Arthur - 1969
As the 1960s came to a close, the Kinks were in the midst of a creative period the likes of which few bands have enjoyed. Having reached new levels of sophistication with 1967's Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society the following year, Ray Davies' songwriting explored an entirely new depth with Arthur; perhaps the finest example of a concept LP in any era. Dissecting the various pressures of modern life through the eyes of its titular character, the album's topics ranged from the mundane (societal pressure, mortgage payments, fashion) to the overtly political (dead soldiers, wartime posturing), all delivered with Davies' biting wit and the Kinks newfound vigor for the straight-ahead rock n' roll upon which they'd built their name. Not only is Arthur one of the towering achievements of 1960s rock, but an album whose subject matter and musical brilliance remain as vital today as when they were recorded. Masterfully produced (just try to find the seams that hold together the various sections of "Shangri-La") and recorded with an emphasis on feel over perfection (listen for Dave Davies' yelps of excitement on the first track), the album contains some of the most brilliant songs the band recorded and all of the elements that make them so utterly unique. A treasure of an LP.