters, which are among the best Davies has written, but the rest is slight and certainly doesn't work as well for me as Face to Face. No Return is lyrically interesting, but though jazz influenced is musically modest; the amusing, folksy Harry Ragg; the music hall, middle of the road marching pop of Tin Soldier Man, with its trite lyrics reminiscent of Paul McCartney at his weakest; etc. Having three Dave Davies songs doesn't help. On the whole it's competent, clever, tongue-in-cheek, and musically varied, but it gives a feel of something light, bubble-gum and throwaway, and I can see how albums like this wouldn't have helped generate a feeling that the Kinks were a serious band. This is 1967, the year of the Doors first album, Laura Nyro's first album, Surrealistic Pillow, The Velvet Underground & Nico, Are You Experienced. The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, and Sgt Peppers, which shows up Something Else as dated and parochial. People can look back on this album in isolation now and say it has some good songs, but it is patchy, and for its time it was weak - without the cohesion, impact, and progression of the major albums of the period, and Davies knew it, and was already looking to make a more serious album.

I have been listening to this again, and I think I might have been a bit harsh on this album. Sure, it's not Piper, but by golly gosh some of these songs are actually quite good. Upping the score two points.

Wikipedia;

Best song(s): Waterloo Sunset; and David Watts; and Two Sisters.

Score: 6


* * *


Live at Kelvin Hall (Jan 1968)

This is such a muddy recording you wonder why they released it. Surprised to hear that they spent some time in post-production trying to make it sound better, and that much of the irritating audience noise has been looped on. They would have done better to record it again, or just not bother to release it. It's no surprise to hear it didn't sell.

Wikipedia;

Score: 1

* * *

* Days (June 1968). Another brilliant singles only song. The b-side, She's Got Everything, is an R'n'B rocker that is both a throwback to the Kinks early days, and is a look forward to the sort of songs that bands would be playing during the Punk era of the late 70s.


Lyrics to Days

Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I'm thinking of the days,
I won't forget a single day, believe me.

I bless the light,
I bless the light that lights on you believe me.
And though you're gone,
You're with me every single day, believe me.

Days I'll remember all my life,
Days when you can't see wrong from right.
You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you'd leave me,
But it's all right,
Now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me.

I wish today could be tomorrow,
The night is dark,
It just brings sorrow, let it wait.

Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I'm thinking of the days,
I won't forget a single day, believe me.

Days I'll remember all my life,
Days when you can't see wrong from right.
You took my life,
But then I knew that very soon you'd leave me,
But it's all right,
Now I'm not frightened of this world, believe me.
Days.

Thank you for the days,
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me.
I'm thinking of the days,
I won't forget a single day, believe me.

I bless the light,
I bless the light that shines on you believe me.
And though you're gone,
You're with me every single day, believe me.
Days


* * *

The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Nov 1968)

Village Green is Davies' Pet Sounds - his quest to write a proper serious album; but it flopped badly, its parochial nostalgia being seen as whimsical and out of step with a forward looking and global rock community. It generated critical interest in some American underground music papers, but on the whole was ignored by critics and public. It has since gained some attention as being Davies' most ambitious and best realised project, and while it was out of step with the mood in 1968, it found an audience in the more reflective 1990s, and that audience has slowly grown. The gentle, reflective whimsy is attractive, but that attraction is fairly limited. I've yet to be seduced by this album, though I will keep an open mind.

Wikipedia; AllMusic; BBC; Pitchfork; Rolling Stone - 1969; PopMatters; RateYourMusic; Esquire; CoS; Village Voice - 1969; Andy Miller; UltimateClassicRock; MakingTime;

Best song: People Take Pictures Of Each Other

Score: 5


* * *

* Till Death Us Do Part (Feb 1969), a song Ray wrote for the Till Death Us Do Part film. OK

* Plastic Man (Mar 1969) is a Chas n Dave type of jolly pub song; the b-side King Kong is more interesting, with a T. Rex feel to it, including Davies singing in a high warble, and doing absurd rhyming couplets like "I'm King Kong, got a hydrogen bomb".


* * *

Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)
(Oct 1969)
More critically and commercially successful than Village Green, Arthur was praised on release and continues to receive praise, considered by many as the Kinks best album. this is part of a group of albums from Village Green to Muswell Hillbillies that are seen as the peak of the Kinks albums, and Ray Davies' most mature writing.This feels more like a band album, than just a bunch of Ray Davies songs. The band occasionally groove, and there's a credible attempt by Dave Davies to play mature rock guitar licks. This is a damn good album.

Wikipedia;

Best song:

Score: 7


* * *

Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One
 (Nov 1970)
With things not going quite right for Ray Davies, with neither commercial success, satisfactory artistic achievement (his tv rock opera Arthur had been cancelled), good business management, nor the critical acclaim he deserved, and combined with his awkward personality, it's no wonder that by the time of Lola he's lashing out at pretty much everyone around him. Considered by a number of commentators as a loose concept album or song-cycle on the music business, it's a bitter album that - again - didn't sell, even though it included the hits singles Lola and Apeman that made the band once again popular in America and the rest of the world. There's an attractive 70s country-rock feel about the album, but despite being considered a concept album, it's really a messy collection of songs, most of which don't work.

Uncut; Wikipedia; AllMusic; Sputnik; WordPress; SuperSeventies;

Best songs: Lola, and Apeman 

Score: 4

* * *

Percy   (March 1971)
This is a soundtrack album. I saw the film when it came out - a comedy about a man who has a penis transplant, it was a bit of harmless fun to which the Kinks' songs (mainly instrumental) seemed to comfortably fit. Not an album to listen to, though I quite like Animals In The Zoo and Dreams.

Wikipedia;

Best song: God's Children

Score: 3

* * *

Muswell Hillbillies (Nov 1971)
Good country feel to this album, the first for the band's new record label, RCA.  Some of the tracks will appear on the live part of the band's next album, though there are enough good ones left that it's work seeking out for itself. "20th Century Man"  was released as a single in the US, and was no more successful than the album itself. I like this album.

Wikipedia; AllmusicRolling Stone

Best song: Alcohol

Score: 6

* * *

Everybody's in Show-Biz (Aug 1972)
Not sure what it was about this album that caught my attention over the ones prior to it that have been acclaimed as classics, but I bought it and liked it. Playing it again now, and I still like it. Good songs, well played. And it contains one of Ray Davies' best songs: Celluloid Heroes, which was released (unsuccessfully) as a single. Supersonic Rocket Ship, at a more conventional length, was a more successful single. The album is a double, with the second disc being live.

Wikipedia;

Best song: Celluloid Heroes.

Score: 6

* * *

Preservation Act 1 (1973)
Generally disliked and dismissed on release, opinions are more divided these days, with some feeling there are worthy songs on the album, even if as a whole it fails. What interests most people is the mess of the idea. This, as the title suggests, is some form of reworking of  the ideas and characters in Village Green. As with much Kinks stuff, it's hard to pin anything down, but it appears that Ray had big ideas for a theatrical reworking of Village Green, which got distorted, partly through his own changes of direction, and partly through his record company insisting on some form of release. What we end up with is a single album which introduces the main characters, and then the double album Act 2, which has the narration and story. Added to which there was a single, Preservation, which wasn't originally on either album, and was only released as a single in America, and which attempts to sum everything up. That single appears on later CD releases as the opening track, which seems to confuse people even more.

It's an interesting album. Initially off-putting as the songs feel a bit pretentious with laboured lyrics, and the music is fairly derivative of other bands including the Kinks themselves, but it is an album that rewards re-listening. Not a great album, but quirky enough to be interesting.


