While I was in New York City last weekend, I picked this Kinks gem up at an an incredibly over-priced record store. Then again it was right smack in the middle of Times Square, the city’s unabashed incandescent moth-lamp, refuge to dizzy tourists and the carnival collectors who gouge and an pick-pocket them in their disoriented state. This record store was no exception. At Colony Music, they specialize in two things: broadway songsheets and extra-galactic price mark-ups. The prices are unreasonable, but not without reason: if you can shoot fish in a barrel, why not? Especially when those fish are incredibly gullible. (We’re talking an average $70-100 for used records you could easily find for $5-20 on Ebay…or any other record store…of which their are tons in NYC.).
Anyway, while flipping through the Kinks records, I found the one record not priced in the triple figures, and it just so happened to be one you don’t see very often– online, in the U.S., or in any major city record store. Usually all you find of the Kinks is the lesser-sought-out latter works from the seventies and eighties, for surely anything they’ve done between 1964 (their self-title debut) and 1970 (Lola) promptly would achieve lift-off, and fly right off the shelves. But here in this obscene record store was Something Else for a mere, quasi-reasonable $35 (probably what you’d pay online, sans shipping costs). Ordinary I wouldn’t pay this much for a record, but I made an exception. If just because it was the Kinks. And perhaps I was a little dizzy myself, having spent the day strapped into the mad-consumption tilt-o’-whirl: People! Lights! Naked Cowboys! Tickets! Knock-off purses! Lots and lots of knock off purses!
Anyway, I had to wait until i got home (could hardly) to lay down the record. I have the record in digital form. Have listened to it 50 times easily. But playing it as it was originally-intended. Un-remastered. Un-compressed. It was glorious. As if I’ve never heard the album or Ray Davies voice before. And I hadn’t: there were surprise harmony parts that were never included, or else smothered out in MP3 form that made the songs feel like completely different versions.
Song #1: the album-leading fafafafafafafafa’s of “David Watts” which delights with a merry piano hook, and a steady foot-crushing drumbeat. Song #2: the mournful “Death of a Clown” with peaks with ghastly lalala’s, all the while it tries to keep spirits bright with eulogy-like verse sections. So far I’m convinced this is the greatest piano band on Earth. And it must be true. Virtually no song on the album has its guitars–electric riffing and acoustic strumming alike–left alone, naked, and unclothed by a song-serving piano foundation–ranging from beautiful to bad-ass.
And that too, is the extent of this band’s bipolarity. Especially when you try comparing the beautiful string-section-and-harpsichord-laden likes of “Two Sisters” and the heavy hitting Russian-drinking song, that takes the name “Harry Rag.”
The Kinks embraced change. Evident when you compare any two albums from differing decades. Also evident over the course of any single album, as each song takes you on a completely separate journey, written by a brilliant Ray Davies–with occasional support from his brother Dave– who keeps his finger firmly planted on his creative reset button.