Study Guide

Ray(mond Douglas) Davies

Ray(mond Douglas) Davies Essay - Critical Essays

Davies, Ray(mond Douglas)

Introduction

Ray(mond Douglas) Davies 1944–

British songwriter, singer, musician, and actor.

Davies is a founding member and lead singer of the Kinks, a rock group which achieved success during pop music's "British Invasion" in 1964. Davies writes nearly all of the band's material, and his blend of catchy melodies and uniquely British subjects has established a cult following for the Kinks which continues to grow. Davies has gone through various stages in his songwriting career. He has written top 40-oriented pop songs, social satires, concept albums, vaudeville-type stage shows, and New Wave music with topical overtones. Through all of these changes, Davies has maintained the stance of a loner, and his songs most often reflect the alienation and unfulfilled aspirations of the lower middle class.

Davies first became involved in music while an art student in England. With his brother Dave, Peter Quaife, and Mick Avory, Davies began a rhythm-and-blues band called the Ravens. Soon after changing their name to the Kinks, the group signed a recording contract. After releasing two cover singles with little success, the Kinks recorded Davies's composition "You Really Got Me," which was highly successful worldwide. Davies continued to write popular hits through the mid-sixties, including "All Day and All of the Night," "Tired of Waiting for You," "Set Me Free," and "Till the End of the Day." These songs feature a basic beat embellished by distinctive guitar work and repetitive lyrics which reflect the experiences of young people. The Kinks's early albums were overshadowed by these singles, however, since Davies rarely surpassed the lyrical and musical limitations of his hits. Nevertheless, listeners were intrigued by Davies's quirky songs about aggressive women and passive men. The best example of this type of song is "Set Me Free," in which Davies, unlike other pop songwriters of the time, asks the girl to set him free. This sexual ambiguity is apparent both in Davies's soundtrack for the English television movie Percy, which concerns a homosexual, and in "Lola," a song about a person who "walked like a woman but talked like a man."

The release of the single "A Well Respected Man" in late 1965 saw a marked shift in Davies's song topics. This song centers on the themes of corruption and appearance-and-reality rather than love relationships. From this time on, Davies's work began to depict "serious" situations which are felt to be related from a specifically British viewpoint. These works include "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," "Sunny Afternoon," and "Deadend Street," and the albums Something Else and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. Village Green is seen as a "concept album" with a surprising theme for a rock group: the preservation of traditional ideals and morals. The Kinks's next album, Arthur (or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), is considered the most successful of Davies's concept works. Written for an English television musical, Arthur shows the decline of English values through the life and views of one character. The Kinks's popularity in England reached its peak with Arthur, but the British nature of Davies's writing alienated American fans, and the Kinks were regarded in the United States as an eccentric cult band.

The Kinks had a hit single in 1971 with "Lola," a Davies song with a typically offbeat theme: transvestism. However, "Lola" is not representative of Davies's work in the early seventies. Davies continued to rely on specific themes for his albums, but his songs veered more toward music-hall vaudeville routines. Beginning with the album Muswell Hillbillies, Davies incorporated brass and a distinctly un-rocklike sound to many of the group's songs. The album was a popular success, but it proved to be the last one the Kinks would have for a few years. Davies's Preservation trilogy, Soap Opera, and Schoolboys in Disgrace are the most theatrical Kinks albums, and Davies took his ideas one step further by acting out his stories in elaborate stage shows. These shows were highly regarded by fans and critics, and were likened to Bertolt Brecht/Kurt Weill themes and productions. However, the albums are felt to be little more than soundtracks for the stage musicals and were not commercially successful. Also, there was dissatisfaction among other members of the band toward the direction Davies's music was taking; this resulted in some halfhearted performances and caused Davies to reevaluate his songwriting theories.

