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The Kinks , 6/10
Kinda Kinks , 4/10
Kontroversy , 6/10
Face To Face , 6/10
Something Else , 6/10
Village Green Preservation Society , 7/10
Arthur , 6.5/10
Lola , 5/10
Kronikles , 5/10
Muswell Hillbillies , 5/10
Everybody's In Showbiz , 4/10
Preservation , 5/10
Schoolboys In Disgrace , 5/10
Soap Opera , 5/10
Sleepwalker , 4/10
Misfits , 4/10
Low Budget , 5/10
Give People What They Want , 5/10
State Of Confusione , 5/10
Word Of Mouth , 3/10
Think Visual , 3/10
UK Jive , 3/10
Phobia , 3/10

The Kinks were probably the most original British band of their time with the Rolling Stones and the Who. Unlike everybody else, the Kinks played simple melodic songs but not easy-listening a` la Merseybeat. The Kinks were purveyors of the melodic miniature, but with a much stronger emphasis on the riff than the Beatles ever dreamed of. Their style was sophisticated and full of wit, a fact which turned each song into a realistic vignette of middle-class life. They were by far the band most rooted in the British tradition, with a keen awareness of history and British values. In fact, the young Ray Davies sang about himself and his generation and the adult Ray Davies would sing about the British nation, his goal consistently Homeric in creating myth out of public history and social memory. Ray Davies may well be the greatest bard of nostalgy in the history of rock music.
They also invented the most famous riff of all times, You Really Got Me, and therefore single-handedly invented garage-rock, hard-rock and heavy-metal. They are also among the inventors of the concept album and the most prolific writers of rock operas ever. All in all, not a small feat.
(Translated from my old Italian text by DommeDamian, Stefano Iardella and DeepL)

The Kinks never went beyond the ditty, but, compared to commercial ensembles of their era such as the Beatles, they interpreted the song-form in an original way. Theirs were not songs, they were vignettes of everyday life (and not just teenage life, thus expanding the rock canon enunciated by Chuck Berry).

The Kinks rarely set their songs simply on facile melodies. Their music was not pop music; it was a mixture of musichall, rock and roll, blues, and folk. Above all, it was original in its rhythm, cadence, and pace, which colored the lyrics not only with rock arrogance but also with small-town theatrical irony.

Pushing that idea to the extreme, the Kinks' songs sported a modest but decisive use of the guitar. In this sense, the Kinks helped invent a genre (garage-rock) that would know no boundaries.

Within their canon, a special place holds You Really Got Me, the most aggressive song of their career and one of the most aggressive of all time. The rumble of that riff can still be heard on almost every rock record.

If we take into account that the Kinks also effectively invented the concept album and the rock opera in the world of songwriting, Ray Davies (born 1944) can be counted among the greatest composers of rock music, and probably the greatest of the Merseybeat era (1964-67, the peak of the Kinks). His songs were refined and intelligent. But perhaps Davies composed more than songs. Those songs were little frescoes, often caricatures, of British social life. And perhaps because they were hardly "adolescent," the group never achieved the idolization of the masses.

Far from being a mere Mersey-beat band, the Kinks were a small institution of British society, whose centuries-old tradition of self-criticism they basically continued. Ray Davies, tireless packager of minute transcriptions and humorous vignettes, was a Balzac and a Dickens of rock, satirical and sentimental, comic and melancholy, nostalgic and affectionate.

The Kinks, who grew up in the Muswell Hill neighborhood, were not at all in tune with their times and their city. The "beat" of the Kinks drew more on musichall and light music than on the rhythm and blues of the other London groups. At the same time, he avoided the cloying excesses of the Beatles, which were obviously aimed at the more immature, conservative and incompetent public. The sound of the Kinks thus marked a "third way" to rock and roll, progressive but without resorting to the harmonic experiments of American musicians, and harmonically conservative, but without ever being trite. Their sound was clear and simple (compared to the dirty and twisted one of the Rolling Stones), peaceful and catchy (compared to the violent and angular one of the Who), far from youthful lusts and frustrations, but also far from pop music. Each track was peppered with an unusual arrangement or rhythm, but more importantly, it had a "theme". This kind of frivolous song-sketch actually continued the work of a Buddy Holly.

