Sunday, April 10, 2011



The first three Kinks albums, now with plenty of bonuses, and each as a double disc with at least a couple of dozen of extra cuts on each.  That's huge and generous, unless you've been picking up the various reissues and collections over the years, in which case there's only a few previously unreleased versions here.  You collectors will have to be the judge on whether they're worth the new cost.  But of course, you're completists, and the compilers know that, so you've probably already bought these.

Like the rest of the British beat groups of the early 60's, The Kinks started out scuffling in clubs, playing R'n'B and mimicking American favourites.  The group was a little behind The Beatles and The Stones, by about a year, and actually didn't sound that great on the usual Chuck Berry, Motown and Little Richard covers.  Taking bold-faced advantage of The Beatles' popularity, The Kinks released a cover of Long Tall Sally as their first single, beating the Fabs to it.  It tanked anyway, as did a follow-up, but then the group did something truly awesome.  Whether The Kinks invented heavy metal with You Really Got Me is a great debate question, but there's no questioning it was the hardest thing on the radio in 1964.  Follow-up All Day And All Of The Night is the best Part Two song ever, but Ray Davies was about to show he had a lot more tricks up his sleeve.

Both those hits can be found on The Kinks deluxe edition, the first having been there in the first place, and All Day added as a bonus cut.  That points out the problem with the original albums; like those by the other British acts of the day, often the hit singles weren't on the albums.  It was still considered bad practice, even for The Beatles, to duplicate songs on the albums, so the best tracks were usually found on the singles and E.P.'s, with the albums padded with covers and filler.  Even Lennon and McCartney had a couple of clunkers on their first L.P.'s.  The Kinks album is, aside from You Really Got Me and Stop Your Sobbing, largely forgettable.  That is, unless you add on 25 single cuts, demos, BBC recordings and the entire album in stereo and mono.  Now, we're talking.  Flushed with success, Davies' writing immediately started to improve, with the Kinksize Session E.P. cuts showing maturity, and quality cuts such as Don't Ever Let Me Go not even being released.  Already Davies was being tapped as a songwriter of note, and his demos were being shopped around to other acts.  I probably wouldn't even bother to have The Kinks in my collection in its normal 12-track version, but this double-disc has lots of good tracks.

The pattern continues on Kinda Kinks, which did have Tired Of Waiting For You, but nothing else you'll recognize, except a dire cover of Dancing In The Street.  Don't blame The Kinks for this though, they had managers and record executives screaming at them for more product, to cash in on the fame.  The best stuff came flowing in a series of singles through 1964 and 1965:  Who'll Be The Next In Line, Set Me Free, See My Friends and A Well Respected Man were great compositions and productions, and thankfully, all here with their associated b-sides and E.P. tracks.  Meanwhile, the Davies demo factory continued pumping them out, with such gems as I Go To Sleep and This Strange Effect not even making The Kinks projects, but thankfully rediscovered and preserved here from solo Ray sessions or BBC radio takes.

The Kink Kontroversy is the last of the band's albums that sees them with any vestiges of the blues left.  Beat groups were transforming in England as the songwriters found their individuality.  Ray Davies, the melancholy son of lower-class suburbia, cast a questioning eye at Swinging London, and instead related more to his country's past.  Still in his early 20's, he was already pining for the old days, asking Where Have All The Good Times Gone while the rest of the groups were living it up.  So Kontroversy sees the group moving on wistfully.  They do their best-ever blues cover, Sleepy John Estes' Milk Cow Blues, as good as any Stones blues, but then change abruptly to the likes of Till The End Of The Day.  On the singles charts, Davies was belittling Carnaby Street dandies on Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, and admitting I'm Not Like Everybody Else.  1965 was turning into 1966, and when the rest of the world went psychedelic, Davies was about to go on a one-man quest to bring back the days of the music hall in England.

As mentioned, these discs explode with bonus cuts, unless one has already purchased the previous single-disc 90's reissues from Castle, the Kinks At The BBC double-disc, and the six-CD boxed set Picture Book from 2008.  But even with those under your belt, you'll still get three, five and eight previously unavailable cuts on these sets.  If you don't have them already, well perfect time, eh wot?

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