The Kinks – Face To Face (1966): Review

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Produced by Shel Talmy
Label – Pye

“Face To Face” is considered by many to be the point at which The Kinks seriously delivered a cohesive collection of songs, rather than a quickly cobbled together mix of singles and filler. For the first time the recording process took months rather than days, and many commentators feel that there’s a loose concept binding the content together. Lyrically, leader Ray Davies was becoming more sophisticated as he garnished his material with the studied reflections of the changing social landscape of the mid-1960s. Unfortunately, the extra effort didn’t transfer into major sales, with the album stalling at number 13 in the UK album charts. Indeed, this would be the last non-compilation album to chart inside the top 20, and from 1967 onwards the band’s commercial stock would dramatically dwindle, until a reversal of fortunes in the U.S. at the end of the 70s. It’s all the confirmation one needs to surmise that The Kinks were a terrific singles band that never compiled a truly great studio collection. “Face To Face” emphasises the inconsistencies with one of the band’s most memorable singles (“Sunny Afternoon”) allied with 13 songs that occasionally inspire the listener to their new found attention to detail.

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The rocking opener “Party Line” is one of the rare references to former glories, galloping along with carefree bonhomie, and the witty “Dandy” is a fine early example of Ray Davies’ satirical observations (in this case, his brother Dave). Following his well-documented physical and mental breakdown there’s a darker side to some of the material, as the singer explores his state of mind on “Too Much On My Mind”, and “Rainy Day In June” reflect the more sombre outlook that would be prevalent in many future recordings. High society and the rich incur Davies’ biting commentary on the humorous “House In The Country” and “Most Exclusive Residence For Sale”, and imbue a general feeling that for all its liberal progression, the country was still gripped by class and birth right.

For all its lyrical originality, musically “Face To Face” lacks some great hooks, and for all the band’s efforts to diversify their sound by introducing overdubs and tempo changes previously unheard, Shel Talmy’s production and arrangements often feel cocooned in the direct garage band mentality of previous works. Bass levels waver, percussion often sounds thin, and for a band looking to broaden their sonic palate, they’re still miles behind the technical progression made by many popular bands of the time. The tensions between producer and band over interpretation and recording practices would come to a head a year later during the sessions for “Something Else”, resulting in Talmy being relieved of his duties.

On “Face To Face”, Ray Davies conceives one outstanding song and a timely rather than timeless concept to frame it.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – Party Line (7)
2 – Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home (7)
3 – Dandy (7)
4 – Too Much On My Mind (7)
5 – Session Man (7)
6 – Rainy Day In June (8)
7 – A House In The Country (7)
8 – Holiday In Waikiki (6)
9 – Most Exclusive Residence For Sale (7)
10 – Fancy (6)
11 – Little Miss Queen Of Darkness (7)
12 – You’re Looking Fine (6)
13 – Sunny Afternoon (9)
14 – I’ll Remember (7)

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