Ray(mond Douglas) Davies Jim Miller - Essay

Jim Miller

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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 with an almost arrogant stance toward the status-seeking English bourgeois who would replace the green spaciousness of the past with an incessant and constricting rat race for fame and fortune. Into this world were introduced a panoply of Kinky characters, ranging from "Dandy" to "Lola" him/herself. The Kinks world created by Davies represented a charming oasis where the tradition of the music hall survived in a rock & roll incarnation.

Most of the Lost album's material is roughly contemporaneous with Village Green Preservation Society. At the time, Ray was particularly absorbed by antique strains of popular music as stylized vehicles for his lyrical concerns. Although the softshoe patina of songs like "Pictures in the Sand" and "Mr. Songbird" can sometimes sound a little soft-headed, Ray's antics, even at their cutest, are oddly engaging; he often seems appealingly inept, not unlike a homeless singing waif lost on the set of a Fred Astaire movie.

Davies' best compositions [such as "Lavender Hill" and "Autumn Almanac"] retain enough rock to provide his whimsies with a cutting edge….

[Considering] that the record basically represents dregs, it contains a surprising number of undeservedly esoteric Kinks classics. I've always loved Ray's brooding persona on "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," but my new-found favorite is "Till Death Do Us Part," an archly banal plea for acceptance….

Perhaps one day Ray Davies will return to the wry vision that animated a song like "When I Turn Off the Living Room Light." Until then, The Great Lost Kinks Album will sustain those archivists who, like myself, remain disappointed with Ray's recent Kinks recordings.

Jim Miller, "Records: 'The Great Lost Kinks Album'," in Rolling Stone (by Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc. © 1973; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission), Issue 131, March 29, 1973, p. 56.