Tag Archives: Young Fresh Fellows

The Kinks • The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (50th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition) [Box Set]

There have been many 30, 40 and 50th year anniversary reissues in the last decade, despite physical media being given its theoretical death sentence some time ago. The record companies, though, realize that the kids may go for downloads and streaming but us older fans must have something to hold onto. The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society is 50 years old now and THE KINKS’ “record label” has regaled us with an over-the-top box that can barely be held with two hands, and it’s worth whatever backache you may incur upon its arrival.

You wanna talk about a sleeper of an album? Village Green Preservation Society (from here on out VGPS) died a quick death when it was released in late 1968 (January ’69 here in the US). Maybe it was The Beatles’ heralded White Album that kept people from realizing VGPS’s greatness, maybe it was that The Kinks hadn’t exactly been hot on the charts at the moment. Hell: Maybe it was all the turmoil in the world. After all, ’68 wasn’t exactly the most peaceful year of the decade. And maybe it’s that Ray Davies’s “rock opera” (before Tommy even!) was of such a pastoral, low-key nature that the pop press and record label PR types had no idea how to whip up a frenzy around its release. Or maybe it was just an album that – like The Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle – needed time to incubate in the zeitgeist before it could be truly appreciated. Whatever the reason, VGPS gets more and more of the spotlight every year, and deservedly so.

I first learned about this great lost Kinks album in the early ’90s thanks to two local bands who were already tuned in. The Young Fresh Fellows covered VGPS’s “Picture Book” and Flop did “Big Sky,” both excellent covers by great Seattle groups. (If you don’t already know the Fellows or Flop, stop right now and look ’em up. I’ll wait…) Being the intrepid music fan I am, I found a copy of VGPS (not easy back then, actually) and was instantly transformed into not just a kasual Kinks fan, but a full-fledged one. What wasn’t to like about it? Those two songs, “Do You Remember Walter?” “Last of the Steam Powered Trains,” “Animal Farm,” “People Take Pictures of Each Other”… Every track a good one, full of Ray Davies’ unique viewpoint on life in his England home, and every track soaked in the band’s first great incarnation’s particular, spectacular arrangements. In hindsight, twenty five years after I discovered it, the only thing that is a possible negative is the slightly shoddy recording quality of the record. Though that ding definitely stands out on this new edition, it’s of little consequence because the album itself is so damn good. It’s not as gimmicky as Sgt. Pepper, not all over the place like The Who Sell Out (both albums that I absolutely adore), and not as lofty. And that’s the point! Davies wasn’t going for lofty — he was going for little. As in, small-screen vignettes about the people and places that then populated his life. I wonder how Ray feels now about that vanished Britain.

This big deal VGPS box obliviates the album’s quaintness, what with three LPs, three 7″ singles, five CDs, a nice book full of photos of era memorabilia, and a packet of reprints of posters, sheet music and more. (Initial orders through The Kinks web site got you a fourth 45!) And yet, if any great album deserves such a gala presentation, this one does. I can tell you, being the huge Beatles fan I am, that I was looking forward to this even more than the White Album box that comes out later this week.

The lowdown goes like this. Vinyl-wise, you get two LPs of the original UK mono and stereo mixes (in their then Davies-sanctioned 15 track configuration), an LP with the 12 track version sent to Europe and Down Under without Ray’s permission (some months before the 15 track iteration), and three 7″ singles from the era in replica sleeves. (The one that, errrr, reprises the US Reprise 45 is kinda lame – they don’t use the record company logo or fonts or anything, so it looks like someone forgot to include the actual artwork!) As for CDs, the first two are of the mono and stereo mixes (15 track version) along with period singles*, single mixes, B-sides, etc.; a disc of sessions recordings (early versions, work versions and demos, including a killer instrumental called “Mick Avory’s Underpants”!); a disc called Village Green at the BBC (guess); and a final CD of demos, sessions and live versions. Then there’s all the replicated memorabilia. And a big ol’ (picture) book. It all comes in a nice, substantial box that I only very slightly damaged trying to open. (I’ll get over that in time. Maybe.) All of it is good – if not great –and there’s more than enough here for dozens of listenings over the rest of your life.

After all this, all I can say is: God Save the Village Green Preservation Society; Long Live The Kinks!

