The 1968 concept album was The Kinks’ sixth and a total flop upon release. Ray Davies crafted these tunes around a loose theme of an English dream world that didn’t exist. Harkening back to a simpler time as the leader of the band was going through a rocky first marriage and the band was banned from touring the US. It was also the last to feature the original line up of Ray & Dave Davies, Pete Quaife, and Mick Avory. In 2018, the 50th anniversary of the album was a perfect time to re-release in various formats. The version reviewed here is the two-disc edition while a whopping eleven-disc super deluxe set is available for those needing a deeper dive with deeper pocketbooks.
“Village Green” was written for the previous album Something Else but held back. The track looks to a time of the village green with the simple people and “the church, the clock, the steeple”. The title track sings of being the preservation society of little shops, china cups, strawberry jam, draught beer and the smartly named – “custard pie appreciation consortium”.
Character sketches abound in “Do You Remember Walter?”, the rebellious “Johnny Thunder”, and village prostitute on the calypso styled “Monica”. Two highlights both feature lyrics about photos in “Picture Book” and the nostalgic “People Take Pictures of Each Other”. Immediately catchy “Starstruck” with its vocal harmonies was the first track pulled in the US as a single but did not chart. Varying the style throughout the album, “Wicked Annabella” is decidedly darker in tone than other tracks with a dirty guitar while cartoonish “Phenomenal Cat” is pure psychedelic whimsey.
Similar to other re-releases of The Village Green Preservation Society, this two disc version offers both the stereo and mono versions of the album. Preferences will be left to the individual but to these ears the stereo versions work better for the more cinematic efforts such as the title track while the mono versions hit a bit harder on the up-tempo rockers. At the end of the both discs a wealth of extras which could easily have been collected on an album at the time and not seen a dip in quality.
1968 single “Days” is one of the best tracks The Kinks released while “She’s Got Everything” is a rough and ready blast of 60s garage rock. The “Preservation Mix” of the title track with different lyrics is more uplifting and celebratory of the village life than it’s original. “Picture Book/People Take Pictures of Each Other” also in “Preservation Mix” foresees a significant portion of blur’s mid 90s output where a piano lead gives way to music hall horns. “Village Green Overture” sounds like a blast from an England that actually did exist earlier that century. With this new release, the Village Green finally sold over 100,000 copies. In the midst of Britpop, it was finally deemed that classic that it is but it was worth the wait. This album needs to be in every rock and roll collection and is one of the true wonders of the late 60s.