Preservation Act 2 really gets down to the nitty gritty of the story of the two principal characters Flash and Mr. Black in Ray Davies epic saga. Act 1 is stronger in terms of the tunes, but the drama really hits hard in this follow-up. Overall I find the first two sides of this double LP very strong, and side four really pulls out all the stops. There is a definite Weill/Brecht feeling throughout, with the magnificent horn oompahs and woodwind runs in the verse parts of Second-Hand Car Spiv sounding as if they came from a lost manuscript for A Threepenny Opera.
Reviewers back in the day considered the live road show version to be superior to the recordings. Having seen it then, I would agree that the combination of the expanded forces on the stage, projected images and a reduced, concise song lineup made for excellent theater. But the records really do hold their own, even with the spoken "announcements" in Act 2 which help to flesh out the story with a news announcer censoring the proceedings according to the wishes of Mr. Black's dictatorship.
It is weird and wonderful to hear female voices on a Kinks record, and especially the ladies-only Scrapheap City. I also picked up a 70s glam vibe on parts of Artificial Man and Salvation Road that I don't believe I ever noticed before - shades of Mott the Hoople! Some of the most heart-rending moments for me include the final lines in Nothing Lasts Forever - "Your love will fade but mine will last forever". This song would be a great companion to The Party's Over and the arrangement reminds me of a broken-heart love song in a big 50's musical. And Flash's plea for acceptance in Scum Of The Earth - "Before you condemn me my friends, I suggest that you look deep inside you" - he's not about to apologize for being human.
It may be the oddest combination of rock, musical theater, and political commentary ever produced. It is a very long way from Face to Face. Those Kinks no longer exist by this juncture. At the time I fought with myself on whether I would continue to follow them into their new world. I would like to think that as I grew older, I became wiser and more open to something different. Listening again after so many years I find Preservation to be refreshing and extremely current to today's world.
Who else was this musically adventurous in the mid 1970s? Preservation is one of Ray Davies' crowning moments.
Quick Takes 2
6 hours ago