* Here’s where I add that one of the singles here, “Days,” is included in numerous versions and never outstays its welcome. That’s because it might just be the most poignant, perfect song of all time. Listen to the words and the arrangement and tell me there’s not someone who was once in your life (a mom, a brother, for instance) who fulfills the role of the person in this song who is longed for, memorized, cherished. This paragraph – “Days” – is for Nel Blurton and Dana Gooch, my mom and my brother. Thank you for the days.

5.5/5 (BMG BMGAA09BOX, 2018)

 

 

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Young Fresh Fellows • Topsy Turvy (LP, CD)

yff-topsyturvy-frontThirty years ago – holy crap, 30 years ago! – I was attending the University of Washington in Seattle and spending most of my time at the college radio station, KCMU. I had discovered the station the summer before I started at the U-Dub; it was an 18-watt FM radio station that had recently switched to being an entirely student-run concern, and they played songs by English bands like XTC and the Psychedelic Furs. KCMU (“Riding the New Wave”) also played a lot of local bands, from those that actually put out records (Blackouts, Fastbacks) to bands that recorded their songs in the station’s production room and transferred their tunes to “carts” so the DJs could play them (The Beefeaters’ “Caffeine”) – if you’re wondering where KEXP’s Audioasis show got its start, wonder no further.

The Young Fresh Fellows were a Seattle band made up of transplants from the Midwest. Their first album was a spunky thing called The Fabulous Sounds of the Pacific Northwest, and by 1985 they’d accumulated quite a following, so much so that when their sophomore LP, Topsy Turvy, came out, they actually got written about in Rolling Stone. Topsy Turvy was a plucky effort that upped the ante on the band’s power poppy songs and the pryff-topsyturvy-rearoduction by Seattle stalwart Conrad Uno showcased the songs in a way that was miles beyond Fabulous Sounds. The Fellows toured a lot – hell, they just played a lot – and they built themselves a following that got them signed to Frontier Records out of Los Angeles. Soon there were lineup changes, Frontier inked a distribution deal with a maj0r label, the Fellows really took off, and then… I don’t know, did they implode? Did Scott McCaughey (“mc coy”), Jim Sangster, Tad Hutchison and Kurt Bloch (who was also in the Fastbacks and replaced Chuck Carroll in the YFFs) run out of steam? Did grunge kill Seattle’s power pop scene? What happened to The Cowboys? The Heats? The Moberlys? Well, I’ll leave you to Clark Humphrey’s book Loser or Pete Blecha’s Sonic Boom to figure that out. All I know is, the Young Fresh Fellows were one of the most fun outings you could have in the early ’80s in Seattle.

I put on Topsy Turvy today and realized that three decades had passed since that exciting white vinyl album was released. I loved then, as I do now, how the Fellows showed the world what a great town Seattle was with their songs and crazy antics. How much about going to a Fellows gig do I remember? Let’s see: Scott’s Les Paul goldtop with the words “bag o’ poop” on the front. Tad’s cymbal stand that was actually a super tall bike pole with a wok on top – he’d time his hits on the wok to when the thing swung first away from and then back at him, ducking just in time to miss getting clocked on his yff_pressphotocabeza. Or Jim’s short scale Danelectro bass and the way he just hopped up and down, clearly having a fantastic time playing it. Or Chuck’s crazy ties and his amazing solos. Or the time they played at the Rainbow and I was so drunk I took 5 or 6 pint glasses that I had emptied into myself and tucked them into the sleeve of my jacket so I could have some free beer glasses in my college pad. Or me joining them onstage at the Hollywood Underground after I refused to stop shouting for “Give It to The Soft Boys” until they finally surrendered as long as I would sing it. Of course I would!

Did I mention that, besides having great songs like “Where Is Groovy Town?”, “Hang Out Right” and “The New John Agar,” Topsy Turvy had their cover of the Sonics’ “You’ve Got Your Head On Backwards”? The mix of power pop, hoaky country western, cute folkie ditties and kooky klassics like “Trek to Stupidity” was what made Topsy Turvy so terrific. And it’s what makes it continue to thrill thirty freakin’ years later.
4.5/5 (Popllama Products [LP], ESD [CD])

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