We continue our return to the music of 50 years ago… ..
Who would have thought that one of the best country LPs of the year would come from a former British Invasion band releasing a controversial single about a transvestite. And yet the Kinks’ 1971 LP “Muswell Hillbillies” delivers.
A friend of mine earlier this year asked me when I was going to see this album again which he said was one of his favorites from 1971. listened to at the time and when I put it on now He surprised me by his musicality but also by his biting, incisive and premonitory words.
The LP received critical acclaim but sold poorly. It does have its rabid fans, however, who revel in Ray Davies’ worldview and the original choices the group makes musically.
How many rock bands would dare to use a dixieland brass section on an album from the early 1970s? How many would try to use country-style beats and flourishes? The Stones have done it from time to time. American bands like the Byrds, Burritos and Poco exploited this vein but never with this kind of lyrical spirit. Kinks do it here and it works most of the time. Dave Davies’ guitar cuts through the darkness and still sounds today.
My only complaint is that Ray Davies’ voice is buried in the mix and you have to force yourself (or, at least I did), to hear his cutting prose. Perhaps it would be better to print the lyrics and follow this path.
Direct country tunes like “Alcohol”, “Holloway Jail”, “Oklahoma, USA” and the title track are joined by songs that, although in their day, could also have been written last week. ’20th Century Man’, Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues’ and ‘Here Come The People In Gray’ work well both for chronicling the era and also for predicting the future. It is sometimes intoxicating. “Skin & Bone is a catchy little number and” Have a Cuppa Tea “is a nice slice of comedic relief amidst the angst.
I’m sorry I missed this first time. He’s going to enter the rotation now. If this is your first time, I think you will love it.