Percy, released in 1971, was a soundtrack written by Ray Davies for a movie, Percy, that you’ve never seen. Having never been officially released in the United States, Percy has become quite a sought after piece for the die hards and completists and is a pleasant surprise to those who can get their hands on it.
The album opens with God’s Children which is a fantastic song that would have fit well on Arthur or Lola. In fact, despite being released four months after Lola, Percy acts as a great bridge between Arthur and Lola featuring instrumental elements from both albums and offering little foreshadowing as to the direction The Kinks were taking on their next album, Muswell Hillbillies.
Six of Percy’s 13 tracks are instrumentals, including an organ driven version of Lola from the previous year. These instrumental pieces highlight how solid a band The Kinks actually were, a quality that is often overlooked in favor of Ray’s songwriting genius. In particular, Mick Avory, who has never received the credit he is owed as one of rocks best drummers, shines on several tracks, especially the instrumental Lola and Whip Lady where he is allowed to open up and become a focal point in the band.
The rest of the songs are standard Ray Davies tunes. Heartfelt, sweet and melodic. What sets the slower tracks apart are the lush string arrangements that are featured heavily on songs like God’s Children, Moments, and The Way Love Used to Be. There’s really no other place to hear productions quite this lush in The Kinks catalog and it is a welcome addition to the songs we’ve all become accustomed to.
Clearly, writing for a film gave Ray Davies the freedom to do things that he could never get away with on a rock record. The baroque pop of Just Friends, which would fit fine on a Fun album nowadays, really has no place on Muswell Hillbillies but it’s a gorgeous piece that features some of Ray’s strangest lyrics, “I shall not molest you/I shan’t break your brain”
All in all, there’s not a bad moment on this record and had it not been half instrumental I’m sure it would have attained an even higher cult status than it currently enjoys. I do not say that to diminish the instrumentals, which I quite enjoy, but how many instrumental baroque pop/garage band albums do you have in your collection? The album is finally available in the United States but not as a standalone piece but, rather, the extra disc in the newly remastered Lola edition. The remaster sounds fantastic and, like I said earlier, the two albums compliment each other very well.
Of note, this album does feature the only lead vocal not belonging to Ray or Dave Davies in the entire Kinks catalog with Willesden Green being sung in a Johnny Cash style by bassist John Dalton.
Would I suggest this for casual fans? Probably not but you don’t need to be an obsessed Kinks fan to enjoy this album. If you like the other albums of this era (really, Something Else to Lola) than you’re going to find something you like on this album. Despite being incredibly short there are enough gems on this album to keep you coming back time after time and now, with it’s Lola pairing, it can be a part of your music rotation. Go buy it, guys! You need more Kinks in your life.