The Kinks: Lola Versus Powerman... (1970)
Like Arthur, it's a loose concept album, sort of tracing the rise of a musician. But that's secondary to the songs, most of which stand up well on their own without dwelling on the overall theme. A few songs return the band to a harder rock sound after the relatively mellow Village Green and Arthur, though the ballads here truly shine.
Obviously "Lola" is well known to all, Davies' brilliant ode to everyone's favorite transgender musical heroine enduring as one of rock's true classics (weighed down only by decades of radio overplay); the similar-sounding "Apeman" likewise has an insanely catchy chorus and a good-humored bent. My personal favorite is "This Time Tomorrow," a fantastic song that transcends the usual rock star gripes about life on the road, and in my view stands up as one of the band's best and least appreciated numbers; nearly as great is the moving ballad "Strangers," one of Dave Davies' finest moments as a singer and songwriter (alas, his hard rocking "Rats" is a weak point on the record).
A few of the tracks herald some of the more theatrical productions that Ray would put forward throughout the first half of the 70s, for better and worse; "Denmark Street," the moving "Get Back In Line," "Moneyground", and the crunchy-guitar "Top of the Pops" are all playfully entertaining, if less monumental as stand-alone tunes. Meanwhile, "A Long Way From Home" is one of Ray's prettiest ballads.
While Muswell is pretty great (if draggy in spots), and Davies would manage a number of fantastic songs in the years that followed, Lola is just about the last Kinks album that would stand up as nearly-perfect from start to finish.