Albums O’Month: Dave Davies – Hidden Treasures
Published on November 30th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
The buzz: Long-overdue cobbling together of Dave Davies songs recorded with the rest of The Kinks as his backing band and brother Ray on production duty. This material was to be released as a solo Dave album to follow up on the success of “Death of a Clown”, issued under his name; but, for reasons discussed in Rocksucker’s October interview with the man himself, it never saw the light of day, its tracks eventually syphoned onto the back-ends of latter-day Kinks reissues.
“This Man He Weeps Tonight”
Sounds like: Dave told us that Hidden Treasures has nothing to do with any original running order that A Hole in the Sock of (as was its working title) may have had. Nevertheless, whichever way you chose to assemble it, it would still be fit to take its place amongst the truly great albums of the late ‘60s.
Leaning impressively lightly on effects, insomuch as he would have been quite entitled to milk the fact that he practically invented the power chord, Hidden Treasures/A Hole in the Sock of/The Lost Album/whatever you want to call it is ‘merely’ a collection of brilliantly conceived and delivered pop winners. The duality at play between flamboyant frivolity and soulful heart-baring makes for some arresting emotional peaks and troughs, all compellingly articulated by Dave’s terrifically rasping voce.
And, what’s more, it’s all laid out in authentic 1960s stereo, each constituent part placed lovingly and prominently inside a mix that feels like you could reach into it and scoop one element a time out with a spoon. Lush.
“Susannah’s Still Alive” gets things underway with that jaunty, unmistakable piano riff, leading into a song whose deceptively bleak lyrics fail to quash the air of revelry so barmily emphasised in this 1988 cover version by Cardiacs. There then follows a pair of songs that weld jangly loveliness onto jittery rock and roll energy like little else before it or even since, their melancholic breeziness kept utterly thrilling by an outright refusal to comply to the more traditional time signatures usually associated with The Kinks.
“Mindless Child of Motherhood”
These songs are “This Man He Weeps Tonight”, which manages to out-Byrds even The Byrds in its velvety verse before showcasing Dave’s almost unparalleled way with making joyously shouty choruses and rock and roll riffage sound emotionally delicate, and “Mindless Child of Motherhood”, which at once lays the foundations for legions of imitators yet trumps them all for sheer, explosive expression and structural inventiveness, all spurred on by Mick Avory’s intelligent, firecracker drumming. These songs continue to take our breath away.
“Hold My Hand” is stately, majestic soul-pop in a league with masters-of-the-art The Band, its chorus riff going on to be reproduced in “The Village Green Preservation Society”, while “Do You Wish to Be a Man” could be a lost Bob Dylan classic featuring an ascending chord progression given to him as a Christmas present by a Rubber Soul-era Paul McCartney. So far, so great.
The slowly trotting lament of “Are You Ready” feels like a precursor to one of Dave’s most beloved compositions, namely “Strangers” from The Kinks’ 1970 album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One, and this gorgeous lull in proceedings sets the stage perfectly for “Creeping Jean” to burst in through the saloon doors and neck a whiskey. “You don’t know what I mean,” sneers Dave, years before Liam Gallagher ever growled “shee-yiiiiine” and with far more nervous energy than that particular latter-day equation with ‘attitude’.
“Crying” goes from a totally masterful verse progression to flaunting a scorching Beatles guitar lick in its chorus, the whole thing feeling closer to John Lennon in its ‘sad clown’ routine than to Ray, before this prevailing mood gives way to another ecstatic frolic in the form of the organ and fiddle-propelled “Lincoln County”, with its defiant declaration of “I’m gonna find all those pretty girls/I’m gonna find them all” feeling more like a triumphant call-to-arms than its unashamedly roguish subject matter gives it any right to. (Mind you, this is also offset by such casually fantastic lines as “I got a boot lace tie I got for my pa/I got a head scarf, fair, I got for my momma that she won’t wear”.)
If “Creeping Jean” was the cowboy’s commanding entrance, then “Lincoln County” represents the ensuing drunken revelry and “Mr Shoemaker’s Daughter” the inebriated mating song. “Mr Reporter”, a second consecutive song to begin with the words “Hey Mr…”, is the only track on the album to air a non-romance-based gripe. Although the target of Dave’s ire is made abundantly clear in the title, it’s hard to resist this bouncy, brass-brandishing broadside against unscrupulous media intrusion. “The reason I am stupid is ‘cause I read you every day/You misquote all the true things ‘cause it rubs you up the wrong way”: it could, perhaps should, have been chosen to soundtrack the Leveson Inquiry.
“Groovy Movies” also makes tremendous use of brass, this time serving to emphasise naïve excitement rather than sneering resent. “I don’t want to be a producer/I don’t want to be a big star/I just want to be a big-shot director/And smoke a big Havana cigar/By making groovy movies” beams Dave, as if portraying narrative in ‘show tune’ form, leaping around the stage in front of a big, wooden arrow sign with ‘Hollywood’ written on it. You’d have to be Mr Reporter himself not to get swept up in the sheer enthusiasm of it.
“There’s No Life Without Love” is just under two minutes of chiming, lightly mournful acoustic beauty underpinning the kind of restrained, meandering vocal melody that showed up so affectingly when set against the backdrop of Dave’s ‘party animal’ public persona, while the swaying singalong of “I am Free” is the logical closer, not least for its lyrical professions of a desire for non-conformism (there seems to be some dispute about what this exact lyric is – Rocksucker shall attempt to find out – but, for what it’s worth, we hear: “I don’t care to be a symbol of a vast machine/To aid the bomb toe and convalesce when society doesn’t need me”; acknowledging that “bomb toe” is most unlikely to have been the actual words, of course.)
The bonus material is mostly comprised of mono mixes of these songs but also includes Dave’s three stellar contributions to classic 1967 album Something Else by The Kinks – namely “Death of a Clown”, “Love Me Till the Sun Shines” and “Funny Face” – as well as barrelhouse piano mini-stomper “Good Luck Charm” and a demo of “Hold My Hand”.
In a few words: Soulful yet energising, mischievous yet broken-hearted, totally rocking.
Kind of like a cross between: The Band – The Band and The Beatles – Rubber Soul.