Preservation Act 1
First of all, I hate rock operas. I hate 'em, I hate 'em, I hate 'em!
If you wanna rock, then rock. If you wanna tell a story, I'll see you
at the library. What's the motivation for trying to tell a story spread
out over a bunch of songs? Why is it always a double album? (Name the
last rock opera that got it over in less than 45 minutes apart from Nova
Mob's godawful Last Days of Pompei or the pathetic Pete Townshend
product The Iron Man.) How come it's always a sad story? The
Wall? Alienation. Tommy? Alienation. Chess? Um,
chess. How come there hasn't been a rock opera about what a wonderful world
our world is?
Well, Preservation isn't a happy work, but it's full of the joy and
enthusiasm of Ray Davies and his Kinks at the peak of their creative persuasion
tackling the heady, rock opera ready topic of... urban renewal.
Well, fuck it. Act 1 is part of a double album that was released
in two chunks, which wasn't originally the plan. Not long before his RCA
imposed deadline for Preservation, Davies discovered that most of the
tracks didn't sound so hot. The band managed to get the first half
re-recorded in time for a November 1973 release with Act 2 coming
along six months later. Velvel's reissue is still in separate pieces, but
if you get one you won't be able to resist the other. And the accounting
department at Velvel knows it. What fool bought Guns N' Roses Use Your
Illusion I but didn't tackle the equally metal, more poetic Use Your
Act 1 kicks off with a bonus track called "Preservation," a lankier,
reworded take on the album closer "Demolition." "Preservation" never
made the album, instead working as a single that sold the concept of the
album. Track two, "Morning Song," is the great choral leap into the
fray, followed by "Daylight," a laid- back hybrid of Zeppelin's India
fetish and the Beatles' "Penny Lane." "Sweet Lady Genevieve," the next
cut, is one of the Kinks' greatest singles, a simple porchy folk- rock
number you'll be humming for days. That particular number is sung by
Davies in the guise of the Tramp, who gets one of the other showstoppers
"Sitting in the Midday Sun" (which is just begging for a cover treatment
by Ween). Who is the Tramp? What's his deal? I don't care. I just
like the fact that he checked in with some great tunes.
Because it's a rock opera, Preservation gets away with being
theatrically playful in terms of music styles. '50s rock, stiff upper
lip pomp, folk, and even Mr. Whitey's interpretation of Isaac Hayes'
music get the Kinks treatment; in that sense, I'm grateful for the
excuse of creating art over rock. When it's done by one of the greatest
rock and roll bands of all times at their peak, how could it be a