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Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Kinks - "Preservation Act 1 & 2" Two albums Vinyl (RCA) 1973/1974


The last great Kinks project.  Ever since "Village Green Preservation Society" Ray Davies has thought out conceptually for that and future albums.  He started out as being an excellent observational songwriter, who knew how to do musical profiles on individual figures of the London or UK world. "Dandy," "Lola," and others, and prop them up as figures in a specific class or social order.  Davies used each album as a particular subject matter - and not as in a mood piece, but more in a narrative story or novel.  

"Preservation Act 1" and "Preservation Act 2" are separate albums, but in actuality, one project. I'm sure there was a business issue of putting out a three-disc set at the time and a very ambitious project on top of that.    For me, and I think others, I see this as one big work.  So I'm going to treat this as one album here.  "Preservation" is very much a major Ray Davies work.

It' reminds me of Kurt Weill/Bertolt Brecht's "Three-Penny Opera, which takes place in London, and actuality is based on John Gays "Beggar's Opera" which was written in 1728.   What Ray did was bring the political satire back to British roots.  The music at times have a Weill touch, but with Ray, there is an additional British Music Hall presence as well.   The musical (and "Preservation" is a musical) takes place perhaps in the future, but the foundation is clearly post-war London or another industrial town.   Flash is the main villian here.  Corporate gangster.  Street thug.  He's all that and more.   Flash even has his own theme song that runs through both albums.  Not far from Weill/Brecht's Mack the Knife character.  The narrative structure hangs on the balance of the rise and fall of Flash.

The beauty of a classic Kinks song is that it's like a small movie in your presence.  There is nothing abstract in Davies' songs.  Most if not all are clearly films or theater pieces that is set in music.  "Preservation" is his first leap into the musical world, or at the very least imagining his songs set in a much bigger landscape.  

I remember seeing the Kinks doing a live version of this album at the Santa Monica Civic.   Ray at his theaterifal mode of entertainment.  It's interesting to read interviews with him now, where he comes off as being stand-offish, distant, and not comfortable in his own skin.   On stage he's the ultimate performer.  Music Hall tradition fits Ray Davies to a perfect 't.'   From 1963 to 1974, Ray Davies couldn't do anything wrong.   A brilliant songwriter and an incredible performer.  He fits in both the British band invasion and the glam era without any trouble.   "Preservation" has beautiful ballads and humorous songs.  Someone should present this as a new musical.  It's a shame that Davies is not more known as a writer for musicals.