Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneyground & Percy – The Kinks
Sony Legacy 2CD
The Kinks most ungainly LP title just got even more awkward. Predictably any chance of 50th year anniversary gigs seems to have dribbled away (maybe next year?) so aside from the play Sunny Afternoon the focus is re-releases. A 5CD box set has waddled into sight, which despite restricting itself to the Kinks Golden Years of 1964 – 1971 still manages to avoid including anything interesting to the HardKore Kollector. So instead let me recommend this more modest proposition – an expanded version of the 1970 Lola LP which now includes the soundtrack to the ill-fated film Percy. The 13 tracks from the original Lola… release benefit from a sparkling digital remaster courtesy of Andrew Sandoval and the additional sonic detail shows what a great studio band the Kinks had become, particularly noticeable on the instrumental version of The Contenders where Dave Davies really lets rip. John Goslings organ is prominent (a very KInky thing to say), and the sometimes rickety rhythm section of Mick Avory and John Dalton is bang on throughout. Whilst Ray skewers the music biz on Denmark Street, The Moneygoround and Top Of The Pops Dave provides one of his most tender ballads in Strangers. Extra tracks add real value. Best is a new-to-me song called Anytime, which would have been a catchy addition to the original LP. Lovely joint lead vocals from Ray and Dave and almost country picking on the guitars. The other new song here The Good Life has a plodding Stonesy rhythm and a mundane Ray lyric. An alternate version of Lola is all the poorer for missing those familiar strident opening chords but an unreleased Apeman has lots more Dave (including a Chuck Berry break in the middle) and is more fun than the familiar version, if less commercial.
Lola gave the Kinks their biggest hit for 4 years so what did their legendarily-useless management do? Saddle them with writing the soundtrack to the film Percy, a vehicle for Hywel Bennet whose dismal plot is based around a penis transplant. The complete commercial failure of the film has resulted in the Kinks soundtrack LP being the most overlooked in their career. None of the tracks appear to have any lyrical relationship to the film itself, making me wonder how much material was written to order as opposed to being stray songs that Ray had lying around. It is patchy, in the way of most soundtracks but there are some real gems. Pye released a terrific 4 track EP in 1971 containing God’s Children, The Way Love Used To Be, Moments and Dreams and these four tracks are indeed the best songs here by some distance. You do need to hear John Dalton extolling the virtues of Willesden Green, but you only need to hear it once. Completely shows the Kinks could play a 12 bar blues just as boringly as could any of their contemporaries.
Percy freed the KInks from their straightjacket of a contract with Pye and they fled to greater artistic freedom at RCA who in 1971 released Muswell Hillbillies, which sleevenote writer Peter Doggett describes here as “magnificent”. I never liked the cod music-hall and country-and-NorthLondon of that LP and I liked the interminable concept albums and Amerikan Orientated Rock that followed even less. Aside from an occasional gem (Celluloid Heroes, Sitting In My Hotel Room) Lola.. and Percy marked the end of my fascination with the Kinks. This release does those two records proud and brings the Pye era to a dignified close.