 Wikipedia; AllMusicAndrewHickeyBlogCritics; HokeyBlogDonIgnatio;

Best Songs: "Sweet Lady Genevieve" and "Here Comes Flash"

Score:  4


* * *

Preservation Act 2 (1974)
The odd second part of the already odd Preservation. Very odd and very Kinks. A little bit too obviously theatrical, and sadly lacking in ideas or strategy.

Wikipedia;

Best songs:  Mirror of LoveSecond Hand Car Spiv

Score: 3


* * *

Lola, Percy And The Apeman Come Face To Face With The Village Green Preservation Society...Something Else!
I had this double album in the early Seventies. It's an excellent selection of their late Sixties, early Seventies songs.

RateYourMusic;

Score: 6

* * *


Soap Opera (1975)
Remarkably throwaway. You can see the intention of Davies to be given the same status as Pete Townsend, but despite the clear song-writing talent of Davies, this is very trivial, throwaway, and dull.

Wikipedia

Best song:

Score: 2

* * *

Schoolboys in Disgrace (1975)
It's a shame that Davies went through a period of limiting himself with trivial "concept albums". It's almost as though song-writing came so easily to him, that he wanted to make it a little harder. The music on this album is quite acceptable but meaningless - it's all so throwaway. The songs are listenable, but rarely rise to being engaging. It's all so capable and pleasant but empty. I can't help but like it, though, and find it grows on me with repeat listening.


Wikipedia

Best song:

Score: 5

* * *

Sleepwalker (1977)

A very decent album with a collection of decent but run of the mill songs. Compared with what other albums were released in 1977, and the direction music was taking with the emergence of the Sex Pistols and the Clash, this feels rather tired, uninspired, and plodding. Life goes on and on and on. Yep. Ray Davies was sleepwalking to the end of his career. This is the beginning of the end.

Wikipedia 

Best song: Juke Box Music 

Score: 3

* * *

Misfits (1978)
A pleasant rocking pop album. Easy listening and professionally made, but ultimately unremarkable.

Wikipedia

Best song: Misfits

Score: 3

* * *


Low Budget   (1979)
A plodding rawk album strongly American influenced which is barely distinguishable from the average American adult-orientated middle of the road rock band of the period. Not surprisingly it did well in the US, but bombed in the UK. "Little Bit of Emotion" is the most familiar as a Kinks song.

Best track: Little Bit of Emotion

Score: 2

* * *


Give the People What They Want  (1981)
Picking up musical ideas from elsewhere (fairly typical of the Kinks, but perhaps more obvious on this album than others) this feels like second rate post-punk/New Wave album rather than a Kinks album. "Destroyer" references "Lola" in the lyrics and "You Really Got Me" in the music. However, this album is growing on me, and as well as hearing Davies echoing other writers, you can also detect his influence on Britpop bands like Blur and Pulp.

Wikipedia ;

Best track: Destroyer

Score: 5

* * *
State of Confusion (1983)
There's a Clash or Tom Robinson Band feel to the opening track with its blend of RnB and reggae and group shouted chorus. The gentle and pleasant nostalgia of "Come Dancing" was a successful single, which drove sales of the album. There is an Eighties feel to the album with synths and a hollow, superficial sound. "Don't Forget To Dance" has promising lyrics, but the melancholy sound feels forced and saccharine.

Wikipedia; KindaKinks;

Best track: Come Dancing

Score: 3

* * *

Word of Mouth (1984)

A rocky album, quite punky in places ("Sold Me Out" could be something by The Clash). It works quite well with driving songs, cleanly recorded, and with a fair degree of energy. The opening track, Do It Again, was a modest hit. These are decent, well written songs, better than the average released on any day of the week, and the playing is crisp and professional, with a firm, unfussy production, and I even like Dave Davies' Living On The Line, but, yet, somehow, the album doesn't really rise above the ordinary. It's likeable and listenable, but it doesn't move, excite, or disturb. There's something missing. Side One is pretty decent; Side Two sucks.

