Preservation is Ray Davies' most ambitious project -- a musical that used the quaint, small-town nostalgia of Village Green as a template to draw the entirety of society and how it works. Or, at least that's what the concept seems to be, since the storyline was so convoluted, it necessitated three separate LPs, spread over two albums, and it still didn't really make sense because the first album, Preservation, Act 1, acted more like an introduction to the characters, and all the story was condensed into the second album. Davies intended all of Preservation to stand as one double-album set, but he scrapped the first sessions for the album, which led to record company pressure to deliver an album before the end of 1973 -- hence, the appearance of Preservation, Act 1 in mid-November. Stripped of much of the narrative, Preservation winds up playing like an explicitly theatrical Village Green, this time with specific characters -- a bit like a novella instead of short stories. There are moments where everything clicks on Preservation and they're the ones that are closest to typical Davies -- the stately "Daylight," the endearingly lazy "Sitting in the Midday Sun," the fairly rocking "Here Comes Flash," "Where Are They Now?," and the absolutely gorgeous "Sweet Lady Genevieve," a real candidate for Davies' forgotten masterpiece. Then, there's the rest of the record: unfocused attempts at story, showtunes, and characterizations, some of which are interesting, but the whole of it is rather tedious. Preservation, Act 1 winds up as listenable due to the strength of those five songs, which form the core not only of this record, but the musical drama as a whole. The rest plays as artistic hubris, which is exactly what swallows Preservation, Act 2 alive.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine