Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * *
Autobiographies are such that the times they are written in often depict how they will be received, the memoirs of a soldier who fought perhaps during a war might be lauded during the aftermath of that conflict but many years down the line might be considered as crass, demeaning or even insulting to the memory of the fallen, on both sides.
However, when an artist recreates their back story, when they muse over a particular time and place in which their life was undoubtedly shaped and loved, then that information can resonate across all generations. In the hands of Ray Davies, the audio adventures of his life whilst out on the road are one thing, but when taken as part of a new album, Americana, the gravitas of his life, the music, the moments of love and indulgence, the often fought over appearance of The Kinks whilst on tour in the land of the not quite so free and easily disturbed, then what is past is also very present.
Americana is an album of retrospective, the beauty on the modern voice but one that is steeped in the memory of the artist as he recalls the time on the road, of the pitfalls perhaps and of the highs a young person can experience when playing music, when offering their soul, to a foreign audience.
The Kinks, like the Small Faces never truly get their full credit for the so called British Invasion, their music perhaps not playing into the hands of the crowds who had come to revere The Beatles or The Rolling Stones because their music played directly into the psyche of the nation, yet beyond the quaint allusion to English sentimentality and the Home Counties fare of Village Greens and spending time with a girl called Lola, The Kinks truly taught America the fine nuances of what their parents had first felt during the days when they looked to Britain as a beacon of hope in the fight against Nazism.
The gentle reserve of Ray Davies is always to be admired and Americana makes much of that spirited cool and preserved shyness. A genuine master of his art and the lyrical conflict, in songs such as Poetry, A Place In Your Heart, Silent Movie, the excellence of The Man Upstairs and The Invaders, the memories and the times come rolling back, arguably with more creative passion than can ever be captured in a documented work of a life, more than a word can ever say because music gives the autobiography its meaning and fruitful encounter.
The father of all he surveys, Ray Davies remains one of the brightest stars, a true legend in a world which sometimes forgets what it needs to remember.
Ian D. Hall