Sleepwalker, released in 1977, showed distinct changes in Davies's work. He was no longer writing theater pieces, opting instead for the Something Else/Village Green idea of individual songs working toward a collective theme. Critics heralded Davies's creative rebirth on Sleepwalker and the next Kinks album, Misfits. Misfits is considered to be one of Davies's most personal works, and the title song and "Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy" are felt to be among Davies's most beautiful and significant lyrics. The Kinks achieved commercial success with Low Budget, which was recorded while Davies was living in New York and contains lyrics which reflect American society much more than previous albums. The music on Low Budget has a harder edge to it, and Davies's topical themes and pessimistic viewpoint seems influenced by the songs of numerous new wave bands. Accordingly, the Kinks have attained a greater level of popularity in the United States than at any time since the years of their first albums, and they have become more popular in America than in England. This American resurgence proves that Davies still speaks to young people with his songs while working with the ideas and problems that have become his trademark.

Ray Davies

On the subject of songwriting, I try to put my own feelings in our records, apart from making them commercial….

["All Day and All of the Night"]—despite what many critics say—is a sincere effort to convey the attitude of many people today. It seems that when a thing is "down-to-earth" and factual people always try to stamp it out, but eventually it becomes the established thing.

I could really call myself an apprentice songwriter at the moment and I hope eventually to become sufficiently capable of expressing people's everyday moods, thoughts and emotions in music.

Maybe we should be called the Francis Bacons of pop music!

Ray Davies, "Kink Is Still a Naughty Word," in Melody Maker (© IPC Business Press Ltd.), November 28, 1964, p. 9.

Paul Williams

If you are not a Kinks fan, you are either a) uninformed, or b) not a Kinks fan. If it's the latter, there's nothing you can do about it. The Kinks, rather like Johnny Hart's B.C. or the novels of Kurt Vonnegut, are absolutely indefensible (and unassailable). I can't tell you why they're great: there are no standards by which the Kinks can be judged. Ray Davies' music has nothing to do with almost anything else. It's in a category unto itself, and if you don't like it, well, there you are.

I would like to say that Face to Face is a tremendously funny lp. I'm uncomfortably aware, however, that there are those, even those I respect muchly and love warmly, who do not find B.C. at all funny. I hesitate, therefore, to urge upon them an album that starts with four rings of a telephone and a pristine male voice saying "Hello, who is that speaking please?", followed inexorably by a lead guitar and bass who sound like they've been perched for hours just waiting to play their little run and get into the song (a righteous complaint against whatever it is that interrupts phone conversations). The humor of the thing is indescribable: it's all in the timing, and I break down every time I hear it. But there are those who sit unmoved. It must have something to do with taste.

The Kinks are mostly—but not entirely—Ray Davies. Ray is … [the] motive force for the group, and it is his curious personality that comes through in every note the Kinks play. Some people think Ray is a genius (albeit a misguided one). I think it's more accurate to call him an amazingly articulate musician; his mood at any given time is reproduced impeccably in his songs, with no apparent effort on his part. Playing around with a familiar melody and an unusual break—"Rosie Won't You Please Come Home?"—he lets the words fall where they may. "And I'll bake a cake if you'll tell me you are on the first plane home." Sheer nonsense … but it all falls in place so perfectly, it's hard to imagine any other words could belong there. Ray's gift is his control of his music: whatever he does, it's right. (p. 36)

There's a lot of depth to this album. "Rainy Day in June," for example: how can anything that starts with a thunderclap not be a pretty damn serious song? But it is, and it's a major work. The piano/bass thing rainy days all over you,...

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Sandy Pearlman

[Ray Davies is not] the sort of hero to inspire faith. But he is pretty cynical. Thoroughly disenchanted. (p. 21)

On Kinks Size [the Kinks] do "Louie, Louie." This is highly significant because it seems that the Kingsmen and their "Louie, Louie" are the source for the Kinks' style. Recall that "Louie, Louie" was the big hit on the eve of the Beatles in late 1963. And realize that the Kinks loved it well enough to even do it again on Kinks' Kinkdom (a double cover). Played back-to-back …, "You Really Got Me" seems the plausible—if long awaited—sequel to "Louie, Louie." And "Louie, Louie" becomes archetypically astringent, an influential song in the tradition of "Can I Get A...

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Paul Williams

I certainly love the Kinks; it's been fifteen months since I've had a new Kinks album in my house, and though I've been listening to them I've missed that pleasure…. I've played [The Village Green Preservation Society] twice since it arrived here this afternoon, and already the songs are slipping into my mind, each new hearing is a combined joy of renewal and discovery. Such a joy, to make new friends! And each and every song Ray Davies has written is a different friend to me.

Ray makes statements, he says the sort of stuff that makes you delighted just to know that someone would say stuff like that….

Now why is it Ray's songs always sound like something else, a different...

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Mike Daly

The Kinks' image is so strange, a group making it on the fact that they've never made it. The ultimate recording group—that's all they do, they just make records, you never see them but once a year they put out an album—a gift from themselves to their audience. The Kinks' last two albums, Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society sold a combined total, in America, of 25,000 copies—that ain't very many. I don't know whether people actually don't like their stuff or if they've just never heard it—whatever the reason, somebody's missing something, because the Kinks, since 1964, have been making some of the finest rock music this side of the Stones and the Beatles.

...

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John Mendelsohn

So, apparently having forgotten the Byrds' words of caution, you wanna be a rock and roll star, eh? Before you trade in your stereo components toward the price of an electric guitar, there's [Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneygoround (Part One), a] rock and roll essay by Ray Davies and his boys that your ears just have to read….

"The Contender"—silly quasi-bluegrass yielding to some of the most energetic rock and roll noises the Kinks have made since their live-at-Kelvin-Hall LP. Impatient to get out of the life you're presently leading …, you resolve to bust out by playing rock and roll….

"Get Back In Line"—the album's masterpiece: lovely musically, most...

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Roy Hollingworth

Well, we all know what "Percy"'s about, don't we? Nudge, nudge, and a nod's as good as a wink.

Well this length from the film score, laid flat by Ray Davies, performed by the Kinks, hangs I'm afraid, limp, rather lank, cold—and lacking in guts.

But how can one really criticise a movie film score, how can one talk creatively about sets of music laid down to slip in, and fuse with a film? All tracks fail to rise, fail to reach any form of climax…. Possibly the best track is "The Way Love Used To Be," a drifting ballad…. "Whip Lady" would I thought, have been a Kinky movement, but there's no naughtiness to get into…. Davies has undoubtedly been successful with the score—if...

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Bob Palmer

The Kinks are craftsmen in a musical genre that often relies on flash and force, literate chroniclers in a post-literate medium. They are also the most consistent band in rock and roll. Each of the Kinks' preceding twelve albums … is an absolutely integral piece of work. While other groups have dried up, broken down, spawned generations of side-man/superstar spinoffs, the Kinks roll on.

Ray Davies, the group's lead singer and songwriter, seems to be an inexhaustible source of pithy, self-contained songs…. All 12 songs on "Muswell Hillbillies" … are his, though the spirit of pub philosophy that dominates the album owes much to Dave's brand of tipsy populism.

But this is...

(The entire section is 587 words.)

Mike Saunders

Musically, the Kinks' roots in the British Music Hall tradition really show up strongly on Muswell Hillbillies. At least five songs could be described as this type, and when the countryish material is added, the two styles account for almost the whole LP…. Most of the music-hall style songs come over pretty well, even if the genre is minor compared to things the Kinks have done in the past. "Have A Cuppa Tea" is reminiscent of previous Kinks quaintness, and "Alcohol" is particularly delightful—sort of a followup to Ray Davies' Maurice Chevalier tribute "Just Friends" on Percy.

The country stuff is another matter. A portion of it is fine, but some of the songs are so positively...

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Mike Saunders

The Kinks started out by being raunchier than any group in history. "You Really Got Me," "All Day And All Of The Night," "I Need You," and "Till The End Of The Day" were truly the Kingsmen unleashed, and for my money more thrillingly raucous records have never been recorded.

After such successful rock and roll albums as You Really Got Me, Kinda Kinks, and particularly The Kink Kontroversy, not to mention Well Respected Kinks, Ray Davies decided it was time to explore some different alleys. This is precisely what the Kinks' work since Kink Kontroversy has been—a probe down one alley of expression, and once the genre has been satisfactorily mined, a move on to something...

