Friday, November 11, 2016

Kinks 7: Face To Face

The Stones had Between The Buttons, a thoroughly British album nobody knows about today, but they wouldn’t’ve got there were it not for The Kinks. Face To Face, with its exploding head Carnaby Street cover and song content, is the first album they made that fits in with what all Ray Davies’ disciples see as his mission to preserve the Empire for future generations. (He was merely writing songs, of course, but we’re not about to let facts get in the way of mythology.)
After a relevant sound effect, Dave gets the first track (again) with “Party Line”, a song that makes no sense in this century, much less decade. “Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home” works as a lonesome track, though it wouldn’t be years before anybody knew this was another plea to an older Davies sister, who would go on to inspire future Kinks works. “Dandy” was also a hit for Herman’s Hermits, a good pick being a portrait of a still-dedicated follower of fashion. “Too Much On My Mind” presents another portrait of the artist in distress, decorated by a gentle harpsichord courtesy of Nicky Hopkins. He also gets to play the flourish on the next track, a tribute to a “Session Man” much like himself. Nicky gets to add better color to “Rainy Day In June” (along with lots of thunder effects), a very advanced track that doesn’t deviate from a single bass note (or tonal, or drone, what have you) but still conveys an image. That makes “House In The Country”, social comment notwithstanding, almost a break in the tension with its barrelhouse piano and Dave’s leads borrowed from Chuck Berry.
While it’s supposed to suggest rolling waves, the opening of “Holiday In Waikiki” more evokes a draining sink or flushing toilet on half-speed. But that’s incidental compared to the bent surf homage of the lyrics and guitar. More social comment comes in “Most Exclusive Residence For Sale”, wherein the well-respected man has to sell his house. In case “Dandy” didn’t do it for you on side one, “Fancy” crosses British chamber pop with Indian drone wonderfully. “Little Miss Queen Of Darkness” builds a trad-jazz pastiche on a barely in-tune acoustic, then Dave takes over “You’re Lookin’ Fine” for a welcome bit of variety (Ray must not have felt comfortable being so brazen). One could be forgiven for thinking the entire album was a setup for “Sunny Afternoon”, the big single from the summer before. This is almost the prelude to “Most Exclusive Residence”, though we have a little more sympathy for the well-respected man on this track. But lest we get too serious, “I’ll Remember” is a simple fare-thee-well, combining Ray’s Ricky Ricardo homage in dropping the “g” from “everything” and Dave’s lead part, which would inspire the incidental music for The Prisoner.
Some accounts call Face To Face a concept album, but outside of sound effects, good luck finding a story. Instead, these are terrific songs that would have had the Beatles and Stones on their collective toes. It’s their secret weapon, an album nobody mentions, but those who do positively revere. Recent repackages (all imports, but easy enough to find) add contemporary singles, B-sides and unreleased tracks of dubious vintage, but this might be one of those albums that’s best left alone.

The Kinks Face To Face (1966)—4

1 comment:

  1. Source for Dave's lead on 'I'll Remember' inspiring Edwin Astley's work on the Prisoner? Many of the musical cues on the Prisoner were derived from his work on Danger Man -- would be curious to read more about this.