Arts, Culture & Media

Ray Davies and 'The Kinks Choral Collection'

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Ray Davies the former frontman and songwriter for the Kinks, has released a new album titled "The Kinks Choral Collection." It’s a collection of Kinks classic tunes with a chorus. 

It’s long been a notion that as we get older our tastes in music, well changes. This is something Davies has considered.

"It’s a reworking of the songs. It’s not an attempt to re-record the Kinks’ records. I think those records, those original records, I’m proud of, and I think they were as good as they could possibly have been.  This is a reworking of the songs with a choir."

Davies had worked with the Crouch End Festival Chorus and the choir master there, David Temple.

"Ten years ago I was commissioned to write a choral piece for a festival in England, an arts festival, and that was a 50-minute all new music. And two years ago, I had a new album out, and was asked to do a big TV show in London for the BBC. And one of the notions of this program is that I collaborate with somebody, you know, another artist.

"I remember the choir did so well for this other event I did, and I decided to contact them and ask them if they’d like to sing a few songs with me on this TV show, Kinks’ songs. And as a result, the record company asked me to make an album."

The songs lends themselves quite well to this kind of orchestration. When he was going through the Kinks’ catalog, there were several deciding factors in whether or not to record a particular song with the chorus.

"Well, the first song I did for the TV show was a song called 'Shangri-La.' You know, I wrote the song when I was 23, 24 and I decided, rather than using them as backing singers, I wanted them to be involved in the kind of song narrative. 

"So, I got them to take some of the lead lines out and perform them. That was really the key turning point in this project, when I decided to do that with the song. Because in 'Waterloo Sunset' it’s a good rendition, but they’re recapturing the original backing vocals to a certain extent.  But in “Shangri-La” their part of the performance as it were, is the part contributing dramatically to the song."

The inevitable question about Davies' musical history is this: Did he ever sing in a choir, a church or school choir?

"I did," said Davies. "I went to a Church of England school and the headmaster at the school was the choir master at the local church. It was good, singing all those great hymns."

Along with his musical past, geography plays an important role in the narrative. Davies grew up in the Muswell Hill section of North London. It’s next to Crouch End, another section of North London where the chorus comes from.

"Muswell Hill, Hampstead and Highgate where I live are the highest points in London. You can see all over the city and the light is spectacular. Even on a bad day, you can get special light that you can’t get in other spaces. It’s in a very old part where I live, it’s a very old part of England, you know, so old houses and lots of parks and fields. 

"Because my parents come from the inner city and they tried to escape in the Second World War, they escaped with their family. I’ve got six older sisters and a younger brother, and they wanted the family to escape to a green and pleasant part of London, away from all the bombs and the devastation of the war."

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