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Ignored at the time of its release, the quintessentially English The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society is Ray Davies’ masterpiece. With the band reforming, Steve Harnell takes a rural excursion into BMG’s latest Art Of The Album reissue…

Where once The Kinks were a perfect barometer of their times – the beat-boom urgency of You Really Got Me and tongue-incheek Carnaby Street dandyism of Dedicated Follower Of Fashion – their sixth album in just four years found the band, and most pertinently, songwriter Ray Davies, resolutely out of step with the zeitgeist.

The political turmoil of 1968, mirrored in The Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man, as well as The Beatles’ late entry into activism with the visceral Revolution, was nowhere to be found on The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society. Or at least not on a surface level.

For Ray, the album was an opportunity – at least temporarily, if his management would give him the chance – to bat away the hit-making expectations that weighed heavily on his shoulders. Speaking to Uncut in 2004, the songwriter explained: “I was angry. And I repressed the competitive instincts that had made me write hit singles. It wasn’t ‘I think I’m burned out, I can’t be successful’, it was ‘I’m deliberately not going to be successful this time. I’m not going to make You Really Got Me Part III’. [The album] was a final stand for things to be swept away, ideals that can never be kept.”

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