Wikipedia; AllMusic; Rolling Stone; KindaKinks; UltimateClassicRock; BlogCritics;

Best track: Pretty much all of Side One - "Good Day" is interesting, so I'll chose that

Score: 5

* * *

Think Visual (1986)
Nothing here of interest. Move along. Lost And Found was released as a single, and it's a competent song, one of the best on the album, but sums up the state of the band. The music and singing is transatlantic and uninteresting - it could be Huey Lewis and the News, or any other middle of the road rock band. The story of a couple caught in New York as a hurricane come in, putting their relationship in perspective, is subtle and telling, but the music never lifts beyond MOR professional slick, and the Americanism of the setting and Davies' voice takes away some of Davies' uniqueness. Repetition reuses the tune from Lennon's Nobody Told Me from two years earlier. Such musical borrowings had been there from the start of Davies' career - You Really Got Me being a clear borrowing of Louie Louie for example; but while such borrowings are expected and fairly typical of artists starting out, by this stage in their lengthy career, you'd expect the Kinks to be following their own course a little more strongly rather than still following the crowd. And this in a sense is part of the reason, perhaps, for the Kinks failure to really catch the imagination of the public, they were never more than competent copyists of other musical styles. While they popularised garage rock in the UK (and apparently also in the USA), and were (almost) the first band to utilise Indian raga rhythms in Western popular music, their approach has tended to be to simply plod along with tunes that worked, rather than creating a distinctive Kinks sound; sometimes, as here, borrowing other people's tunes but without expanding on them. The strength of the Kinks is mainly in their lyrics - something a little harder for the public to get their teeth into, as it's the music and the tune that catches the attention first, and which remains emotionally in the memory. With songs like Waterloo Sunset, Davies did find a telling and memorable tune, and allied it to wistful and suggestive lyrics that will mean different things for different people. With the occasional song down the years, Davies really hit the spot with a great tune to back up his lyrics, but mostly the tunes were just a little too ordinary, and his delivery just a little too light and throwaway - lacking the commitment that moves people to excitement or tears. How Are You was the last single by the band to reach the charts. A nostalgic piece that uses a lot of words to say very little.

Wikipedia;

Best song: Lost And Found

Score: 2

* * *

UK Jive (1989)


It's the Kinks Jim, but not as we know them. I think this is widely acknowledged as the worse Kinks album.

Wikipedia: AllMusic; Lyrics; Blog; Stereogum; BlogCritics;

Best song: I don't think there is any song worth singling out.

Score: 1


* * *

Phobia (1993)
A lumpen album that thuds it's way through unimaginative middle of the road rock songs. The best track is Only A Dream, which was released unsuccessfully as a single. There's talent here, and the songs are well constructed and on interesting themes and ideas, and Ray Davies' bitter, slightly caustic observations, delivered in that vaudeville voice, remind us that this is Ray Davies, but it doesn't work, and shortly after this both the record company and the band called an exhausted end to it all. There was so much better being done in the 90s by those bands influenced and inspired by The Kinks, such as Blur, Pulp and Suede. The album's strengths and weaknesses can probably be best summed up by The Informer, a country type song that promises to be a good song, but doesn't quite get there.


Wikipedia ; Lyrics; AllMusic; Rolling Stone; Lost Gems;

Best song: Only A Dream

Score: 2

* * *
To The Bone  (1994)
The Kinks last album. It's a pseudo live album with a mix of concert recordings from Portsmouth (and one from America) plus some dubious Unplugged style recordings in front of "a small audience" (roadies and studio staff?) at their Konk studio. Without a major recording contract the band paid for and released the album themselves. It's an ignominious exit for such a legendary band. Best track is the opener - All Day And All Of The Night recorded live in front of an appreciative Portsmouth audience in 1994.

