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Thursday 8/10/23

This is from a feature on the Kinks' The Great Lost Kinks Album that I'm finishing up this morning. It will go into the book of rock and roll writings.


Which takes us to what became the loftily—though cheekily—titled, The Great Lost Kinks Album, one of those tucked-away joys of rock and roll that few people know about and a lot more ought to.

Were one to say that a sizable portion of the material on The Great Lost Kinks Album comes from the sessions for The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, then anyone familiar with that record would doubtless be primed for delight. Such a collection is going to have to be something special.

Arguably no rock composer has had a three-album run like Ray Davies did across the aforesaid late 1960s trinity. He had mastered incisive whimsy: pointed—and sometimes finger-pointing—songs with altruistic warmth, and it’s what made him unique.

Reprise released The Great Lost Kinks Album in 1973. It featured fourteen mostly unreleased cuts spanning 1966-1970. Numbering among the released material was the 1966 B-side, “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” cantering with punk swagger but with a fundamental, balancing Socratic centeredness; an assertion of the undiminishable specificity of the self—and Orwell’s quintessential Englishman—that could only come from the likes of Davies in rock and roll.

The Animals had an earlier variant with “It’s My Life,” but whereas the Animals excelled at assertion, Davies’s songs were devotional acts of cognizance, with the outward distribution of that knowledge in following. John Fogarty may have played in a traveling band, but Ray Davies wrote songs of utility for a band that seemed to want to help you, whether that was to see, to be, or both.

Davies’ thematic staple during these years was that through understanding comes growth, and the idea couldn’t fail to manifest itself in his songs of this period. Knowing or sensing this, a listener wanted more, wherever more came from.

Back in the here and now of 1973, as the Kinks became increasingly theatrical and devoted to artifice—not a Davies songwriting strength—the deep-canon nuggets of Great Lost must have seemed in need of a village green preservation society themselves. One pined for days that were no more; but at least the music proved eternal.

Brother Dave Davies co-wrote “There Is No Life Without Love” and was the sole author of “This Man He Weeps Tonight.” His was always a strange compositional case. He wrote strikingly; Something Else has a different timbre without his “Death of a Clown.” But it’s not as if anyone would wish for less Ray Davies material. So: something had to give, and that meant the inclusion of stirring songs from brother Dave.

As we see on Great Lost, Dave had a version of his brother’s gift for observation and nuance, and for couching what amounted to human-centric takeaways in instantly-memorable melodies. For most guitarists, riffs are wholly rhythmic things, but Dave Davies—and “This Man He Weeps Tonight” is a perfect example—treated them as exercises in melody. They were less about the power of the thing than the lilt of it.

Even one of those proto-punk blasts like “I Need You” had a certain melodic through-line that one could imagine being more lightly transposed to, say, harpsichord. That number isn’t included here, but Dave Davies’ guitar dapplings and colorations are always in evidence. Ray was the writer in the Kinks, but Dave did the painting.

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