The Kinks’ Lost Classic: Sweet Lady Genevieve

The Kinks are great.  No.  The Kinks are awesome.

I could end this article right there and say nothing more on the subject but I’ll go on anyway, for the benefit of my loyal reader.  The Kinks are often overshadowed in history by those two other huge acts from England, The Beatles and…oh, who are they?  My loyalty, as is well documented here, lies with The Beatles but beating out all other bands for a very close second place is The Kinks and I take every chance I can to preach about how excellent they were and how amazing Ray Davies (frontman and chief song-writer) continues to be.

I saw Ray Davies a couple of years ago in San Francisco.  He came out and did a full set of tunes with just him and another guy playing acoustic guitars.  I was sold.  Then, he did a full set of tunes with a great, loud, powerful and tight rock band.  I was sold again.  Then, with the rock band still on stage, he did a full set of tunes with a 40 piece choir.  It was magical.  If he’d done a week of shows, I would have seen them all and it stands as one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.  More so than his stage presence or his voice (which is the only voice of his generation that can keep the songs in the old keys without reaching for the high notes) it’s the songs that made the concert great.  He didn’t just play his hits, in fact, he didn’t play Lola at all, but he played the songs with the prettiest melodies, most meaningful lyrics or the crunchiest, filthiest guitar riffs.  He’s a chameleon that is just at home inventing heavy metal as he is reimagining vaudeville and can hit every style of music in between.

My intention of this post, though, was not to shower Ray Davies with praises but to highlight a lost gem of a song, a song that should have been a huge mid-70’s hit but wasn’t.  Sweet Lady Genevieve is from a dark period in Kinks lore.  Although I quite like the album, Preservation Act 1 is regarded by many as the Kinks worst (as is the sequel album) and Ray’s least inspired work in a career that spanned four decades.  But, on this album that time has forgotten, lies a song that most song writers would kill to have written.  Sweet Lady Genevieve has a sweet lyric, catchy melody, and a great production.  It’s a little bit rock, a little bit pop and a little bit folk but it’s totally Kinks and it’s a shame that it appears on an album that nobody wants.

As a side note, it’d be interesting to have the same people that reviewed the album upon its release listen to it now, out of context of the times, and see if their minds changed.  Sure, it doesn’t really fit in with the sounds of the era but it’s a pretty solid collection of songs.  Anyway, I’ve podcasted about this and now written a couple blogs so I’ll just get to the good part, the song.  Here it is, Sweet Lady Genevieve.

And just to prove my point some more, here’s another song from this “terrible” album.