Wikipedia; AllMusic; KindaKinks

Best track: All Day And All Of The Night

Score: 1

* * *

Summary


Voice
I like Davies' voice, though its not ground-breaking or particularly remarkable. It works effectively,  has an interesting Englishness to it, and is identifiable as the voice of the Kinks.
6

Image
Neither the band nor Davies projected a compelling image. They were not really bad boys, nor sexy, nor radical, nor political, nor clever, nor outspoken, nor charming. The band as a whole are anonymous, with the exception of the Davies brothers, and of those Dave is meaningless, other than his wheedling attempts to restrict others, and to bring attention on himself. With a more creative or interesting guitarist the Kinks might have stood more of a chance of getting the attention they deserved.
5

Lyrics
Awesome. Davies is one of the foremost song-writers of the 20th century. Subtle observations gently and interestingly explored. I Go To Sleep, Waterloo Sunset, etc, are brilliant pieces of writing. He walks hand in hand with Smokey Robinson (America's “greatest living poet”) as writer of subtle and evocative lyrics.
10

Music
Davies wrote good songs and brought a British sensibility to them which was important at a time when most British artists were going Transatlantic, is not outright American. It is quite possibly the rejection and ban by America which focused Davies on British music and subject matter, but whatever the reason, while it limited their appeal in the world's biggest music marketplace, it gave them a charm and a flavour that is interesting, and which provided food for thought, and indeed at times inspiration - particularly during the Punk era and Britpop, for other artists. However, apart from their early Kingsmen copies (You Really Got Me, etc), the band are not really known for their music. It is charming, and it works well as a carrier of the lyrics, but it's not exciting, dreamy, danceable, progressive, experimental, original, etc. It's just good pop rock music.
5

Impact/Influence
They were an early British Invasion band, and an early exponent of British R'n'B, and their early Kingsmen type songs woke up other British acts to power pop and power chords. Davies' songwriting skills have been hugely influential on other British artists, particularly during Punk and Britpop.
8

Importance
Very significant. It's astonishing that they are so little recognised, particularly in America, where they have never been nominated for a Grammy, let alone won one.
8

Popularity
During their Golden Era in the Sixties and early Seventies, they were often in the singles charts. Their albums are less cohesive, not helped by many of the hit singles not appearing on regular albums. They are a popular band, but a big selling one, and they have no great album to drive sales, just a series of compilation albums and under-appreciated regular albums.
7

Star quality
They do lack true star quality. It's Ray Davies who is the man, and during Punk and Britpop he did become a well respected elder-statesman, but his solo career is undistinguished. OK, but not great.
5

Emotional appeal
Waterloo Sunset is tops. Davies has a particular way with words, and a wry way of singing.
10


Legacy

Everyone who knows them knows they will endure and become more respected over time. God only knows, but Ray Davies may become respected at the greatest British song-writer of the 20th century. After all, really, who is better?

10

Total:

74/100


Links

*TheKinks.info - dull corporate site
*KindaKinks - good fan site
*RollingStone
*Rolling Stone album guide
*Britannia.com
*BestEverAlbums
*AdrianDenningAlbum Reviews
*RobertChristgau
*RateYourMusic
*Guardian blog on the Kinks being underrated
*Hall of Fame
*Wikipedia
*Adrian Denning Reviews


Live

*BBC concert 1973 - they look and sound like a pub rock band; there's no stage presence, no star quality, just a bunch of anybodies playing loose music. Here's Brinsley Schwartz, Bees Make Money, and Ducks Deluxe from the same year

*Old Grey Whistle Test 1977 - a mature and accomplished performance from what appears to be a band at ease with themselves


