The last & best Kinks masterpiece
By Vail Beach
The Kinks’ peak was the period between 1966-71, and “Muswell Hillbillies” was the last great album. They continued for another decade and a half, and issued some valuable songs, but never hit the peak that “Muswell Hillbillies” represents. It is a Ray Davies showcase — one of the few albums without any songs by Dave Davies. At first, I thought it was the Kinks’ riff on The Band — the rootsy, semi-acoustic arrangements and naturalistic recording style occupies the same sweet spot. But while the Band’s songs conjured up myths, Ray Davies is characteristically rooted in reality. These are little character portraits — of individuals or couples or distinct communities. Although very nostalgic, they were clearly characters of the time of the album — the early 1970s. These are people of that time, wishing for a different time — a constant theme of Ray’s, but never rendered better than on these songs. Davies’ singing and the band’s playing seems to be inspired by the love Ray lavishes on these characters. The way he sings the last chorus of the title song (which was the final song on the original LP — consider everything after that to be bonus material) can bring tears to your eyes. A masterpiece.