The Kinks made it to the Olympics this year! Well, not performing, but they are on the “official” (if you will) playlist of the opening ceremonies. The song that will be featured is the band’s legendary follow-up smash to their first hit (“You Really Got Me”) named “All Day and All The Night,” which reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the US back at the dawn of the British Invasion (1964).
So since millions of new Kinks fans are waiting to be born again by hearing one of the great rock anthems of “our times,” I thought this might be a good time to offer up a quick review of the relatively new series of Deluxe Edition reissues of the classic Pye Records-era albums by the band. (They were on Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records label in the U.S., FYI.)
I say “relatively” new, since these albums came out in 2011 but quite frankly I did not spring for them right away, as I felt that — at $30 per 2 CD set — they were priced way way too high for albums that are being reissued for the upteenth time. Due to heinous contracts the band signed back in the day, I suspect that The Kinks themselves probably aren’t getting a whole lot from these reissues, if anything. Hopefully, main songwriter and band leader Ray Davies was able to renegotiate at least his publishing deal so that he gets benefit from the airing (aka “public performance”) at the Olympics, which will likely mean lots of money pouring in from royalties paid by networks airing the Olympics. The Kinks deserve all they can get.
I recently came across reasonably priced new copies of the first three reissues, and they are all uniformly excellent, each with a detailed booklet featuring useful info on the band at that time period, chart information, rare photographs, and reproductions of obscure original 45 RPM single and EP artwork from around the world. The sound is uniformly excellent for a CD of nearly 50 year old recordings. Those early Kinks records had a very specific sound courtesy of producer Shel Talmy — the same guy who produced early records for The Who, among others — so don’t go into these expecting the ultimate-half-speed-direct-to-digital-original-master-uber-audiophile experience. Part of The Kinks’ sound at this time was compression, so while these records rock madly, they are also a little boxy by nature.
Here are some highlights that I found notable, as a pretty much lifelong Kink Kronikiler:
KINKS: This is ground zero for all things Kinky! This disc includes early demos by Ray’s pre-Kinks band The Boll Weevils, and loads of other demos and single tracks that never made it onto a British LP (some were on US versions, which, like The Beatles and Rolling Stones, had their recordings sliced and diced by the American labels).
One of the things I was reminded of on this album is how Dave Davies really was a highlight of the early incarnation of The Kinks, before he later became somewhat overshadowed by his brother Ray (who wrote most of the songs). Dave was more of the rocker, and the one with the outward sex appeal the little girls understood. You can hear it on tracks he sings lead on, like album opener “Beautiful Delilah,” “Long Tall Shorty,” and a killer “I’m A Lover Not A Fighter.” This is a great rock and roll debut, and all the bonus tracks and BBC sessions included are enlighting. The sound is pretty uniform, and of course the mono mixes get the nod for best sound.
KINDA KINKS: The US version of this album was actually the very first Kinks album I picked up, and it’s a great one. The UK deluxe edition includes the original mono mix (no fake stereo) on one disc, and the second CD contains other mono singles from the period, many of which comprised the US version of the album — some great tunes like “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy,” “Who’ll Be The Next In Line,” “Set Me Free” and the big smash hit “A Well Respected Man.”
It also includes the remarkable and groundbreaking track “See My Friends” which brought Indian sounds into popular music six months before The Beatles did on Rubber Soul. The Kinks had made a stopover in Bombay during an Asian tour, and thus were exposed to the sounds of Indian classical music at that time (sitars, etc.). Great stuff. The second CD is also packed with demos, alternate takes, and BBC tracks.
THE KINK KONTROVERSY: This album has many classic tracks, including the hits “Till The End of the Day,” “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” and the single “Dedicated Follower of Fashion.” You get an alternate take of the latter, too!
Most importantly, this collection includes the original mono single B-side “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” which is one of this writer’s favorite Kinks songs ever; you also get an alternate vocal version amidst other demos and BBC recordings. There is even an unreleased track and discussions with band members about songwriting and records. Cool stuff!
So, if you can find these for less than $25 I would go for it. They are really good collections that sound fine as CDs go, and are worth owning for the wealth of rare tracks. If you look on Amazon, you can find Kinks, Kinda Kinks, and The Kink Kontroversy new for reasonable prices, so I say if you are a growing Kinks fan, these are worth owning.
If you don’t already own Village Green Preservation Society, by all means do pick up the three-CD set, which is essential listening — original stereo, mono, and a full disc of bonus tracks.