The two-volume Preservation saga is the first major embarrassment for the Kinks (but don’t worry – there are plenty more to come!), a pair of bloated, confused albums almost stunningly uncompelling and inessential in concept, composition, and execution. Still, among the pretentious wreckage of boring rockers and odious show tunes, there are a few tracks that can stand quite ably on their own, and “Sweet Lady Genevieve,” wisely chosen as a single, is one of them. This is a folksy stomp that could have easily come from the group’s ’67-’69 glory days – simple, sunny, laid-back, outstanding melody. It’s pretty much the last gasp from Ray Davies in this style, and it was released, coincidentally, around the same time as the musically-similar late-’60s outtake/rarity LP The Great Lost Kinks Album. Sounds more like a single pushing that disc than Preservation, sez a guy who tends to be right (me).
Perhaps reflecting band or rec-label awareness of the serious lack of strong material from these sessions (though I do like the “Celluloid Heroes”-esque “Where Are They Now”), Everybody’s in Showbiz’s “Sitting in My Hotel” is dusted off for the B-side of “Genevieve.” Which is fine with me, because, if nothing else, it’s nice that there was an attempt to score further exposure for the song, a slice of sad, piano-led self-examination wherein Davies observes his own rock-star ridiculousness from the viewpoint of his back-when friends. Cutting, hard-hitting stuff, and certainly one that deserves to be included on any Kinks comp that purports to collect the group’s greatest. Just a shame that Ray, his head burrowing its way ever further up his own ass, couldn’t train that same sharp, brutally-honest eye on his laughable Preservation and Soap Opera concepts before he decided to dump them on an instantly-vomiting fanbase (rather than into his own brain-toilet).
You know, I have Preservation Act 1 playing right now as I type, and I realize what it is that REALLY annoys me about this album. It’s the fact that, aside from the obvious dreck – a Lou Reed knockoff?! – there are elements of what COULD HAVE BEEN good songs in here, especially within “Daylight” and “Money & Corruption/I am Your Man.” But instead of developing these bits and pieces into lovely little self-contained tracks, Ray decides to strangle them with distracting, plot-advancing lyrics and the ugly musical/vocal bloat of his bellbottomed theater-troupe nonsense. A frustrating waste; he wasn’t out of ideas by ’73, he was just committed to pursuing grandiose ones he was incapable of pulling off.