The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies
Dave Davies – guitar, harmonica, slide guitar, keyboards, vocals
Ray Davies – guitar, piano, vocals, producer, composer
Mick Avory – drums
John Dalton – bass
And a host of guest musicians
The Kinks are probably the most overlooked big time band. Sure, everyone knows “All Day and All Night” and “Lola,” but not many people know about the more artistic triumphs. There are a slew of fantastic albums from the late 60’s and early 70’s that you never hear about. The only tracks you ever hear from any of those albums are “Lola,” and sometimes “Ape Man.” Let me tell you that this period contains the bands finest work, and Ray Davies’ best writing.
To me the apex is “Muswell Hillbillies.” Not only is it essential listening, but it is also a very different album. If it wasn’t Ray singing, you might not even realize this was The Kinks. As you may have guessed from the title, there is a distinct country flavor, blended with bluegrass, Dixieland, and of course rock. Ray pulled everything straight from the good ol’ U. S, of A.
Now, the album does begin with the solid rockin’ “20th Century Man,” but after that it’s down south and up to the mountains. The one exception is “Here Come the People in Grey.” You might think this was a Rolling Stones number (my favorite country band). The songs are little soulful vignettes (of which Ray Davies has always been a master) of downtrodden people. You feel as if the folks he was singing about actually wrote these tunes. Musically it is equally as tight. The band was never tighter. Every style is executed as if this was the only thing they ever did.
I could go into intricate detail about every little nuance, and the scrutiny would reveal very few flaws. However, the bottom line is that this album is just a joy to listen to. Once you’ve heard it, you will probably become an ardent fan of the group. Then you will be compelled to explore further, and you will be better for it.