Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Ray Davies and the Crouch End Festival Chorus - The Kinks Choral Collection

The trouble with this collection is that, as a recording, it hasn't got the impact that it ought in a live setting – perhaps this is why Ray Davies is touring in the company of various choirs this season.

The concept of decades-old Kinks songs being backed by the 65-piece Crouch End Festival Chorus doesn't seem so much an instance of 65-year old Davies milking his career highlights when you're watching the lot of them do a phenomenal job of “Shangri-La” on Electric Proms, as was the case in 2007. On record, though, the effect isn't mind-blowing, but watered-down, with “Celluloid Heroes” sounding more and more like a dated cliché about fame, and “Do You Remember Walter?” trotting along like a piece from a Henry Mancini record that could be caught in any vinyl clearance bin.

Davies pays special attention to The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, the real masterpiece here being “Village Green,” the only track on the album other than “See My Friends” to really showcase the choir, bringing Davies' nostalgic lyrics under a spotlight in a way that they hadn't been in 1968.

Nothing could screw up the beautiful “Waterloo Sunset,” though it would have been strengthened if given the same treatment as “Village Green,” all choir save for his acoustic guitar – the greater issue being that the backing band is what slows down and, ultimately, dates the songs in an unflattering way, attempting to modernize with drums and a dreadful guitar/piano combination at too high a volume in the studio.

At times, Davies sounds like a bored narrator (see: “Big Sky”), or rushes through as though he's as embarrassed to be revisiting as the listener ought to be in receiving (see: “All Day and All of the Night”). The biggest shame of all, though, is that this project could have seen a great reworking of “Phenomenal Cat” but omitted it in favor of excessive nostalgia, which seems somehow fitting. Or even "The Way Love Used to Be," which would have been stunning if arranged with the choir in place of strings. If this experiment isn't meant to be a sort of preparation for a Kinks reunion, perhaps there'll be room for a part two in the near future.

Ray Davies - Shangri-La
Ray Davies - Village Green
Purchase The Kinks Choral Collection


Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Memoirs of a Heroinhead said...

My mother dated Ray Davies whilst they were bothteenagers living in Southend-on-sea. If he'd have given her one I could have had a famous father... instead I had an infamous one.

BW, Shane.

China said...

My god.

(Both to the blog entries I've read of yours and to the above story.)