Gary Steel is slowly compiling all his album reviews in one place. This is a work in progress, or what we call a “live document”. Today is the letter ‘K’.
On Monolith, Kansas fail to exploit the cover’s allusions to the death of modern man and the return of the American Indian, yet come up with a musically impressive album full of majestic pomp and splendour.
The flowery lyrics deserve to be ignored, but on Side 1 – particularly ‘People Of The South Wind’, ‘On The Other Side’ and ‘Angels Have Fallen’ – they use an airy mix of acoustic guitars, violin and orchestra to counterpoint effectively and seamlessly with raging heavy metal. 6/10
KC & The Sunshine Band – Do You Wanna Go Party (Epic)
The James Last of the disco set. I’m asking you: is that a recommendation? 3/10
The Kinks are one of rock music’s most important and influential groups, yet they are under-praised and in recent years have gone virtually unlauded. Low Budget should right this situation.
In their early days responsible for some of the first and finest hard rock music (1964’s ‘You Really Got Me’), Ray Davies’ vehicle for expression quickly moved into satire and social observation (‘Dedicated Follower Of Fashion’, ‘Lola’) and then into only partially successful experiments with theatrics.
Now they are back in fine form, proving that Ray Davies has lost none of his Noel Coward-influenced wit or his sharp, observational eye on tracks such as ‘A Gallon Of Gas’, ‘National Health’ or, in fact, the majority of songs on Low Budget.
Davies’ songs nearly always take on the personalities of the subjects he’s singing about, similar to Ian Dury in this respect. The group’s sound is full of rediscovered energy and power, and the rhythmic base is one of the strongest on any non-disco record. 7/10
A double, One For The Road is the first live Kinks album since the scrappily momentous Live At Kelvin Hall (1967), and while it further proves their historical significance, it does little to convince that the band are creatively alive into the 1980s.
The material is largely divided between late ‘60s pop giants (‘Lola’, ‘Stop Your Sobbing’, ‘David Watts’) and recent work (‘Pressure’, ‘Low Budget’). As a bonus we get two period-piece classics (‘All Day And All Of The Night’, ‘You Really Got Me’) and a foray into mid-‘70s theatricality (‘Celluloid Heroes’). There is much more but it never attempts to cover all the ground. Where, for instance, is ‘Sunny Afternoon’ and ‘I’m Not Like Everybody Else’?
Somewhere in the mixing/engineering of this album the live atmosphere has been sucked up and replaced with a radio-playable sterile sheen. This effectively dissipates the excitement from the early material.
The newer songs are basically mediocre when stripped of the gutsy production of the Low Budget album. Much of the achievement of The Kinks is glossed over here, which is saddening.
It looks like the Americans have picked up on The Kinks at last, long after their creative demise. It’s heartening to know that we can safely forget The Kinks of now in the knowledge that they’re getting their long-earned dues from suckers who’ve learned of their greatness long after the event. 5/10