Most holiday gift recommendations are for new things: shiny gizmos, hot-off-the-press novels, freshly minted DVDs. Instead, we're using this space to suggest an album that's more than 40 years old.
We recently discovered that a dear friend — whose knowledge of pop music is deep and wide — was unfamiliar with The Kinks' 1968 LP "The Village Green Preservation Society." Vicariously hearing it for the first time through him was delicious.
Released amid all manner of psychedelic ferment, revolutionary outcry and gender-bending flummery, "Village Green" is a rock oddity: a concept album about nostalgia. With the British Empire in precipitous decline, it was a worthy subject for pop contemplation. Guided by songwriter-vocalist Ray Davies' unerring wit and compassion, the disc mines the English fixation on "little shops, china cups and virginity" (on the thrilling title cut), zooms through a yellowing "Picture Book" (you may recall the potent hook from a fantastic HP ad), interrogates a childhood friend (the bittersweet "Do You Remember Walter?") and gives voice to "The Last of the Steam-Powered Trains."
Throughout, the band's insistent backbeats and incisive guitar riffs collide with delicate melodies, dramatizing the ultimately fruitless struggle to protect the Village Green's rustic charms, its "Tudor houses, antique tables and billiards," from the onrush of time. It's a towering achievement that has itself aged very gracefully.
How gracefully? Davies recently toured and recorded with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, presenting enchanting versions of his most beloved songs as "The Kinks Choral Collection," including roughly half the gems on "Village Green"; read more about that here.
And just as the songs are evergreen, the gift of "Village Green" keeps on giving.