Posted by Amelia Swhizzagers On 1:40 AM
Songwriter and band leader Ray Davies crafted the concept album as a gentle homage to English hamlet life and, by extension, to the innocence and idealization of past times and people. While a love letter to an idealized England already gone, the album also has a pervading ironic sting, starting with the title track. There is a sense Davies yearns for this world but knows both it is not real and if it were he could never fully be part of it. The songs were assembled from material recorded over a two year period prior to the album's release, as Davies moved away from producing commercial hit singles and into a more personal, nostalgic style of songwriting. Many of the songs recorded prior to the early summer of 1968 may have originally been intended for a Ray Davies solo album and/or stage show related to the loose "village green" theme, because Davies was unsure whether they fit the Kinks' musical image and style. But as the concept progressed, and as the Kinks' commercial fortunes declined in 1968, the album was completed as a full-fledged Kinks project. Fearing the band would soon dissolve and that this would be their final project, Davies poured his heart into the album, tinkering with it until the last possible minute. He even halted the production of an early release version to revamp the song selection.
The album theme was inspired by a track recorded by the band in November 1966, "Village Green", which was inspired by the Kinks' performances near rustic Devon, England in late 1966 (Davies has also stated that Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood was an indirect inspiration for the concept). This song neatly sums up the album's broad theme: "I miss the village green, and all the simple people..." In addition to nostalgia, the album's songs touch on a wide range of emotions and experiences, from lost friends ("Do You Remember Walter"), memories ("People Take Pictures of Each Other", "Picture Book"), bucolic escape ("Animal Farm"), social marginalization ("Johnny Thunder", "Wicked Annabella"), public embarrassment ("All of My Friends Were There"), childlike fantasy ("Phenomenal Cat"), straying from home ("Starstruck") and stoical acceptance of life ("Big Sky", "Sitting By the Riverside"). Davies did not compose many of the songs to fit the predetermined theme of the album, rather their commonality developed naturally from his nostalgic songwriting interests at the time. The title track, one of the last written and recorded (in August 1968), effectively unifies the songs through an appeal to preserve a litany of sentimental objects, experiences, and fictional characters from progress and modern indifference: "God save little shops, china cups, and virginity". This last lyric inspired the slogan, "God save the Kinks" which was used in the US promotion for the album, and was associated with the band through the 1970s.
Session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins contributed significantly to the album. With the exception of true orchestral backing on the early "Village Green" track, the string and woodwind backings on such tracks as "Animal Farm", "Days", "Starstruck" and "Phenomenal Cat" were simulated by the Mellotron, played by both Hopkins and Ray Davies.
1 Village Green Preservation Society [Stereo] Davies 2:49
2 Do You Remember Walter? [Stereo] Davies 2:26
3 Picture Book [Stereo] Davies 2:37
4 Johnny Thunder [Stereo] Davies 2:31
5 Last of the Steam-Powered Trains [Stereo] Davies 4:11
6 Big Sky [Stereo] Davies 2:50
7 Sitting by the Riverside [Stereo] Davies 2:25
8 Animal Farm [Stereo] Davies 3:00
9 Village Green [Stereo] Davies 2:09
10 Starstruck [Stereo] Davies 2:21
11 Phenomenal Cat [Stereo] Davies 2:38
12 All of My Friends Were There [Stereo] Davies 2:25
13 Wicked Annabella [Stereo] Davies 2:42
14 Monica [Stereo] Davies 2:16
15 People Take Pictures of Each Other [Stereo] Davies 2:14
16 Mr. Songbird [Stereo][*] Davies 2:24
17 Days [Stereo][*] Davies 2:52
18 Do You Remember Walter [Alternate Stereo Mix][*] Davies 2:24
19 People Take Pictures of Each Other [Alternate Stereo Mix][*]