Album Reviews

The Kinks – Muswell Hillbillies: Legacy Edition

(Columbia/Legacy)

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81evQsuBqYL._SL1500_What’s to say about Muswells? That it was The Kink’s Big Pink? That it was, in Ray’s own words “a comedy album”? That it wasn’t its predecessor Percy, a soundtrack to a film about a penis transplant or its lumpy studio successor, Preservation Act 1?” Like most of the Kinks catalogue, it’s how you define hit and miss. Because the glory story of the Ray Davies Reality Show is mostly about the ones that got away. Those vexing near misses as ever essential to the whole cloth as the hits we hear ad nauseam.

Here was another script: this one’s about gentrified refugees and government invasion into personal air-space, wherein Davies and Co. attempt to create a limey strain of colonial rusticity while retaining their Englishness and the results are . . . a draw. Even fifty years you can’t pin this one in either column. Oh, you’ve got the galloping, plaint “20th Century Man.”  But the more revealing “Complicated Life” crashes against itself in slow motion, leaving you wondering why they couldn’t figure this one out. There’s an awkward female chorus. The sardonic “Skin and Bone;” the too Cockney “Holiday;” the grandly melodic ‘Have A Cuppa Tea” and “Oklahoma USA.” The nine bonus tracks only service the schizophrenia. The DVD, eleven live performances from ’72, may or may not make the picture any clearer, but it is the Kinks, and they were one of a kind.

– Mike Jurkovic

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