Documentaries

*BBC
*Biography Channel


Lists

*Top Ten Kinks Singles


Kitchen Table Music Blogs
Best Of The Best


Sunday, 30 August 2015

U2 album by album








U2 formed in 1976 with Bono (vocals and guitar), the Edge (guitar, keyboards, and vocals), Adam Clayton (bass guitar), and Larry Mullen, Jr. (drums and percussion).[1] U2's early sound was rooted in post-punk but eventually grew to incorporate influences from many genres of popular music. Throughout the group's musical pursuits, they have maintained a sound built on melodic instrumentals. Their lyrics, often embellished with spiritual imagery, focus on personal themes and sociopolitical concerns.
The band formed at Mount Temple Comprehensive School in 1976 when the members were teenagers with limited musical proficiency. Within four years, they signed with Island Records and released their debut album Boy. By the mid-1980s, U2 had become a top international act. They were more successful as a touring act than they were at selling records until their 1987 album The Joshua Tree which, according to Rolling Stone, elevated the band's stature "from heroes to superstars".[2] Reacting to musical stagnation and criticism of their earnest image and musical direction in the late-1980s, U2 reinvented themselves with their 1991 album, Achtung Baby, and the accompanying Zoo TV Tour; they integrated dance, industrial, and alternative rock influences into their sound, and embraced a more ironic and self-deprecating image. They embraced similar experimentation for the remainder of the 1990s with varying levels of success. U2 regained critical and commercial favour in the 2000s with the records All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000) and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004), which established a more conventional, mainstream sound for the group. Their U2 360° Tour from 2009–2011 was the highest-attended and highest-grossing concert tour in history.
U2 have released 13 studio albums and are one of the world's best-selling music artists of all time, having sold more than 170 million records worldwide.[3] They have won 22 Grammy Awards, more than any other band; and, in 2005, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone ranked U2 at number 22 in its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time", and labelled them the "Biggest Band in the World".[4] Throughout their career, as a band and as individuals, they have campaigned for human rights and philanthropic causes, including Amnesty International, the ONE/DATA campaigns, Product Red, and the Edge's Music Rising.




Boy (1980)

Elements of the Cure, the Banshees, and Joy Division in this otherwise fairly rocky album. There are the sounds that will later become a feature of the band - such as The Edge's jangling melodic guitar, and the band's big spacious sound (which was popular with a number of post-punk bands around that time, such as Big Country, The Alarm, Simple Minds, Tears For Fears, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Waterboys, and The Durutti Column), though as yet undeveloped. All in all a fairly average album for the time. Not a lot here that for me stands out, but an OK debut.  

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Score: 4


October (1981)
An earnest album in the same early 80's rock style as the debut, but with less confidence and with awkward stilted music and lyrics. A poor show really. 

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
UDiscoverMusic
Score: 3

War (Feb 1983)

Contains "Sunday Bloody Sunday" an early success for the band. And "News Years Day" is also a decent song. The album is a marked improvement on the first two, but still has the stilted sound of early 80's New Romantics. A little earnest (these boys do seem to take themselves seriously by gawd) yet at the same time a bit too much pop for authentic rock. There's not enough distance here from Adam and The Ants ("Desperate"), Duran Duran ("Something") and Spandau Ballet ("Chant") for comfort. This, however, is generally seen as one of the band's best albums, usually third behind Achtung Baby  and The Joshua Tree.  It's an OK album, just not my thing.


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 5

Under a Blood Red Sky (Nov 1983)

Live album.  Competent but unremarkable.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
Score: 4


The Unforgettable Fire (1984)

