Crouch End Festival Chorus / Ray Davies

The Kinks Choral Collection

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Orchestral and choral arrangements of rock songs have been a curious subgenre ever since the mid-'60s when Andrew Loog Oldham arranged The Rolling Stones Songbook for syrupy strings, but The Kinks Choral Collection stands apart from the pack for the simple reason that it's not the project of some associate or admirer, but rather chief Kink Ray Davies. His very presence as arranger and lead vocal means The Kinks Choral Collection isn't nearly as stuffy and middlebrow as so many of these orchestral rock albums; he manages to inject some semblance of rock & roll by pushing the songs forward with guitar, and letting the rhythms swing instead of plod. This looseness is the first big surprise of the album. The second is its unrepentant but quite possibly accidental silliness, how many of the major guitar riffs are transposed for choir, an audacious idea in concept that's simply goofy in practice. These choral chants hamper the hardest rocking songs here -- "You Really Got Me," "All Day and All of the Night," "Victoria" -- and they're mercifully absent from the slower tunes, songs that benefit from the gentle layered harmonies. In comparison to most orchestral and choral rock albums, these arrangements are subtle and sensitive, providing a nice counterpart for the surprising dose of rock & roll, both things that make The Kinks Choral Collection one of the better entries in this curious subgenre -- and while that's somewhat faint praise, it's praise all the same.

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