The Kinks Village Green Preservation Society (Castle) Ray Davies is rock's archetypal contrarian. And never was his mood more obstinate than during The Kinks' golden period from 1968 to 1972. Banished from the United States after one too many bacchanalian beanos, the band retreated to England to forge what is regarded as their touchstone work. And although Village Green Preservation Society was a commercial failure, it continues to inspire English songwriters of today. Listen to Blur's Parklife if you need convincing. At just 25, Davies had already grappled with fame's pitfalls. The Kinks headed the British invasion of the US with You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night, and on All Of My Friends Were There he sends a love letter to the quiet life ('Thank God I can go back to normal again'). Set in a romanticised, merry olde England that only existed in Davies' mind, VGPS bristles with wit and Briticisms and its singalong, almost vaudevillian mood makes for an enduringly satisfying ride. It is peopled by Dickensian characters from Davies' past (Do You Remember Walter?, Johnny Thunder, Wicked Annabella) and although he sounds weary and introspective throughout, the effect is uplifting. The wry humour and mock nostalgia make every return visit a pleasure, as Davies campaigns to save China cups, raspberry jam, real ale and virginity. This is pop music as pastoral folk. The closest he treads to rock is the blues-flavoured pastiche, Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains, a nod to Howlin' Wolf's timeless Smokestack Lightning. Released in the same month as The Beatles' White Album and The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, VGPS represents the creative high-water mark in a stellar career, and is a must for any collection.