I like this.This is an expansive album, and though it sits comfortably among contemporary albums, it is distinctive due to Bono's clear voice and Romantically passionate delivery. The Edge's melodic jangly guitar is also a feature, though is rather more limited than fans and critics are generally prepared to admit. It is Bono who really makes the band, and this album. The band are professional, and the sound is good. Not quite sure what Eno brought to the table as there is little here that indicates Eno's involvement (other than some Talking Heads sounds on the B side - essentially on the lesser songs), but the band seemed to acquire confidence that they were doing something authentic due to his presence, and went along with his oblique strategies with the professional earnestness that has driven their success, and which - for me - creates a distance, as the driving ambition appears to be both successful and taken seriously, rather than to create genuine art.  While I have doubts about the impact of Eno on the album, there is a certainty that the skills and experience of Daniel Lanois as engineer, producer and collaborator were invaluable, and contribute to the richness of the sound. Best tracks are the proper U2 big Romantic songs "Pride" - the "unfinished" lyrics about Martin Luther King work best as they are, with suggestions and ideas rather than narrow specific details, so the lyrics are among the band's most expansive and visionary, and of course "Bad", which is the song that broke U2 onto a global audience when the band amped it while Bono went into the audience to dance with some girls. The lyrics are nonsense (unfinished notes to - apparently - a song about heroin, though you'd be hard pushed to know that without Bono telling you! - psst, Bono, here's some proper songs about Heroin: "I'm Waiting For The Man", "Heroin", "Needle of Death", "Needle and The Damage Done", and "Under The Bridge" ), the song is really the sound that is made - a passionate, beautiful song that moves deliberately at its own pace, with some Eno doodling to add to the texture.   Yeah, flawed and weak, but the strengths carry it a long way. On the whole a decent album I enjoy playing. 

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Score: 6 1/2

That performance at Live Aid 1985 - Which made them global superstars.



The Joshua Tree (1987)
This is the big one. It is luxuriously Romantic with a Technicolor widescreen sound that reaches out for ever. It's a solid pop-rock big stadium sound, very commercial and appealing, with a convincing level of passionate commitment that gives authenticity to a pop act that is quite rare. The songs are well crafted and listenable. And the band deliver it all with a session player professionalism. The two main figures are Bono whose clear voice is attractive, strong, Romantic, and conveys the songs with believable  passion, while The Edge has a chiming guitar style that is instantly recognisable. This is their best album, though over time public and critics have started to favour Achtung Baby.  It has taken me a while to get into this album, but now that I have, the more I listen to it, the more I appreciate it. Well, Side One at least. Side Two is probably best left unplayed.  "Bullet The Blue Sky" is a strong piece - one of the more interesting and rocky that U2 have done, approaching some of the genuine musical inventiveness  and weight of Led Zeppelin; though the success of the track rests hugely on the production - live versions of the song don't carry as much weight. 

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 10
Score: 8


Rattle and Hum (1988)
Live and studio album consisting of covers (live) and original tracks (studio) which are mixed together in a seemingly random way. Some of the live tracks are of previously released U2 songs. The resulting album is a bit of a hodgepodge, lacking focus, and was rightly criticised.

Wikipedia
AllMusic:
Score: 3


Achtung Baby (1991)
Into the 90s with a more modern sound - harsher, more electric, less romantic. This is one of the band's most acclaimed albums - regarded either as their best, or second to (mostly) The Joshua Tree or The Unforgettable Fire.  "The Fly" was the first release, and caught my attention for being so in tune with the musical norms at the start of the 90s - it sounded so modern and crisp and funky compared with the old 80s U2. Not that I thought it was a great song - it was closer in style to "The Seeds of Love" (1989) or "Right Here Right Now" (1991) or "Personal Jesus" (1989) than more cutting edge early 90s music such as "Step On" (1990) or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" (1991) or "Fools Gold" (1989), but it was certainly in the right area, and I was impressed that what had always seemed to me to be an old fuddy duddy pop-rock band were suddenly so "hip" and sharp. "Mysterious Ways" was the next single, and while also being funky, felt more like the old U2, so simply passed me by, as such I also missed out on "One" because it felt again too much like the 80s U2 doing a boring ballad. Actually it's a decent song which carries echoes of Marley's "One Love" and before that The Impressions' "Get Ready". While not quite at the same level of those two songs, it does belong in that tradition.  "Even Better Than The Real Thing" was the next release and is in the tradition of Sixties pop with elements of folk-rock, funk, and a blend of 80s and 90s attitudes and production. That blend of differing musical periods was something of a feature of the 90s and U2 were clearly part of that. All in all a satisfying pop-rock album which cemented the band's popularity, and I can see it being one of the band's best albums. However, I'm someway from seeing this as one of the best albums ever made. It isn't even, for me, one of the best albums of 1991 - a year which saw  The La’s,  Pills ‘n’ Thrills and Bellyaches , Blue LinesNevermindHeaven or Las VegasLovelessRagged Glory Ritual de lo HabitualGoo, Blood Sugar Sex MagikIf There Was A Way, and  Pod  for example. 



