The History of The Albums – n°318
Banned from live performances and stays in the United States, the Kinks could only really rely on the link with their country and their musical content to continue to make history. Obviously this did not prevent them from continuing to be successful in America with their singles/albums but the constraint was significant. That's why Ray Davis and his friends went for a more "English" content, detaching themselves from a kind of "global" art that everyone could relate to. If we combine this new particularity and their artistic genius, these factors allowed the Kinks to survive against the fierce competition of the time, especially by managing to play on the same ground of the Beatles in 1966, that is to say a formula "Pop Rock" crosserver, based on the tendencies of the psychedelic movements or the Baroque Pop. Having acquired a lot of artistic maturity over the year 1965, it is with the album Face To Face that the Kinks passed the milestone that allowed them to become one of the greatest "Pop Rock" groups of all time. It's a metamorphosis that can be explained essentially by the evolution of the band. Face To Face is not only a masterpiece but also the turning point that will allow the Kinks to continue to do better and better until the end of the decade. To sum it up, Face To Face is fantastic, however it is only the beginning of something even greater, which is already extraordinary when you think about it because I can tell you that there are countless artists/bands that would have dreamed of releasing an album of the same level. Today we will revisit Face To Face, an album that was in the air at the time and that stands out as a masterpiece of the Pop Rock scene/future as much in its experimentations as in the greatness of the writing and the content.
It must also be said that the singularity of the Kinks was the engine of this success. In 1966, there are finally very few major bands on a niche essentially Mod, except for "less" emblematic bands like the Small Faces or the Easybeats which are for the fact ultra influenced by the Kinks. If you take for example bands like the Rolling Stones, the Pretty Things, the Yarbirds or the Who who also kept a Mod soul, but all of them propose a content more Garage Rock, more Psychedelic or more Blues, while the Kinks have abandoned the Garage aesthetic of the beginnings to make place to a more clear-sighted and more atypical formula. The proof is that the "Mod" style literally disappeared in 1967/1968 when the Kinks stopped doing it after Face To Face. The first example of the Kinks' new singularity came in February 1966 with a first single (off album) called Dedicated Follower of Fashion. This Mod ballad is the symbol of the metamorphosis of the Kinks towards what we call in the jargon: British Music-All. Ironically and paradoxically they make fun of the "Mod" culture while they have always had this era of "Mod" group. What precisely to support on the fact that the classification of the musical styles is sometimes to be analyzed with context especially when one speaks about it in a retrospective way. Nevertheless, we already find in Dedicated Follower of Fashion this "snobbish" but satirical way of singing of Ray Davies, very typical British precisely. A trademark which will remain among the elements of the success of the group during the second half of the Sixties. Exhausted by the tours, Ray Davies is going to know some months of difficulty concerning his mental health what is going to lead him to stay at rest, it is at this moment there that he wrote (according to me) one of the 3 biggest songs of the career of the Kinks: Sunny Afternoon. Once again based on satire and music-hall aesthetics, Ray Davies wrote a political and committed song about income taxes just like the Beatles' Taxman [for the record, Taxman was written and recorded for the first time in the studio in April 1966 but released in August 1966 on Revolver, while Sunny Afternoon was recorded in May 1966 and released as a single in June 1966, so no one influenced the other]. Obviously the 2 songs are not comparable, Sunny Afternoon is more melodious and relies on an absolutely divine narration, which gave us a Pop Rock masterpiece that only Ray Davies knew how to write and compose. Crazy enough, not only did Sunny Afternoon not escape the controversy, but it also managed to displace a Beatles song "Paperback Writer", which was very rare. To go further, the Kinks have only offered 3 number 1 singles in the UK charts, and Sunny Afternoon will be the last to do so, following Tired of Waiting for You released in January 1965.
Recorded mainly on 2 sessions of 1966, except the song I'll Remember (in 1965 during the Kink Kontroversy sessions), Face To Face is mainly marked by the period of depression that Ray Davies knew. It is besides what explains the stylistic evolution of the work of the leader, principal investigator of the album. Much debate still surrounds the nature of the album as a concept aimed at "social commentary", which suggests that it is true in a sense, but apart from this common element, none of the songs are related to each other. In all, each song sounds like a story that Ray Davies articulates either indirectly in the 3rd person or as a sort of character actor in the 1st person. The album starts with Party Line, a song claimed by brother Dave Davies and no one will argue since it's the UFO of the album if compared to the other. It's far from being a bad song, on the contrary, however we notice very clearly the difference in level. It is in fact a kind of beatlesque anthem, fun and pleasant. We notice the difference directly when it is the "new" Ray Davies who takes control with Rosy Won't You Please. Combining his singular narration around an aesthetic merging Mod and Baroque Pop, articulated around a fat guitar and a lively harpsichord (or mellotron) melody, the art of Ray Davies shines of thousand fire and plunges us once and for all in Face To Face. And here I can tell you that it is left for a rain of happiness. First the energetic Daddy, recalling the garage spirit of the beginnings, but turned with a Folk Rock and Sunshine Pop soul that announces what will happen on The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society. What is rather amusing with Daddy, it is precisely that it is said that the targeted character in this story would be between other his brother Dave, what shows the sometimes too fusional but conflicting links of the Davies brothers. The sequence Too Much On My Mind and Session Man shows again all the ease and the talent of the formula Mod/Baroque Pop, however when you arrive on Rainy Day In June, it is as if the time stops for a few minutes. Sincerely, this song is a pure marvel and is in my opinion one of the best non-singles songs in the Kinks repertoire. Everything is absolutely splendid, the sophisticated writing, the poignant interpretation or this grandiose musicality. One has the impression if one makes the impasse a little on the quality of the sound restricted for the time that the Kinks had 10 years of advance on this one, this soaring atmosphere, articulated around an angelic piano, which reminds a little the universe of Supertramp or still Dire Strait (although one is not in the same field). That it is precisely on Rainy Day In June or on House In The Contry, we find all the aesthetic Folk/Country which allows the style of Ray Davies to bloom. The second part of the album doesn't decrease in intensity, first of all the catchy Holiday In Waikiki, a kind of "remarke" of the surf rock in the spirit with this mix of country and psychedelism. By the way, it's interesting to see that the additions of Nature recordings really sound of the time without being too old-fashioned, which is rather technical for the time like the image of Rainy Day In June. Globally the B side of Face to Face is more psychedelic, we see it notably on the trippy Raga Rock of Fancy, the rocky ballad of Little Miss Queen of Darkness or the very hypnotic bluesy of You're Lookin' Fine. The Kinks also keep the honor to (almost) finish on the apotheosis Sunny Afternoon, in short you will have understood, do not miss Face To Face, an album mastered from the beginning to the end. An appetizer of high standing for the future albums to come