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Bob Palmer

Ray Davies continues to wear his English citizenship like a badge. The Kinks have often used American musical idioms … but Ray has regularly used his considerable songwriting talents to anatomize situations of class and culture that are peculiarly English…. His nostalgia for the afternoon of the Empire, and his interest in the music hall/vaudeville traditions of his youth, continue unabated. His early efforts at the stand-up crooner idiom were often exquisite, especially "Sunny Afternoon" and "End of the Season," and most recently he has shown ingenuity in adapting fashionable rock currents to his obsession….

Everybody's in Showbiz, a double album containing a studio and a live record,...

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Nancy Erlich

The first question to be asked about a new Kinks album has to be: What is Ray Davies going to say about the world this time?… It is a fairly well-accepted opinion among people who listen to lyrics that Davies is a master songwriter, an unexcelled painter of people and scenes. In the course of 16 or so Kinks albums, he has created dozens—maybe hundreds—of incisive, bittersweet, funny-sad observations on the ways that people live. The British group's past several American tours have established an irreconcilable contrast between Ray Davies, the sensitive and intelligent songwriter, and the onstage buffoon of the same name.

"Everybody's In Show Biz" is about that contrast….

The...

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Jim Miller

Ray Davies has enjoyed two periods of Kinky creativity, one marked by crude energy, raw nerve and powerful rock ("All Day and All of the Night"), the other by accomplished artiness, social commentary and wistful vignettes ("Waterloo Sunset"). The Great Lost Kinks Album … concentrates on this second period, which ran approximately from "Sunny Afternoon" to "Lola"; together with last year's Kink Kronikles, it brings to light on album almost the complete Kinks works (although I do quibble with the exclusion of "Sitting on My Sofa").

The world of the Kinks as it evolved after "Sunny Afternoon" evinced a characteristic blend of nostalgia for a quieter period of English history, coupled...

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Ken Emerson

[The songs on The Great Lost Kinks Album] marvelously cohere to make this a real album and not merely an assortment of unrelated curios. This of course says a lot for the organic consistency of The Kinks' work. File TGLKA between Something Else and Village Green.

Like most Kinks albums since 1966, this one is sad. Oh, some of the songs sound happy enough, but they're wistful thinking, pathetically evanescent fantasies. There's no getting away from pain, ugliness, and isolation, which a few tracks face squarely. "Where Did the Spring Go?" is an extremely upsetting song about an aging man who has gotten nothing from life but varicose veins. "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" is...

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Steve Simels

[The odd thing about the Kinks] is that despite their frequent inability to remain vertical on stage, and despite the fact that they've been known to give performances in which they sounded like, in John Mendelsohn's phrase, "the first rehearsal of an inept teenage garage band," they've managed to create a body of recorded work that is quite clearly in the Beatles/Stones/Dylan class. Yet they've never really achieved the commensurate superstardom….

Discussions of the Kinks have invariably centered around Ray Davies…. But in the beginning it was the Kinks as a band that knocked people out. And, strangely enough, they made their initial reputation as avant-gardists. But there really is no...

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Ian Massey

There are snatches of the Who in ["Preservation Act 1"], the first of a two-act musical by Ray Davies. In fact, insidious as most of them are, the influences of "Tommy" abound, and detract from this album.

That said, there are some Kinks gems, a pretty good, if somewhat hackneyed, storyline, and enough good music to swell the ranks of the Kinks Preservation Society.

At first listen "Preservation Act 1" is disappointing. It hasn't quite the impact of "Muswell Hillbillies" on the rock numbers, nor the lovability of "Village Green Preservation Society," which, for me, must be the definitive Kinks "musical." Ray Davies inevitably has his eyes on the past. Now he's looking to the future;...

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Loraine Alterman

"Preservation Act 1" is actually a full-length development of themes Davies began in 1968 on "The Village Green Preservation Society" album. The songs on this new album relate how greed in the guise of progress is swallowing up individuality and humanity as personified by the inhabitants of a small town. The concept may sound rather grandiose, but Davies … could never get swept up by pretension.

