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.