- Cullman, Alabama


January 30, 2011

Playback: Village Green stands as Kinks signature record

CULLMAN — When Rock 'n' Roll music emerged in Western Civilization in 1955, some thought it was just another youthful fad that would come and go. Oh, but the critics were wrong, including our parents who wished it would just dance right out of the room.

Sorry Mom and Dad, when Elvis Presley glided across the stage with legs, hips and about everything else shaking, the thought of remaining square just wouldn't do. We became Greasers, Mods, Rockers, Hippies and Punks, and determined that the general definition of being cool would depend a lot, from this time forward, on the music you embraced.

With 55 years of Rock 'n' Roll and all its related genres to consider, I would like to offer a series of reviews pointing you to some of the great records (or CDs) you should  own. And if the titles or bands are not familiar, blame it on consultant-driven radio and search these out. I think you will enjoy some or most of these offerings. Look in the weeks ahead for articles from fellow staff members at The Times as they review a variety of records for your consideration.

Here goes:

The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society is a masterpiece of song writing, musical blending and mood. But in 1968, this once adored band had fallen on hard times. This record was intended to move them back to the top of the charts alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Music critics widely embraced Village Green, but the public was lost in the final years of the drug-infused, war-torn mess of the late 1960s. The Kinks would make a successful comeback a few years later, and when that time arrived music fans would discover the lost treasure of November 1968.

Ray Davies, the chief songwriter and lead singer of The Kinks, had moved past the glam of the British Invasion that brought us the Beatles, and he was not clouded by the haze arising out of San Francisco's hippie scene. Village Green was at times down-to-earth, introspection of working-class and middle-class values and concerns. It was thoughtful, melancholy, funny and energetic. It was just about everything you would expect from a great record, or even a great book.

The record — on the surface — is very much British in its thought and lyrics, but many of those subjects are portrayed in a manner that anyone could absorb. Lyrically, this record is a fascinating masterpiece of snapshots into everyday life. Key tracks include Picture Book, People Take Pictures of Each Other, Do You Remember Walter? and Animal Farm.

Musically, the record is a departure from the hard, fuzzy overtones that defined the rising anger at the end of the '60s.

Village Green has earned broad appeal. Your parents would like it, but most of the sales of this record today are young people discovering a defining moment in popular music.

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