Sparked by his sardonic wit and keen sensitivity, Davies makes his point in very down-to-earth terms. The lyric sheet indicates that each song is to be sung by a different character in this musical so Davies, the songwriter and lead singer, gives us all sides of the story including the villain who gets rich...

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Steve Lake

[If] the Kinks haven't taught us anything else, they've showed us that you can be real and make it….

Who else but Ray Davies would sing about Waterloo Station and Muswell Hill and village greens?

It wasn't always that straightforward, though….

[With "You Really Got Me"] The Kinks proved that they could execute a pretty mean boogie with two chords and a key change….

Maybe it's the type of situation that occurs when a group achieves a measure of success before it's mature enough to handle it, but Ray Davies wrote a large number of variations on a theme of "You Really Got Me," that filled up the bulk of the early albums and B-sides.

...

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Michael Watts

To my mind the Kinks have always excelled at short, simple pop songs, the best of which—like "Waterloo Sunset," "Autumn Almanac" and "Days"—have contained a warm, slightly old-fashioned sentimentality that cuts across any prejudices I have about the band's musicianship and general performance….

[Ray Davies] has sharp ears and eyes for the ways of a world that seems to lap at his doorstep while eternally he gazes, hand on chin, behind the upstairs window; and of course, that world is specifically British. However, observer though he may be, satirist he is not. His eyes may be sharp, but his pen draws no blood, essentially because he's too kindly and loveable when he should be savage, cranky and...

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Fred Schruers

Some sweet irony has Ray Davies posted on [the cover of Preservation Act 2] as a demagogic hustler when his refusal to merchandise himself has long impeded widespread recognition of the Kinks.

Because Ray, on this album, mingles his persona as a reluctant rock star and querulous love object with the characters of Flash, Mr. Black and the Tramp (with a bogglingly well-realized cameo as Flash's Special Floosie Belle), then marches these composite characters into a scenario that clicks (musically and narratively) with Preservation Act 1: because that scenario is informed by a superbly intuited moral sense of history, utterly germane to this year of deposed monarchies; and because the whole...

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John Swenson

British rock stagecraft has flirted with theatrical conceits for over a decade. What began as a performance dynamic in which movement was a direct function of the music itself (for example, the early Who and Stones) has evolved to the self-conscious spectacle of David Bowie's Cecil B. DeMille imitations and Jethro Tull's ridiculously cluttered, absurdist program pieces….

What's missing from this Grand Opera approach to rock performance is the solid conceptualization which can only come from strong songwriting point-of-view. The clarity and simplicity of statement which has always been one of rock's most positive songwriting attributes is gone from the tangled web of solipsistic allusions which...

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Steve Simels

It's no secret that Ray Davies has, in comparison with his early work, dished out an awful lot of substandard dross of late. In this he is like most of the rest of the great songwriters of the Sixties rock explosion….

The question of why Ray Davies' work has declined is a mite puzzling, however. Granted, he has tried of late to adapt his usual themes—the lives of little people, English traditions and their decline—to larger canvases than he's accustomed to. Even though his first attempt, the concept album "Arthur," was a rousing success, I still maintain that he is primarily a short-story writer, if you will, rather than a novelist: into such songs as Do You Remember Walter, Deadend...

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Allan Jones

"Schoolboys in Disgrace" is, without any doubt, the most impressive and enjoyable album that Ray Davies has written and produced since those halcyon days when the Kinks delivered that essential series of records which includes "Face To Face," "Something Else," "Village Green" and "Arthur."

Davies' recent work, particularly the ambitious "Preservation" trilogy, has not been entirely without its memorable moments, but all too often his vision has lacked that spectacular clarity which characterised many of his earlier compositions.

This album is a celebration of those qualities one admired so completely in Davies as a writer. He's not fully recovered his impressive facility for...

