Face To Face
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UK digitally remastered and expanded edition of this 1966 album from the British Rock band led by the ever-bickering Davies brothers, Ray and Dave. Contains the original album joined by a myriad of non-album tracks, rare mixes and more. 20 tracks. Sanctuary.
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Dave's "Party Line" gets the album off to a rollicking start, followed by "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home," Ray's harpsichord-fueled lament to a runaway sister. The acoustic rocker "Dandy" begins a mini song cycle (continuing through "House in the Country," "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale," and "Sunny Afternoon") charting the rise and fall of a venal socialite that forms the loose core of the album. Along the way there are detours to comment on the music business ("Session Man"), American tourism ("Holiday in Waikiki"), and gloomy English weather ("Rainy Day in June"), wrapping up with the wistful "I'll Remember," actually a leftover from the "Kink Kontroversy" sessions. Ray proves himself a master of imagery and characterization, bringing the people and places in his songs to vivid life.
This reissue is particularly notable, as it adds several essential extra tracks, such as "Dead End Street," "Big Black Smoke," and "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," to an already stellar album. Don't miss this!
The record starts off with "Party Line", a rocking tale of daily minutiae. While sly social commentary had popped up in previous Kinks songs (eg, "Well-Respected Man", "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"), this tune shows Ray Davies taking "think globally, act locally" to a bit of an extreme. (Was this really a good enough reason for him to not be "voting in the next election"?!) Other straight-ahead rockers on the album include "Dandy", "Session Man", "A House In the Country", "Most Exclusive Residence For Sale", and the inspired, tongue-in-cheek "Holiday In Waikiki". This handful of songs alone demonstrates Ray's wide range of topical interests: swinging bachelors, under-appreciated musicians, insufferable millionaires, and fish-out-of-water Englishmen. Just as Ray's social commentary was flourishing, so was his introspection. This is also strongly felt on Face To Face, as on the heartfelt pleas of "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home?", the plaintive "Too Much On My Mind", and the vivid, funereal contrast of "Rainy Day in June", the biggest downer on the record. There are also the old-fashioned ditties "Little Miss Queen of Darkness", "You're Lookin' Fine", and "I'll Remember", the George Harrison-esque "Fancy", and "Sunny Afternoon", their last major US hit single until they resurfaced in the top 10 four years later.
Simply put, Face to Face is a remarkably rich collection of songs. It is accessible and listener-friendly, but challenging and deep as well. Dave Davies' buzzsaw guitar riffs are nowhere in sight, and Ray does more that simply shout out the same few lyrics for 3 minutes. The lyrical and musical variety is very impressive, including the ivory tickling by Nicky Hopkins, the ultimate Session Man. This album is a far cry from the cookie-cutter, hodge podge records of the early 60s (those by The Kinks included). And it is particularly amazing that bonus tracks like "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" - arguably the first punk song ever - "Dead End Street" (US #73), and "Big Black Smoke" were minor hit singles and B-sides that nevertheless sit comfortably among Ray's best work.
It is disheartening to know that while the their peers were reaching the tops of the charts between 1966 and 1969, The Kinks were barely making a dent in them. (The Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur didn't even chart in the UK.) And yet their albums were at least as ambitious, consistent, and enjoyable as anything by these other bands. Four decades on, the fact that so few people have heard this music makes it all the more fresh to the newcomer's ears. Face To Face was the first of four records in four years that would snowball into what may be the richest body of work to come out of the UK or US in the late 1960s. Thankfully, it has proven to be hugely influential on subsequent generations, such that this record and its follow-ups can be said to be the bedrock for the entire spectrum of Britpop, from The Jam, to The Smiths, to Blur and Pulp.
Give me Face to Face over any other UK record from 1966 any old day of the week.
"Party Line" takes a satirical look at the now mostly-obsolete problems of strangers sharing common telephone lines (many people under 40 probably never heard of a party line). "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home" is a parent's lament for an estranged daughter, and "Session Man" pokes fun at the 1960's phenomenon of staid, mediocre jazz musicians making an extra buck as rock 'n' roll session men ("you're a session man, a chord pro-gress-i-an").
Some will remember "Dandy" as a single by Herman's Hermit's; this is the same song, authored by Davies, but the Kinks give it their own unique treatment. Other favorites of mine include "House In the Country" ("and he's oh so smug, oh yeah, and he's as wicked as he can be"), and "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale."
This release features a few cuts not on the original album, most notably the pre-punk anthem, "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." All in all, this is a good album for those who enjoy Ray Davies' brand of class-warfare. I dock it one star because of the production quality; in my opinion, the mixing isn't as good as on most of the early Kinks material, and the sound has a slightly primitive quality. Other than that, I recommend it highly.
When I bought the album in 1966, "Party Line" (a Ray & Dave composition) intrigued me. I remember party lines, but few people, at least in the US do. Dave's line "Is she big/ Is she small?/ Is she a she at all?" could just as well apply to e-mail or IM today, though. The voice asking who was there belonged to the late Frank SMyth, who wrote the liner notes. I was hooked after "Rosie Won't You Please Come Home," a song about the Davies' sister Rose who emigrated to Australia. Nicky Hopkins' harpsichord laid over the bands decending arpeggio just bounced along and Ray's slightly off-key singing captured my imagination, and I was a Kink Kultist from then on.
"Session Man" is about session musicians, supposedly specifically Hopkins. "Rainy Day in June is a mood piece, the motfs of which popped up later in "Wicked Annabella." "Dandy" (covered by Herman's Hermits, of all people), "House in the Country," "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale," and "Sunny Afternoon" completed the story of the social climber started with "Well-Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion." "Holiday in Waikiki" is more than slightly snide and basically Ray venting about commercialism in paradise. Reminds me of the line "American tourists love to see the Village Green" from "Village Green." "Little Miss Queen of Darkness" was a forlorn figure Ray met in a discotheque, sort of Lola's ancestor. This album really established Ray as the voice of the Kinks, and they never looked back. Ray wrote "You're Looking Fine" for Dave to rave on, and Dave still does it in his live shows. That one really jumps in the "Live at the Kelvin Hall" show from 1967.
The extras do round out the Kinks' saga in this era. These songs were relased on the compilations "Kinks Kronikles: and "The Great Lost Kinks Album," but it's nice to have them here. The magnificant "I"m Not Like Everybody Else," which was "Sunny Afternoon's" B-side, and two great singles from 1967: "Dead End Street"/ "Big Black Smoke" and "Mister Pleasant"/ "This is Where I Belong." (I have these singles in my collections.) "Mr. Reporter," written by Ray and sung by Dave for his projected solo album is listed as unreleased but it had appeared on Dave's "Unfinished Business" compilation. "Little Women" is a new find.
Ray hit his stride with this one. From "Face to Face" (1966) through "Everybody's in Show Biz" (1972) they put out albums full of insightful, great bopping rock.