Something Else by The Kinks was a transitional album which straddled the riff-driven pop songs of their early years and the more artful compositions of the band’s “middle” era. The album marks is the last of five by the band which involved producer Shel Talmy. It was co-produced by guitarist, lead vocalist and chief songwriter Ray Davies, who would assume producing duties on many future projects. The album offers selections which can be characterized as 1960s British pop, but with just the slightest pyschedelic and artful elements such as brass sections and mildly complex arrangements. In any case, the songs are strong and melodic throughout with great entertainment value.
As a songwriter, Ray Davies became more refined and sentimental, in contrast to the more psychedelic trends which were proliferating in 1967. In fact, the band seems to make a statement by the pure, unambiguous songs on Something Else, standing in sharp contrast to the vast soundscapes which were being employed on contemporary albums. The album is fueled by moderate acoustic numbers which provides a nice backdrop for the character portraits and vignettes portrayed throughout.
Rhythm guitarist Dave Davies also stepped up as a songwriter on this album. In fact, he briefly flirted with a solo career following the album, releasing the single “Susannah’s Still Alive”, which peaked at #20 on the UK charts. The song features a crisp piano riff with strong rock vocals and has been included as a bonus track on recent editions of Something Else. A couple of other “bonus” tracks from the era is the upbeat folk “Act Nice and Gentle” and the Muswell Hill inspired “Autumn Almanac”, which became the band’s last charting single of the decade.
Something Else by The Kinks
|Released: September 15, 1967 (Reprise)
Produced by: Shel Talmy & Ray Davies
Recorded: Pye Studios, London, April 1966 – July 1967
Death Of a Clown
Tin Soldier Man
|Love Me Till the Sun Shines
Lazy Old Sun
End of the Season
|Tracks On Alternate Album Version
|Act Nice and Gentle
Susannah’s Still Alive
|Ray Davies – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Dave Davies – 6 and 12 String Guitars, Lead Vocals
Pete Quaife – Bass, Vocals
Mick Avory – Drums, Percussion
The upbeat opening track “David Watts” is a satire on the English “schoolboy” culture and seems to have been inspired by the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together“. Like many songs on the album, this song includes piano by session player Nicky Hopkins. Hopkins also plays on Dave Davies’ acoustic driven “Death Of a Clown”, which was originally planned as his first solo single. Eventually all of the Kinks got involved, along with Ray’s wife Rasa Davies, who sings the haunting backing vocals during the chorus. Dave’s rough-edged, raspy voice sounds like a cross between Rod Stewart and Bob Dylan.
“Two Sisters” continues the string of great 60s pop/rock with the edge of a very English sounding harpsichord melody. Many have taken the two rivaling sisters in the lyric as an allegory for the Davies brothers themselves. “No Return” has a very basic arrangement with a bossa nova beat by drummer Mick Avory, who uses a marching beat on the next song “Harry Rag”.
The middle part of the album contains some of the more experimental songs. “Tin Soldier Man” is another melody-driven rocker with a strong horn presence and English sounding changes throughout. “Situation Vacant” has a domestic setting lyrically featuring Hopkins’ Hammond B-3 and saloon piano riffs. “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” is another Dave Davies’ tune with a hint of psychedelia, which the band dives into with both feet on the next track, “Lazy Old Sun”. This slow and deliberate track with strategically placed, Mexican-style horns and appears to have been a major influence on some future Pink Floyd.
The absolute best is saved for last with the beautiful song “Waterloo Sunset”. A ballad dedicated to London with scenes of childhood memories and nostalgia, the lyrics are also a personal lament of the loss of wonder that comes with age. Musically, the song is built around a descending progression By the Davies’ respective acoustic and electric guitars and the bass of Pete Quaife. There are also some fantastic harmonies throughout giving a soothing effect that helps make this song the perfect ending to a great album.
Although Something Else sold poorly on both sides of the Atlantic, it has come to be regarded as one of the finest in the band’s large collection. With a new phase of their career underway, the Kinks set out to try more ambitious projects such as the concept album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society in 1968. Although the band was already well seasoned by this point, their career was just getting warmed up as they would continue with several relevant albums all through the 1970s and well into the 1980s.
Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1967 music.