Were You in ’68?
Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary
This ultra-deluxe three-disc set is probably only for Kinks
completists. And yet, when such loving effort is expended
for what is probably the Davies’ brothers best album, attention
must be paid.
Society was a flop when first released in 1968, and no
wonder. Ray Davies explicitly set out not to make a
commercial album. He rejected most of what was then going
on in rock & roll, and, by extension, the world, in this
gentle, nostalgia-laced concept album about a lost England—an
England, he admits in the CD’s accompanying booklet, that
never really existed.
There are childhood memories (“Do You Remember Walter”), odes
to a vanishing world (“Village Green,” “Sitting By the Riverside”)
and, even more odd, a couple of children’s songs (“Phenomenal
Cat,” in which Dave Davies hums like a 6-year-old, and “Animal
Farm,” which has nothing to do with George Orwell.)
It doesn’t mean the album doesn’t rock on occasion. “Big Sky,”
for example, is Led Zeppelin a year before Zep existed. The
tone is anti-rock, anti-hippie and laced with a shocking degree
of bitterness. I mean, can you imagine John Lennon, Mick Jagger
or anyone else plaintively singing, “God save little shops,
china cups and virginity”?
My personal favorite, “Big Sky,” seems to be written from
the point of view of God explaining, in the third person,
why he can’t be bothered with our little problems.
This lavish set includes the original album in both mono and
stereo formats, a few alternate versions of songs, a number
of tunes recorded at the same time (but cut from the album),
and assorted remixes and musical doggerel. Much of this has
been available on various other packages through the years
(like The Kink Kronikles), but there’s a coherent case
for including them here. Plus, the booklet contains new interviews
with both Davies brothers, as well as drummer Mick Avory and
bassist Pete Quaife.
Is it worth the 30 bucks? Yes indeed.
Life of A Song (Telarc)
The title of pianist Geri Allen’s first new album in six years
has two meanings. It is a music-industry term that refers
to the duration of marketplace viability. However, Allen is
here reclaiming the five words to address the subtle shifts
and changes that a composition can go through in the hands
of different players and at different times.
Life of A Song reunites Allen with bass player Dave Holland
and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The beautiful fury of DeJohnette’s
playing on the opening “LWB’s House” moves to the top of the
list of the most rapturous drumming I’ve ever heard (well,
this year). The disc’s eight originals are joined by three
covers that were chosen because their status as classics presented
the challenge to give them new and meaningful life, and also
to honor three important influences on Allen: Billy Strayhorn,
Bud Powell, and Mal Waldron. The latter’s ballad “Soul eyes”
closes the set, with the trio augmented by a three-piece horn
section for stunningly regal results.
Everything (Blue Note)
One of the great voices of the ’80s and early ’90s returns
after a 10-year absence to join labelmates Norah Jones, Van
Morrison and Al Green as proponents of classy, retro soul
music. All now work for Blue Note, a label once identified
exclusively with jazz, particularly bop, and there’s nothing
boppish about Baker’s new album. It does, however, appeal
to adults, like Blue Note’s more orthodox jazz offerings and
particularly like Jones, the label’s cash cow. My Everything
is worldlier than Jones’s material, more personal and more
romantic. Like the five albums Baker recorded for Elektra
between 1985 and 1994, it’s reassuring, sophisticated, regularly
Baker’s alto is as strong as ever, her melismatics comfortingly
honeyed and seductive. Where she used to celebrate the pleasures
of monogamy and the limits and thrills of desire in songs
like “Giving You the Best That I Got” and “Caught Up in the
Rapture,” she now applauds maturity and family, in “Serious,”
the powerful “You’re My Everything,” “Like You Used to Do,”
an organic, easy duet with Babyface, and “Men in My Life.”
The album could have used rhythmic variety, and more solos
might have leavened the mix. But the settings are largely
effective, and clearly designed to showcase Baker’s gorgeous
alto, which can span the innocence of a young girl and the
wisdom of a seasoned woman in the course of a single song.
“How Does It Feel,” “Serious” and “How Could You” suggest
Baker is ready to tackle serious, adult themes. “Men in My
Life” acknowledges family even as it announces that Baker,
an architect of what used to be called Quiet Storm, is ready,
even eager to reclaim her status as a solo star.