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Classic of the Week

The Kinks "Muswell Hillbillies" (1971) / Originally released on RCA Victor, currently available on Rhino

April 15, 1993|BUDDY SEIGAL

At the dawn of the '70s, country music was all the rage among rock bands. The Grateful Dead, Creedence, the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Commander Cody and countless others waxed approximations of hillbilly boogie, with varying degrees of conviction. On the English scene, the Beatles closed out their career with the countryish "Let It Be" album while the Rolling Stones twanged out such chipkickers as "Country Honk" and "Dead Flowers." And, oh yes, the Kinks joined the hayseed sweepstakes with the "Muswell Hillbillies" album--but with the perspective of bemused outsider Ray Davies, who, with characteristically sardonic wit, sang "Take me back to those Black Hills/That I have never seen." Davies would never be so gauche as to feign country roots. "Muswell Hillbillies" also poured elements of ragtime, dance hall music and blues into the stew and stirred it all up with a hearty dose of boozy attitude.

It was an atypical Kinks effort, lacking the patented descending chord progressions and high-energy rave-ups that had hallmarked much of the band's output; Davies' alcohol-anesthetized stance kept "Muswell" interesting and fun-filled. Singing of drunkenness, paranoia and general defeat, he somehow managed to make it all seem like so much fun .

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