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Linda J. Frederick

[Looking through my collection of the Kinks's] early Reprise albums, I was struck by how very many Kinks songs deal with the wish to be somewhere, sometime, someone, or even something else (King Kong is a good example). Long before it became fashionable in rock, Ray Davies was a master at creating a nostalgic mood…. And, now that it's once again out of vogue (for which mercy God be praised), Ray has returned to this genre [on "Schoolboys in Disgrace"], if indeed he ever left it. Even given all that, the last thing in the world I expected now was an album full of yearnings for "those happiest days of your life" as a carefree student. I've always regarded Ray as, among other things, unalterably opposed...

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Peter Reilly

The Kinks and their mainspring, Raymond Douglas Davies, are presented [in "The Kinks' Greatest Celluloid Heroes"] in a ragtag collection of material dating as far back as 1972. Davies, who writes, produces, and arranges the group's material, seems to be making a lifelong career out of cheeky irreverence. Sometimes it works, as it does in Muswell Hillbilly, and sometimes it is woefully inappropriate, as it is in Alcohol—there's nothing really funny about that subject if you've read any of the new statistics on teenage (or any-age) alcoholism. But most of the time, as in Everybody's a Star and Celluloid Heroes, it comes across as a creaky bore. Somehow the Seventies have made a lot of pop...

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Allan Jones

["Sleepwalker"] emphatically testifies to the dramatic artistic revival of Raymond Douglas Davies, whose supreme talents as a writer have been so distressingly overlooked during the first half of this decade.

Davies' restless imagination and determination to pursue, over the last six years, a unique musical course which paid no homage to prevailing fashions and ideas, undoubtedly cost the Kinks the praise of the popular audience they deserved and the commercial success that would have justified their leader's uncompromising idiosyncrasies in the face of often universal critical disdain and popular indifference.

But their achievements have been no less entertaining during this time,...

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Billy Altman

Even as a staunch Kinks supporter, I was beginning to have my doubts. Although the band's following has grown steadily since they made it into the Seventies (by the skin of their teeth) with "Lola," they seemed to have peaked with Muswell Hillbillies. Ray Davies seemed hopelessly stuck on a thematic dead-end street (perhaps he had started believing all those notices about personifying the "voice of the little people"). But Sleepwalker … is a clear-cut triumph both for Davies and the band.

A few of these songs smack of the self-righteousness that's hindered Davies' recent writing; but the beautiful "Stormy Sky," in which clouds become a symbol for romantic conflict, and "Full Moon," a...

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Allan Jones

Raymond Douglas Davies is a metaphorical continent, removed from the archetypal macho-monster breathing blood and venom upon his audience as he carves a violent passage through their collective consciousness. Rather, he has the breezy bravado of a comic turn in an end-of-the-pier revue….

Raymond Douglas Davies is unique….

The Kinks' third single … was an event of some significance: the raw power and indefatigable exuberance of "You Really Got Me" … virtually introduced the genre of heavy metal in one devastating three-minute explosion of rabid sexual energy.

Ray Davies followed "You Really Got Me" with a further seven singles cast principally in the same...

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Jim Green

The Brothers Davies—better known as the Kinks—have survived a decade and a half of the rock wars. As Ray puts it in "A Rock and Roll Fantasy," "it's a miracle we're still here." Last year's Sleepwalker was the debut on their third label, Arista, and made the biggest impression in the charts of any Kinks LP yet. Considering the brilliance of their recorded output, it's about time [the Kinks had a commercial success].

On the evidence of Misfits, perhaps Ray Davies thinks so too, and decided to hasten the band's attainment of the commercial success they so richly deserve by doing what he could to homogenize the music for mass acceptance. Or maybe, after having worked on the album so...

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Ken Emerson

After twenty-odd albums, either you follow the Kinks or you don't. If you don't ("Gently pity those you can't persuade," as Jonathan Swift put it), it's unlikely you'll acquire the habit with Misfits, especially since none of the songs sounds like an immediate hit single. But if you do, this LP can make you cry. Not because Misfits is a bad record—on the contrary, it's the Kinks' best since, at the very least, 1974's underrated Preservation Act 2. No, what makes it heart-rending is its candor bordering on cruelty. And both the victim and the victor are Ray Davies.

