Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Kinks Choral Collection - Ray Davies


When I came across a mention of this in some article, somewhere, I happened to be at work.  So I threw on the headphones and let YouTube take me there.  Big mistake.

The reworking of Waterloo Sunset had tears rolling down my face, and it was only with some effort that I managed not to howl out loud, but rather sniffle genteelly into a hastily-snatched tissue. For some reason Decca appear to have removed all the original video for the album, but there's a taster here.

I know you're probably wondering why I seem to be obsessed with music that makes me cry.  I'm not really, but when there's a song that really touches me like this, I have to let you know about it.  It brought me back to when I saw Ray Davies, a few years ago now, when he was doing a "Words and Music" tour, talking about his songs as well as playing them.  And it's strange that now he claims the song wasn't about Terence Stamp and Julie Christie, because I'm sure that's what he said at the time.  It also makes me remember standing, as they did, on Waterloo Bridge at sunset, watching the ducks on the Thames.  I also have a big link with Days, as I love Kirsty MacColl's version and the choir just brings it together beautifully.

And quite apart from anything else, I immediately recognised the cover art as being from William Blake, which made me admire the project all the more.



Mine had read about The Kinks Choral Collection somewhere recently and came home declaring we had to own it.  Considering we don't own anything by either Ray Davies or The Kinks, I wondered why she was so insistent.  I mean, choral versions of The Kinks classics didn't sound that appealing to me.  Choral versions of anything are the realm of my parents and kind of make me cringe.

But listening to this collection is a pure treat.  Ray is in as fine a voice as he's ever been and the Crouch End Festival Chorus, as choruses go, gives a surprisingly rich and textural backing to Davies' originals.  While a lot of the material is new to me (I've not ever heard any of Ray's solo stuff, at least not intentionally) it all sounds gloriously big yet unexpectedly intimate at the same time.

But it's the familiar tracks that do it for me.  Waterloo Sunset could very well have been written for a choir, such is the strength of this retelling while both You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night benefit hugely from the booming choral arrangement.  But it is Victoria, Ray's classic satirical dig at Victorian times and the decline of the British Empire, comes a full circle and sounds so alive and vibrant, it is almost hard to believe the Empire is dead and gone.


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  1. I'm not as familiar with the Kinks as I ought to be... I know Lola pretty well, heck I was singing it as a lullaby to my daughter at one point, and You Really Got Me... and I believe Def Leppard did a cover of Waterloo Sunset on their covers album, YEAH! but that's about it.

    I actually do enjoy choral music when it's well balanced and well done. I can't stand children's choirs due to the lack of bass. The pitch is like fingernails scraping a blackboard. Good choirs need the right balance of bass, baritone, tenor, alto, and soprano. Without all "colors" of the choral spectrum represented the material ends up sounding off, or out of balance to me. Does the choir have the right balance?

  2. I really loved Van Halen's version of You Really Got Me but haven't heard the Def Leppard one.

    I think you'd really enjoy this collection if you like choral work as the balance is just about perfect. But then, I am hardly a good judge because, as I said in the post, I'm not generally a fan of choirs.