Chrissie Hynde is no stranger to the Kinks' catalog. She did, after all, cover the group's "Stop Your Sobbing" for the Pretenders' first single, and also took on "I Go to Sleep" for the Pretenders II album in 1981. Hynde dives into the Kinks' catalog yet again for her upcoming solo album, Valve Bone Woe, with a treatment of "No Return," premiering exclusively below.
"I wasn't really familiar with it," Hynde — whose oldest daughter, Natalie, was fathered by Kinks frontman Ray Davies in 1983 — tells Billboard about the track, which appears on the Kinks' 1967 album Something Else By the Kinks and was covered by Yo La Tengo in 1998. Hynde says "No Return" was chosen by Valve Bone Woe producer Marius de Vries, whose arrangement builds on the Brazilian flavor of the Kinks' original. "It sounds like Ray Davies' attempt — more than an attempt, it was a successful venture to do something along those lines," says Hynde, who's been quietly working on music in Brazil as well, most notably with singer Moreno Veloso. "I've been wanting to do stuff that's more Brazilian," Hynde says, "and some of that bled into this album."
She hasn't run her version of the track by Davies, however. "It never occurred to me," Hynde says. "The album's not out, so I guess he hasn't heard it, but I have no idea. I can only imagine any songwriter's happy when someone covers their song — why shouldn't they be? Even if it's bad, they're still covering your song."
Valve Bone Woe, which comes out Sept. 6, features a number of intriguing covers, all done in a jazz style with the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble de Vries assembled for the album. On its 14 tracks Hynde takes on favorites such as the Beach Boys "Caroline, No," Frank Sinatra's "I'm a Fool to Want You," Nancy Wilson's "How Glad I Am," Charles Mingus' "Meditation on a Pair of Wire Cutters," Johnny Mathis' "Wild is the Wind," John Coltrane's "Naima" and more. She may consider herself "a humble rock n' roll singer," but Hynde acknowledges "more jazz in my background than I knew" — primarily from her older brother Terry, who also provided the album's title with his reaction to the 2011 death of valve trombonist Bob Brookmeyer.
"Some of the greatest (jazz) records I heard from my brother," Hynde recalls. "We didn't listen to music together, but his albums were around so I would listen to them. I think anyone my age, who grew up in the '60s, had some references to jazz. But I just slipped over the Beat Generation line into the hippie thing, mostly."
The idea for Valve Bone Woe was kindled back in 1999, when de Vries recruited Hynde to sing a version of the French standard "I Wish You Love" ("Que reste-t-il de nos amours") for the soundtrack to the film thriller Eye of the Beholder. "They had the big orchestra and everything — not really something I would have thought about doing, but I was asked and it seemed fun," Hynde remembers. "I said to Marius, 'Hey, let's do some more of this' and he said, 'OK.'" It took a couple of decades to accomplish, however; Hyde laughs as she notes she recorded six albums (including an upcoming Pretenders set), did 300 paintings and published an autobiography and an art book "amongst other side projects" during that time. "It was supposed to be our jazz dub album," Hynde explains, "but we finally listened to it and said, 'Fuck it, let's just play it live.' So we got a band and went into AIR Studios, and pretty much the body of all the songs is live, and then it's got all this trippy stuff on it, too.
"The real point of the record was I wanted to sing songs that had a lot of melody," Hynde adds. "It's just more fun to sing melodies than to keep singing the same things. I think there's a dearth of melody in modern music; They just seem to repeat one line and it goes on and on and on and doesn't really go anywhere. The songs I chose on the album I thought had quite a few melodic twists, and then there's a couple that are possibly lacking in melody but have atmosphere." Hynde and de Vries also "wanted to make the slowest album ever made — which I don't think it is. In fact, one of my favorite bands, Low, I think all their songs are slower than this. But that was kind of our idea."
Hynde and the Valve Bone Woe ensemble previewed the album during early July concerts in Los Angeles, and she has London performances coming up at the BBC's Pomes in the Park on Sept. 14 and at the London Jazz Festival on Nov. 24 at the Royal Festival Hall. Meanwhile she's gearing up for a 2020 release for the Pretenders next album, a follow-up to 2016's Alone, with some extensive touring planned for the band as well.
"It's very, very Pretenders," Hynde reports. "It's got a very wide-ranging mix of songs. There's one that sort of sounds like the Specials, kind of a reggae thing. There’s something that's more like a Lou Rawls ballad. We've got something with a strong quartet which is more of a tender ballad. We've got some Gary Glitter-esque kind of rockers. It's ready and just waiting for (Bone Valve Woe) to come out, so I feel like I'm in a holding pattern. It's a good problem to have, but I'm sort of champing at the bit here, too."