Preservation Act II: Heavy Stuff, Right? By Mike Nessing
Preservation act 2 stands out as a much more muscular affair than it’s predecessor. Dave Davies’s lead guitar takes a front seat more often making these tracks a tad edgier, and the narrative drive allows the wit and humor of Ray Davies to be thrust to the forefront like never before.
Save the comedy for later though because as act 2 begins, The Tramp knows that war is near. “Introduction To Solution “ is where he sings about all that will unfold. Mr. Black is going to “use a little manipulation, and build a new civilization“. Mr. Flash’s reign of greed and corruption will serve as the ideal springboard for him to usher in a new religious morality. His plan is to rise amidst the confusion.
The “manipulation” he speaks of is a type of final solution. Moral cleansing of peoples spirit and free will would scientifically alter the population into an artificial state, allowing them to be more easily monitored and controlled.
Phew, heavy stuff right? Hardly the type of plot line that you’d expect to be set to music. Ultimately, this heavy handed story line is what weighs the record down. Davies himself said it best when he explained that most people in his business at the time would be happy just to make an album. In his case however, he was “creating an entire world“.
This dark comedy is laced with some of the most theatrical music ever created during the rock opera era (or should I say error?). Some of the lyrics are poignant, some are uproariously funny, but all of them are extremely poetic. You can easily dismiss “Preservation 2” as way too far over the top. However, it’s grandiosity is precisely why as a “rock opera”, it blows all the competitors of that short-lived genre away.
Yes, I know that’s not saying much. A record album that tries to be anything else but a record album is doomed at the outset. Especially since there is no visual piece to accompany it. “Preservation” was never made into a musical and sadly, the live performances that hit the UK and US in the summer and fall of 1974 were never filmed. Unfortunately, the piece is only documented in audio format. It’s certainly something to consider when examining this underrated, misunderstood effort.