In the early days (1964-5) the influence of Chicago blues was still being felt. Their typical song is often composed of a riff of a few elementary chords repeated endlessly in an obsessive way by Ray's nasal voice and by the pounding sob of Dave Davies' guitar (only seventeen).The masterpiece of this period is You Really Got Me (August 1964), the first breathtaking classic of hard sound, the riff with which they virtually invented hard-rock (and garage-rock), a nervous spurt lasting two minutes.The same ferocious cadence marks the group's other two "hard" classics, All Day And All of The Night (October 1964) and Till The End of The Day (November 1965), with even more lashing, elaborate guitar riffs. The season of brutality, also dotted with tumultuous performances, however ended with Set Me Free (May 1965) and Tired of Waiting For You (January 1965). See My Friends (July 1965), written during a tour in India has the first Indian-like drone of rock music history.

The first album, the self-titled The Kinks (Pye, 1964), contained rhythm and blues classics but also Stop Your Sobbing , a "domestic" song that suggested a different nature from You Really Got Me . The album You Really Got Me was released in the USA with some differences in the tracklisting.

Similarly the second album, Kinda Kinks (1965), has the thoughtful Something Better Beginning which differs markedly from Tired of Waiting For You. Melancholy also peeks out from Where Have All The Good Times Gone , the most meditated (but no less agitated) piece from Kinks Kontroversy (december 1965), perhaps the best album of the first period.

The melodic refrain decisively took over in 1966. Davies' thesis Merseybeat combines the parodic and ritualistic atmosphere of the musichall with situations drawn from everyday life. The first sign of renewal was A Well Respected Man (sep 1965), a satire of the middle class, which steals Dylanísstoryteller-tone, but with the spirit of a street tramp. Where the light-hearted attitude of variety spreads without more hesitation is in Dedicated Follower of Fashion , a satire on the dictatorship of fashions in Swinging London. The masterpiece of that period is Sunny Afternoon(June 1966), a poetic mid-tempo blues on the cynicism of the wealthy bourgeois, which resorts to the accents of the French existential song and those of the most passionate rhythm and blues. The climate of the 1950s, with boogie piano and swinging trumpet and a smoky suburban club pace, breaks out in Dead End Street (november 1966), on the bitter fate of the thugs. The formula, as it matures, welcomes contributions from the most disparate musical genres.

The album that takes stock of the situation at the end of 1966 is Face To Face (1966), the group's first mini-classic album. In addition to the singles, Too Much On My Mind , Holiday In Waikiki , Fancy Stand Out .

The Kinks border on formal perfection in Waterloo Sunset (May 1967, the subtle story of two lovers who manage to be happy even in the midst of squalor) and Autumn Almanac (October 1967, with trombone and piano), not only catchy but also elegant, all sign of an essential preciousness that blends geometric and airy vocal harmonies with linear melodies and precise and accurate instrumental interventions.

Starting with the album Something Else (Reprise, September 1967), which also contains David Watts , Situation Vacant and Death of A Clown (written by Dave), Davies' project became more and more ambitious and complex: humor becomes satire and portraits become wall frescoes. Davies seems completely indifferent to temporary albums like Sgt Pepper, psychedelia and everything that was climbing the British charts that year.

The masterpiece of this period is The Village Green Preservation Society (Pye, 1968), a concept album if not also a rock opera. The goal is now the social history and customs of Muswel Hill, behind whose miseries and whose splendors hide the rise and fall of the British Empire. The result is that their work acquires in depth what it loses in innocence.

The Village Green Preservation Society (1968), Arthur (1969), Lola (1970), Kronikles (Reprise, 1972) are documentaries, photo albums, tender memories of the past, family sagas and social diaries, piquant commentaries by an affectionate chronicler, ironic and severe. Songs of ordinary people, soft, humble and kind, blend admirably with Daviesian elegance and "wit".

Each piece is dedicated to a speck, a place, a tradition. The English "village" comes to life in the witty and sometimes emotional refrains that follow one another as in a long melodic fantasy, each finished with a different instrumental taste (the western ballad Johnny Thunder , the blues-rock epic of Animal Farm , the classical Village Green , the vaudeville All of My Friends , the surreal elegy of Phenominal Cat , to name only the best of Village Green). The fact that the melodies are taken from military marches, goliardic hymns, variety shows, lullabies and nursery rhymes, carillons and street organs, country festivals and religious functions, completely ignoring the upheavals of the rest of the rock music adds a flavor of authenticity, artistry and intimacy.

