Today saw the release of Face to Face, the fourth LP by the Kinks.

In 1966 a new Kinks album was a big deal in England; they were on the very short list of bands who could compete at the highest echelon of pop music with the Beatles and the Stones. In fact their single “Sunny Afternoon” had unseated “Paperback Writer” from the top position in the British charts over the summer.

Like Sgt. Pepper and Pet Sounds, Face to Face has been pegged by some critics at the first rock concept album. Also like both of those, it doesn’t really deserve the title, unless you consider “a bunch of great songs in a similar style” a “concept.”

It seems there was something of a rivalry between The Beatles and the Kinks, though as with many rivalries involving The Beatles, it may have been a bit one-sided. There’s not much on record from The Beatles regarding the Kinks, but back in August Ray Davies had reviewed Revolver for the magazine Disc and Music Echo. Here are excerpts from his comments on each track:

Taxman – It sounds like a cross between the Who and Batman. It’s a bit limited, but the Beatles get over this by the sexy double-tracking. It’s surprising how sexy double-tracking makes a voice sound.

Eleanor Rigby – I bought a Haydn LP the other day and this sounds just like it.

I’m Only Sleeping – It’s a most beautiful song, much prettier than “Eleanor Rigby.” A jolly old thing, really, and definitely the best track on the album.

Love You Too – George wrote this – he must have quite a big influence on the group now. This sort of song I was doing two years ago – now I’m doing what the Beatles were doing two years ago.

Here There and Everywhere – This proves that the Beatles have got good memories, because there are a lot of busy chords in it. It’s nice – like one instrument with the voice and the guitar merging. Third best track on the album.

Yellow Submarine – This is a load of rubbish, really. I take the mickey out of myself on the piano and play stuff like this. I think they know it’s not that good.

She Said She Said – This song is in to restore confidence in old Beatles sound. That’s all.

Good Day Sunshine – This’ll be a giant. It doesn’t force itself on you, but it stands out like “I’m Only Sleeping.” This is back to the real old Beatles. I just don’t like the electronic stuff.

And Your Bird Can Sing – Don’t like this. The song’s too predictable. It’s not a Beatles song at all.

Dr. Robert – It’s good – there’s a 12-bar beat and bits in it that are clever. Not my sort of thing, though.

I Want To Tell You – This helps the LP through though it’s not up to the Beatles standard.

Got To Get You Into My Life – Jazz backing – and it just goes to prove that Britain’s jazz musicians can’t swing.

Tomorrow Never Knows – Listen to all those crazy sounds! It’ll be popular in discotheques. I can imagine they had George Martin tied to a totem pole when they did this.

There’s more than a little snark there, and it seems that Ray Davies may have taken personally some comments that John Lennon made when the Kinks opened for The Beatles in 1964. In a 2013 interview with Mojo, Davies says only that “Lennon made a remark that we were only there to warm up for them,” which sounds pretty innocuous (and technically true). But John did have a gift for pissing people off sometimes.

Like every other band in the word, the Kinks were stuck looking up at The Beatles as they ascended to unprecedented heights of stardom (and sometimes wished they could climb down a rung or two). But more than most, the Kinks never achieved success commensurate with their talents, for reasons that are somewhat murky even at this late date. One article cites “the group’s inability to conquer America in the Sixties, their infighting and fluctuating chart success” as well as their “endless struggles with management, lawsuits and depression.”

In any case, despite releasing a whole passel of great albums, the Kinks remain chronically underrated to this very day. So it goes.

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