Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ev'rybody got problems, buddy. I got mine

Putting the concept albums behind, The Kinks moved forward with an album that became a blueprint for what would follow until the end of their career. Sleepwalker paved a path into the rock mainstream for a band that had never been a follower. The glove did not quite fit - and for me that's why it works. Little bits of the real Ray Davies keeps popping up in both the lyrics and the music. Years later I read a quote from Dave about Ray's habit of sleepwalking. Coupled with Ray's insomnia, suddenly the song made sense to me. The sentiment reflected in Brother is carried aloft by a slow lilting melody in a gorgeous middle period Beach Boys style, with Ray sounding exactly like Carl Wilson on the high chorus parts.

The album produced a couple of entries into the pop charts in the USA. Sleepwalker kicks off with a great jangly guitar, a perky verse melody and a classic rock construction, ending with a repeated harmonic line over which the band plays with a real gusto and Ray and band literally bellow the chorus. It is a cathartic moment. Juke Box Music offers a glimpse at how great the Davies Brothers could be when sharing the vocal lines, and Dave lets loose with some very fine guitar playing. Listening to the radio in 1977 was wonderful for me because there was new Kinks music being heard by the masses.

If Ray had taken a further step down the path he had started with Preservation, The Kinks would likely have come to an end. I wonder what he might have produced on his own at the point, but the fact is he didn't, and the band moved ahead to reach their highest levels of success on this side of the Atlantic. This is the starting point for that next journey.


Holly A Hughes said...

Excellent post, Mr P. You're right; this is definitely the beginning of a new era. You can almost hear the joy in their playing, as if they were busting out the doors of the school, heading for a long summer of freedom.

Who Am Us Anyway? said...

woah yeah -- nobody does the "oh yeahs" call-response like the Kinks.

This record delighted me too, much in the same way Blood on the Tracks did in '75: Suddenly lots 'n lots of people were digging the same music i was & I loved that feeling.

I distinctly remember a college party in '77- '78 & noticing with delight how scattered on the table next to the host's stereo were LPs by the likes of Elvis Costello, Talking Heads, Clash, Pretenders, Ramones, Tom Petty, and ... ta da! ... the Kinks' Sleepwalker!