Muswell Hillbillies

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Muswell Hillbillies
Studio album by The Kinks
Released 24 November 1971 (U.S.)
26 November 1971 (U.K.)
Recorded August - October 1971 at Morgan Studios, London
Genre Rock, country rock[1]
Length 44:39
Language English
Label RCA
Producer Ray Davies
The Kinks chronology
Percy
(1971)
Muswell Hillbillies
(1971)
Everybody's in Show-Biz
(1972)
Singles from Muswell Hillbillies
  1. "20th Century Man"
    Released: December 1971

Muswell Hillbillies is the ninth studio album by the English rock group The Kinks, released in November 1971. The album is named after the Muswell Hill area of North London, where band leader Ray Davies and guitarist Dave Davies grew up and the band formed in the early 1960s.[2]

The album centred on themes of poverty and working-class life, as well as the destruction and subdivision of old Victorian neighbourhoods—a practice that had become commonplace in North London during the 1970s.

Musical styles[edit]

The album is a wide-ranging collection of Ray Davies compositions which focus on the tensions and frustrations of modern life. In the opening song, the singer declares: "I'm a 20th century man, but I don't want to be here."[3] The album introduces a number of working class figures and the stresses with which they must contend. As pop music historian Alex DiBlasi notes: "Various characters get militantly angry, delve into escapism, or simply go mad. It is important to note that no matter what, even in the album’s closing track, where the titular characters are being relocated to 'identical little boxes', there isn’t a hint of complacency or resignation; they instead pledge defiance by refusing to change."[4] Musical styles range from rock ("20th Century Man") and country ("Muswell Hillbilly") to music-hall inspired numbers ("Alcohol").

Fortis Green road, Muswell Hill in 1973

Ray Davies and engineer Mike Bobak used 10-year-old microphones on many of the tracks to give the record an antiquated feel.[5] Muswell Hillbillies was also the first of The Kinks' records featuring their new brass section, The Mike Cotton Sound, which included Mike Cotton on trumpet, John Beecham on trombone and tuba, and Alan Holmes on clarinet.[3][5]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[3]
Blender 4/5 stars[6]
Robert Christgau B+[7]
Pitchfork Media (8.9/10)[8]
Rolling Stone (favourable)[9]

Muswell Hillbillies was the band's first album for RCA Records,[3] their prior recordings having been released on Pye Records (Reprise Records in the United States). The album was not a commercial success (it failed to chart in the United Kingdom and peaked at #48 in the U.S.[10]), and its sales were a disappointment following the success of Lola the previous year. Stereo Review magazine called the poor-selling record "album of the year" in 1972 (even though it was released on 24 November 1971). In the 1984 Rolling Stone Album Guide, Rolling Stone editors called this album Davies' "signature statement" as a songwriter.

After the release of the Kinks' next album, 1972's Everybody's in Show-Biz, Davies took the band into a four-year "theatrical" incarnation (1973–1976) with an expanded line-up of musicians and thematic concept albums constructed around elaborate stage shows.

A remastered deluxe edition of "Muswell Hillbillies" was released in October 2013, with several bonus tracks, alternate takes, and BBC recordings.

Cover art[edit]

The front cover picture was taken in The Archway Tavern, a pub more than 2 miles away from Muswell Hill. The back inset picture, showing the band below a signpost giving direction to Muswell Hill, was taken on the small traffic island at the intersection of Castle Yard and Southwood Lane in Highgate.

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Ray Davies. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "20th Century Man"   5:57
2. "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues"   3:32
3. "Holiday"   2:40
4. "Skin and Bone"   3:39
5. "Alcohol"   3:35
6. "Complicated Life"   4:02
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Here Come the People in Grey"   3:46
2. "Have a Cuppa Tea"   3:45
3. "Holloway Jail"   3:29
4. "Oklahoma U.S.A."   2:38
5. "Uncle Son"   2:33
6. "Muswell Hillbilly"   4:58

Personnel[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Donald Brown. Bob Dylan: American Troubadour. p. 121. 
  2. ^ Stolder, Steven. "Muswell Hillbillies". MusicVIP.com. Retrieved 5 December 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c d Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies > Review" at AllMusic. Retrieved 9 November 2011.
  4. ^ DiBlasi 2008, p. 1
  5. ^ a b DiBlasi 2008, p. 7
  6. ^ Blender review[dead link]
  7. ^ Christgau, Robert. "The Kinks". RobertChristgau.com. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  8. ^ Josephes, Jason (24 August 2004). "The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  9. ^ Saunders, Mike (3 February 1972). "The Kinks: Muswell Hillbillies". Rolling Stone (Straight Arrow) (RS 101). ISSN 0035-791X. Archived from the original on 24 January 2008. 
  10. ^ "The Kinks' Chart Positions". kindakinks.net. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 
  11. ^ "Muswell Hillbillies > Credits". JR.com. Retrieved 9 November 2011. 

External links[edit]