Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Vol. 1 [Deluxe Edition]
"Lola" gave the Kinks an unexpected hit and its crisp, muscular sound, pitched halfway between acoustic folk and hard rock, provided a new style for the band. However, the song only hinted at what its accompanying album Lola Versus the Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One was all about. It didn't matter that Ray Davies just had his first hit in years -- he had suffered greatly at the hands of the music industry and he wanted to tell the story in song. Hence, Lola -- a loose concept album about Ray Davies' own psychosis and bitter feelings toward the music industry. Davies never really delivers a cohesive story, but the record holds together because it's one of his strongest set of songs. Dave Davies contributes the lovely "Strangers" and the appropriately paranoid "Rats," but this is truly Ray' show, as he lashes out at ex-managers (the boisterous vaudevillian "The Moneygoround"), publishers ("Denmark Street"), TV and music journalists (the hard-hitting "Top of the Pops"), label executives ("Powerman"), and, hell, just society in general ("Apeman," "Got to Be Free"). If his wit wasn't sharp, the entire project would be insufferable, but the album is as funny as it is angry. Furthermore, he balances his bile with three of his best melancholy ballads: "This Time Tomorrow," "A Long Way From Home," and the anti-welfare and union "Get Back in Line," which captures working-class angst better than any other rock song. These songs provide the spine for a wildly unfocused but nonetheless dazzling tour de force that reveals Ray's artistic strengths and endearing character flaws in equal measure.
[In 2014, Lola Vs The Powermen was issued as a double-disc deluxe edition—the latest in a long line of deluxe editions that stretches back to the mid-2000s. Here, the first disc contains a nicely remastered version of the original 1970 album supplemented by seven previously unreleased tracks, while the second disc contains the 1971 soundtrack to the forgotten film Percy along with several mono single mixes, either from the film or singles, and other odds and ends. Despite containing "God's Children," one of Ray Davies' great songs of the early '70s, and the cheeky country pisstake "Willesden Green" (which would wind up pointing toward Muswell Hillbillies, as it happens), Percy is generally a bit of a slog due to its preponderance of pleasant, forgettable incidental music. The bonus cuts on the Percy disc also are a bit of mixed bag: the alternates from Percy aren't that all interesting, but the mono mixes are all quite good, whilethe alternate "The Moneyground" is graced by an exceptionally fruity vocal from Ray. Comparitively, all the bonus tracks on the first disc are terrific. "Anytime," cut early in the sessions, is a easy-rolling, open-hearted tune contains some of the feel of "Get Back In Line" but none of the melancholy; the riotous hard rocker "The Good Life" would've been slotted into Lola's narrative around "Top Of The Pops" and it's just about as good, propelled by a Chuck Berry groove and a devastatingly funny lyric. The rest are alternates: a demo of "The Contenders" that pushes the piano, a sparer "Lola" with a low harmony where Ray sings "I can't stand Coca Cola" on the second verse, an instrumental "This Time Tomorrow," a lo-fi vaudevillian take of "Got To Be Free" and a cacophonic "Apeman," with different guitar and lyrics. There are enough treasures here to justify purchase for any hardcore fan of the album. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine]