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Where Were You in ’68?

The Kinks
The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society (Sanctuary Midline)

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.

Preservation 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.

—Shawn Stone

Geri Allen
The 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.

The 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.

—David Greenberger

Anita Baker
My 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 lovely.

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.

—Carlo Wolff

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