Face to Face is an album released by The Kinks in 1966 on Pye Records in the United Kingdom and on Reprise Records in the United States. A major artistic breakthrough for Kinks' songwriter Ray Davies, the LP represents the first full flowering of Davies' use of narrative, observation, and wry social commentary in his songs. It heralded The Kinks' move away from the hard-driving rock and roll style of 1964-65, which had catapulted the group to international stardom. It was the first Kinks album consisting entirely of Ray Davies compositions, and was their first album recorded over several months, rather than in one concentrated session.
Davies, who had suffered a nervous breakdown just prior to the major recording sessions for the album, seemed to be responding to the overwhelming pressures on him by escaping into stories of the bittersweet existence of ordinary suburban people, their failings, and frustrations. The new style of writing began gradually the previous year with compositions such as "A Well Respected Man" and "Dedicated Follower of Fashion", and came to full fruition in May 1966 with the hit single "Sunny Afternoon", which reached Number 1 in the UK. This song's great popularity proved to Davies and the Kinks' managers that the group could find success with this style of songwriting. The new album would follow this pattern, as would the group's recorded output for the next five years. The 1966-1971 period inaugurated by this album would later be called Davies' and the Kinks' "golden age".
The album's songs are rife with Davies' sardonic wit, skewering the vapid Don Juan of "Dandy" (which became a hit for Herman's Hermits) and the self-absorption and hypocrisy of the wealthy elite on "House in the Country" and "Most Exclusive Residence for Sale". Davies' humanity is also on display in tracks such as "Rosie, Won't You Please Come Home", an unusual 1960s pop song that sided with the plight of parents against the cruelty of a rebellious child (a true harbinger of the Kinks' growing affinity for unfashionable but timeless themes). Other highlights include "Sunny Afternoon", the world-weary "Too Much on My Mind", the foreboding "Rainy Day in June", and the Eastern-tinged, enigmatic "Fancy".
Some rock historians have credited the album as arguably one of the first rock and roll concept albums, with the loose common theme of social observation. In the album's original inception, Davies had attempted to bridge the songs together with sound effects, but was forced to revert to the more standard album format by Pye Records before the album's release. Some of these effects remain, in "Party Line", "Holiday in Waikiki", "Rainy Day in June", and other songs not included in the final album ("End of the Season", "Big Black Smoke"). Contractual issues held up the release of the album for several months after final recording, and Davies was also in conflict with Pye over the final album cover art, whose psychedelic theme he later felt was inappropriate.
The album was released in a particularly tumultuous year for the band, with personnel problems (bassist Pete Quaife was injured, resigned, and later rejoined the band), legal and contractual battles, and an ongoing hectic touring schedule. The album was critically well received, but did not sell particularly well at the time of its release (especially in the United States), and was out of print for many years. Re-issues since 1998 have included bonus tracks of songs released contemporaneously as singles (most notably "Dead End Street") and two unreleased tracks.
At least one CD re-release of the album begins with "Holiday In Waikiki" and proceeds in order to "I'll Remember" which is then followed by "Party Line", from which the tracks continue in order, ending with "A House In The Country".
The version of "Mr. Reporter", released as a bonus track on the 1998 Castle CD re-issue of the album, was actually recorded in 1969 for Dave Davies' aborted solo album. An earlier recording featuring Ray Davies on lead vocals was recorded in February 1966, and was apparently intended for this album or an unissued EP. The scathing track was probably shelved to prevent offending pop press reporters, whom it targets for satire. Other unreleased songs from the Face To Face sessions reportedly include "Fallen Idol", a song about the rise and fall of a pop star, and "Lilacs And Daffodils", the latter of which is apparently the only Kinks track with vocals by drummer Mick Avory. It is unclear whether any of the abovementioned tracks will ever be released officially. Dave Davies has indicated they were never satisfactorily completed for release, and some were later reworked into different songs.