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Fifty Year Friday: Nirvana “The Story of Simon Simopath; The Kinks “Something Else”

SimonSimopath.jpg

Recorded in July 1967 and released in October, before The Who’s “The Who Sell Out”, Van Park’s “Song Cycle”, or The Moody Blues “Days of Future Passed”, this album is more than just a collection of songs around a theme or concept; unlike many concept albums of 1967, this is a musical story — really the first such rock album to do this.

This is a story that mixes fantasy, allegory and science fiction.  It takes place in a psychedelic future, a six-dimensional city where Simon Simopath is a discontented little “citizen-boy” who more than anything wants to grow wings and fly.   Set before the turn of the 20th Century, his parents, like many parents of millennials, encourage Simon, telling him he can do anything he wants to do.  As one might guess, and as said to be the case with many millennials, Simon, on leaving school drifts from job to job, “unable to derive fulfillment from his work”, depressed for not having wings.  This results in a breakdown and Simon is hospitalized.  Unfortunately, mental therapy is not any more advanced in 1999 than it was in 1967, and Simon is released without results after six days.

Fortunately for Simon, he writes the Ministry of Dreams for the chance to take a supersonic space jockey test and passes, thus winning his wings, so to speak.  But note, we are still on side one with six more songs to go in this relatively short, approximately 25 1/2 minute album.

Not counting the studio musicians and the orchestra, Nirvana (this is the original group called Nirvana — not  Kurt Cobain‘s Nirvana that later settled out of court to pay for also using this name) is basically a singer-songwriter team of Irish musician Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Greek composer Alex Spyropoulos, who share vocal duties on this album. Campbell-Lyons also plays guitar and Spyropoulos is on keyboards.  Simon Simopath, overall, looks past the style typical the rock groups of 1967 towards that sparkling, creatively arranged pop-rock blend that George Martin and the Beatles perfected with Sgt. Pepper and that continues into the seventies with groups like Supertramp and XTC.  It shares qualities that one finds two years later in late 1969 in the Who’s Tommy (for example, the song “We Can Help You”) and even later in 1972 in the musical “Pippin.”

Track listing[from Wikipedia]

  • All songs written by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropolous
  1. “Wings of Love” – 3:20
  2. “Lonely Boy” – 2:31
  3. “We Can Help You” – 1:57
  4. “Satellite Jockey” – 2:35
  5. “In the Courtyard of the Stars” – 2:36
  6. “You Are Just the One” – 2:07
  7. “Pentecost Hotel” – 3:06
  8. “I Never Found a Love Like This” – 2:50
  9. “Take This Hand” – 2:17
  10. “1999” – 2:09

The 2003 Universal Island Remasters collection includes both stereo and mono versions of the album on one disc. This release contains several bonus tracks:

  • 11. “I Believe in Magic” (b-side to “Tiny Goddess”)
  • 12. “Life Ain’t Easy” (previously unreleased version)
  • 13. “Feelin’ Shattered” (b-side to “Pentecost Hotel”)
  • 14. “Requiem to John Coltrane” (b-side to “Wings of Love”)

All songs composed by Patrick Campbell-Lyons and Alex Spyropoulos

Personnel

  • Patrick Campbell-Lyons – guitar and vocals
  • Ray Singer – guitar
  • Alex Spyropoulos – piano, keyboards and vocals
  • Michael Coe – French horn and viola
  • Brian Henderson – bass
  • Peter Kester – drums
  • David Preston – drums
  • Patrick Shanahan – drums
  • Sylvia A. Schuster – cello

Production notes

  • Chris Blackwell – executive producer
  • Brian Humphries – engineer
  • Syd Dale – conductor

About halfway through their four year ban from performing in the U.S., something that deprived the group of significant financial opportunities during their prime years, the Kinks released their fifth studio album around September 1967.

The music is immediately accessible and Ray Davies’ clever lyrics reflect upon English social situations, characters, and topics with a particularly English point of view.   Top tracks include “David Watts”, “Death of a Clown”, “Two Sisters” and “Waterloo Sunset.”

Nicki Hopkins, who adds vitality to the 1967 Rolling Stones’ “Between the Buttons” with his lively piano contributions, also takes this Kink’s album to another level starting with the opening seconds of “David Watts” and continuing with piano-infused improvements on several other tracks including the second track,  “Death of a Clown.”

“Two Sisters” includes harpsichord (not sure if this is Ray Davies or Nicki) and strings. “No Return” successfully incorporates elements of Bossa Nova with appropriate melody chord changes and nylon stringed acoustic guitar. “Situation Vacant” includes more Nicki Hopkin’s piano, some Ray Davies’ organ, and Dave Davies’ guitar, but it is the lyrics that most diverge from typical pop fare capturing the dynamics between husband, position, and an “ambitious” mother-in-law.”

Side two begins with the simple but catchy Dave Davies’ “Love me till (sic) the Sun Shines”, followed by a partly-psychedelic “Lazy Old Sun.” Dave Davies’ “Funny Face” is well arranged and includes an effective contrasting bridge-like section, similar to something Brian Wilson might compose.

“Waterloo Sunset” is one of Ray Davies’ best compositions ever, lyrically and musically, and brings a praiseworthy album to an effective close.

Track listing[Wikipedia]

All tracks written by Ray Davies, unless otherwise noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. David Watts 2:32
2. Death of a Clown Dave Davies, R. Davies 3:04
3. Two Sisters 2:01
4. “No Return” 2:03
5. “Harry Rag” 2:16
6. “Tin Soldier Man” 2:49
7. “Situation Vacant” 3:16
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “Love Me till the Sun Shines” D. Davies 3:16
2. “Lazy Old Sun” 2:48
3. “Afternoon Tea” 3:27
4. “Funny Face” D. Davies 2:17
5. “End of the Season” 2:57
6. Waterloo Sunset 3:15

Personnel

 

 

 

 

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