Arthur (1969), perhaps their best articulated concept, could not contrast more vividly with the bombast of the Who's Tommy . Shangri-La and Victoria are the most elegant examples.

Lola (1969) is the theme of Lola Versus Powerman And TheMoneyground (1970), the rock opera dealing with the misfortunes of a "transvestite", and one of their most memorable refrains. The homosexual theme was highly transgressive at the time: homosexuality was still illegal in Great Britain and in much of the world. The album also features Get Back In Line and A Long Way From Home . Another jewel of the time is the clown calypso of Apeman .

Davies' undisputed narrative ability clashes with the brilliant and synthetic sound of the early years. Eloquence makes the gags of their clowning lose effectiveness and forces the music to fall back on superficial evasion.

However, thanks to these convoluted extravagances and a natural propensity for investigation into the English social microcosm, the Kinks have become the group par excellence for concept albums and rock operas, even if at the same time compromising the quality of their music considerably. Muswell Hillbillies (RCA, 1971) nonetheless contains the melodic jewels of Alcohol , Holiday (with tuba, trumpet and clarinet) and Here Come The People In Gray , as well as some songs that betray the charm of American country and blues ( Oklahoma USA , Holloway Jail , Muswell Hillbilly ); and especially 20th Century Man .

Celluloid Heroes is the gem of Everybody's In Showbiz (1972).

The story of Mr. Flash, the protagonist of Village Green, was revived in a triple rock opera, Preservation (1973-74), which is only the most relevant example of corruption of their style, where the extravagant eclecticism of the composer no longer backed by the terse wit of yore. Sweet Lady Genevieve and Sitting In The Midday Sun are saved . Davies' music had drifted closer and closer to vaudeville and further and further away from rock and roll.

Soap Opera (1975), the most organic of their rock operas, tells the story of a common man's normal day Rush Hour Blues , Nine To Five , When Work Is Over ). HoweverDavies' ideas, diluted in these long stories, lose musical grace and bite.

Schoolboys In Disgrace (1975) is a last nostalgic look at youth Schooldays ), which in fact is played with the bare style of their early rock and roll.

Davies quietly continued his candid craftsmanship, indifferent to fashions and to the increase or decrease in sales, even reaching unpredictable heights of success with the ditties of the last period: Juke-box Music , and rock and roll ŗ la Who, taken from Sleepwalker (Arista, 1977), Rock And Roll Fantasy , taken from Misfits (Arista, 1978), Superman and Low Budget , a grim southerner boogie, taken from Low Budget (1979), Destroyer , their typical refrain on All 's hard riff Day and Better Things , a return to the old, taken fromGive People What They Want (1982), Come Dancing , a breezy reggae-vaudeville steel band, taken from State Of Confusion (1983), Do It Again , another hard choral rock and roll, taken from Word Of Mouth (1984 ), Lost And Found (1987), a bitter ballad with traces of Springsteen's proletarian melodrama.

Think Visual (MCA, 1987) however seems to be the record of a group of hard-rock imitators of the Kinks. UK Jive (MCA, 1989) instead seems to be the record of a pop group imitating the rock operas of the Kinks. Phobia (Columbia, 1993), featuring Did Ya , was the only album of the 1990s.

Dave Davies has recorded two solo albums, AFL1-3603 (1980) and Bug (Koch, 2002).

Golden Hour vol.1 (Pye, 1971) is an anthology of the first period. Come Dancing (Arista, 1986) is an anthology up to the 1980s.

(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

Relocating to New Orleans, Ray Davies released his first solo album, Other People's Lives (2006), followed by Working Man's Cafe (New West, 2008). They are both irrelevant. After staging the musical "Sunny Afternoon" in London, Davies recorded Americana (2017), his first album of new material in a decade, in which, accompanied by the Jayhawks, Britain's most famous social satirist revealed his fascination with the former British colonies, notably in The Great Highway.

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