It's as if the voice that has probably whispered for years inside Ray Davies' head, murmuring, "Come out, come out,...

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Jon Pareles

With the Era of Lowered Expectations upon us like a toxic thermal inversion, the Kinks are suddenly topical again. Ray Davies's pragmatic yet romantic pessimism—which he's maintained for 15 years—seems reasonable now, no longer a minority outlook. So when he names an album after the refrain "low budget," he doesn't sound petty or mundane; he sounds tough-minded, resonant, inspired. "Low Budget" (the song) lives up to its title; it's a monologue from a character who's forced to sacrifice quality for economy, a nigh-universal predicament. You don't have to be a Davies cultist or an expert on the English working class to know what he's singing about—and that shot of reality is exactly what the Kinks have needed....

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Mark Fleischmann

[If you doubt that Low Budget's] unifying idea is modern urban malaise à la Davies, you may have a bit of trouble accounting for the claustrophobic outlook of "In a Space," the dancing whore and babbling street loon who meet Ray's compassionate eye in "Little Bit of Emotion," his view of Captain America as a helpless giant in "Catch Me Now I'm Falling," the disco arrangement of "Superman," and the very existence of a song called "Pressure"—all on the same record. As the Kinks enter the '80s Ray's idealized village green is long gone, having been formally razed on Preservation, and perhaps even Arthur's suburban haunt may well have grown a little dirtier and more impersonal in the decade since 1969, as...

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Janet Maslin

At first I thought the biggest problem [in being stranded on a desert island with just one record] would be one of acoustics, but then I thought again. No friends. No enemies. No Christmas shoppers, but no Christmas presents, either. No way to start a stamp collection. No date at the movies. Hold the phone—no movies at all! Or books! Or talk shows! Or magazines (except for one yellowing copy of People, with Gregg and Cher and Baby Elijah on the cover)! Or records! No records!

Hah. One record, and—this being something of a trumped-up dilemma—all the time in the world to choose it. The final selection process didn't take me anywhere near that long: Something Else by the...

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John Rockwell

[The] Kinks have never really matched the top British groups in terms of mass success, and the reasons seem to be twofold. First, Ray Davies, the band leader, is too anarchic to conform to the rules and regulations of rock careerism. Rock may seem like an arena of wild men to outside observers. But it has its own rules, too, and for all their apparent eccentricity and iconoclasm, stars like Mick Jagger and Pete Townshend obey those rules.

The other reason is that the distinction of the Kinks's songs has to do more with Mr. Davies's lyrics and his charisma than with any purely musical virtues. This makes him the darling of some rock writers, the kind that fastens first on the words instead of the...

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Dave Schulps

What [the live album] One for the Road shows so well is how vital the Kinks are as we enter the '80s. After years on the fringe of mainstream rock, unwilling to compromise themselves for the sake of trendiness, it's no accident that the Kinks are currently more popular than at any time since the mid-'60s. Rock has come back to the Kinks' way of thinking, and for the first time in a while the group is in a position to reap the benefits. If the Jam can have an English hit with "David Watts," and the Pretenders score with "Stop Your Sobbing" why shouldn't the Kinks restore both to their set? Why shouldn't the Kinks, who fooled around with calypso in the early '70s ("Apeman," "Supersonic Rocket Ship"), concoct a...

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Nicholas Schaffner

There's been a lot of talk about "dinosaurs" these past few years. It's gotten to the point where many longtime rock fans … might reluctantly vote in favor of banishing some of their aging heroes to a remote cave. (p. 63)

The Kinks, however, are one "Sixties" act that has never had to face the dilemma of living up to (or living down) an identity forged from teen anthems … Following several rewrites of his first youthful power-popper, "You Really Got Me," Ray Davies grew up almost overnight. Most of the understated narratives he penned in the latter half of the Sixties are not only timeless but ageless…. Davies might well have soldiered on into the next century, writing and singing such wry and...

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