Zooropa (1993)
A weak album even U2 fans regard as a poor effort. Best to simply avoid.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Score: 3



Passengers - Original Soundtracks 1 (1995)


A collaboration with Eno in which they create some interesting ambient music. To be honest this is more Eno than U2, and some members of the band still don't quite get it, feeling it to be "self-indulgent". This is amongst the best work that U2 have been involved in.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
Score: 6


Pop (1997)
This kinda sums up U2 for me - a band that likes to follow the current trend and put its own earnest spin on it. Most people see it clearly here and see the weaknesses - but the album is really no better or worse than other U2 albums. It's empty meaningless techno - there is a sense that U2 doesn't really understand music, just looks for what it thinks might be contemporary, artistic, "serious", and commercial.  It's as decent and professional as most of their stuff, but lacks the appeal of their better albums.

Wikipedia
AllMusic: 6
Score: 3


All That You Can't Leave Behind (2000)

This is partly a return to the sound of U2's acclaimed albums such as Unforgettable FireJoshua Tree, and Achtung Baby, with Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois coming back for production duties and creative guidance. The result is patchy, but the big sound and the romance is back in places, and there are classic-period U2 songs like "Beautiful Day" and "Stuck In A Moment", along with the electronic type Achtung Baby type songs like "Elevation", but on the whole the album is marred by its lack of focus, lack of commitment and authenticity,  and a feeling that the band are stepping backwards to try and recapture something they lost - which was a particular feature of a number of  long term artists on reaching the new millennium. Many of the songs and performances are average at best, such as "Wild Honey" - a rather dull country rock piece, and "New York" - a derivative Lou Reed piece.    All in all a listenable album, but not a terrific one.
Wikipedia
AllMusic: 8
Rolling Stone: 8
NME: 7
Pitchfork: 5
Score: 5 


How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb (2004)

There's a good 90s feel to the opening tack "Vertigo" which is reminiscent of some punchy Blur. But, of course, this is 2004, and music has already moved on so that indicates that U2 are falling a little bit behind the times. They catch up a little with the second track, "Miracle Drug", which has a Coldplay sound. And that's U2, really, they are a band who tend to sail along in the coat tails of other, usually better, bands, putting their own earnest commercial spin and Bono's strong voice on it. They have done well out of it. This is an indifferent album that only fans appreciate.


Wikipedia
AllMusic: 7
Score: 4
If you like U2 you'll like this, but it's below par. For me its more likeable than the previous album, particularly "Get On Your Boots", but not really my sort of thing.

Wikipedia 
AllMusic: 6
Score: 4 1/2


Wikipedia
AllMusic:
Score: 


Albums


Best albums

* NME
     Achtung Baby 
     The Joshua Tree 
     War 
* Newsweek
     Achtung Baby 
     The Joshua Tree 
     War 
* UCR 
     The Joshua Tree 
     Achtung Baby 
     War
* Irish Times
     The Unforgettable Fire
     Achtung Baby 
     The Joshua Tree 
* Rolling Stone
     Achtung Baby 
     The Joshua Tree 
     The Unforgettable Fire
BEA 
     The Joshua Tree 
     Achtung Baby 
     War


Summary


Voice

Image

Lyrics

Music

Impact/Influence

Importance

Popularity

Star quality

Emotional appeal

Legacy


Total:


Links
*U2.com
*@U2 (fansite)
*Wikipedia



Kitchen Table Music Blogs