Album Review

The Kinks - The Essential Kinks

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30 years of pivotal music on two fully-packed CDs

The Kinks touched so many musical bases that two full CDs (79 minutes each!) can still only outline their story. They blazed the British Invasion's trail with "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night," and supplied a steady stream of ever-more finely-written hits into the early '70s. In parallel with their singles success, the band's vocalist and primary songwriter, Ray Davies, wrote compelling B-sides and sketched out thematic collections that turned into a string of inventive concept albums. Davies ruminated on British culture, society, working class life and schooling, show business and the record industry in ever-more ambitious and increasingly theatrical productions that couched his lyrical alienation in satire, nostalgia and music hall tradition.

Banned from performing in the U.S. from 1965 until 1969, the band's success on the American charts quickly faded. But elsewhere, particularly in their native Britain, they continued to land hit singles (including "Dead End Street," "Waterloo Sunset," "Death of a Clown" and "Autumn Almanac"), and their albums continued to attract critical praise. Although the band returned to the U.S. in 1969 to promote Arthur, "Autumn Almanac" signaled the start of a fallow commercial period, with a brief respite from 1968's "Days." At the same time, Davies was crafting what was to be among the Kinks' most revered albums, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.

Though not a commercial success at the time of its release, Village Green has grown to be the group's best selling album, and the album track "Picture Book" gained belated exposure in a 2004 HP commercial. By 1969 the group reestablished themselves commercially with the singles "Victoria," "Lola" and "Apeman," and the well-regarded albums Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround Part One and Muswell Hillbillies. The latter represented their shift from Pye/Reprise to RCA, and unfortunately for the latter's immediate commercial returns, Davies' preoccupation with theatrical concept albums led to a string of early '70s releases that failed to garner any singles action. On the other hand, the albums slowly rebuilt the group's album sales in the U.S., and led to renewed chart action later in the decade.

Davies finally moved on from writing rock operas (and the Kinks from RCA to Arista) with 1977's Sleepwalker, and the group returned to the American charts with the album's title track. Their next few albums found an audience with U.S. record buyers, and the band became a regular concert draw. The latter success was memorialized on 1980's Top 20 One for the Road, and represented here by live versions of "Lola" and "Where Have All the Good Times Gone." Two years later the group had their last major commercial success with State of Confusion and the single "Come Dancing." The latter even broke through to MTV with a heavily spun video. The group's remaining albums, through 1993's Phobia, garnered less and less commercial attention, as did their singles, though they did continue to find a home on rock radio into the early '90s.

Legacy's 2-CD, 48-track, 2-hour and 39-minute collection does an admirable job of surveying the group's lengthy catalog, covering early mono productions (disc one, tracks 1-13), UK and US hits, deeply-loved album tracks, concert favorites and live performances (including a terrific 1972 rendition of "Till the End of the Day" drawn from the CD reissue of Everybody's in Show-Biz). The timeline spans releases from Pye/Reprise, RCA, Arista and Columbia, and stretches from the band's primal first hit, 1964's "You Really Got Me," to their final release for Columbia, 1993's "Scattered." Absent are stellar early B-sides like "I Gotta Move" and "Come On Now," tracks from Schoolboys in Disgrace, Percy and the band's two 1980's album for MCA, but what's here paints a compelling overview of a band whose three decades of music outstripped even the sizeable recognition it's received over the past fifty years. [©2014 Hyperbolium]

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Sadly I can't get so excited as I've always considered them a 'singles band' (my Best of CD and LP is filled up with filler). I have tried to listen to full albums but always found them quite pretentious.

    In Davies R's defence he has written some amazing songs; but a lot of drivel too.

Did you know that there is going to be a Musical based around his/their music?

Unlike Harrisonaphotos, I've always felt that the Kinks are underrated.  Village Green Society and Muswell Hillbillies would make my list of best all-time albums. 

:(

I agree with you, but that is the thing about music, what somebody loves, another dislikes. 

God save the Kinks!  From their inception, to the present day, I have always been a Kinks fan.  So many early rocking hits that weren't just fluff, but had real depth.  How could you not love it as Tony Soprano strides down the street and the Kinks in the background playing "I'm not like everybody else."  Only got to see them once live in Connecticut in the mid-70's.  All time favorite Kink's song....Waterloo Sunset.  

In fact, the musical Sunny Afternoon (Music, Lyrics and story by Ray Davies; book by Joe Penhall; directed by Edward Hall) has already had a very successful run at London's Hampstead Theatre and is currently previewing in the West End at the Harold Pinter theatre. I saw it early in its Hampstead run and liked it a lot. It's very much based on the British version of The Kinks' narrative (early hit singles, moderate mid-period album sales, but no stadium success), which is almost a mirror-version of their American story, and actually makes much of the incomprehension that greeted them in the States, leading to their banning, the stalling of their career and a bit of a meltdown for Ray, by his own account.

I beleive the Kinks are one of the most underrated bands ever and deserve to be placed up there with the Beatles and the Stones as the best to come out of that 60's British invasion. I would agree with Harrisonaphotos that some of the stuff on their early albums did seem like filler surrounded by terrific hits but that gradually changed as albums became the main mode of artistic expression replacing singles. (Unfortunately with dowloading and Youtube hits the music business is going back to that lame format it seems.) I now count some Kinks albums as among my favorites and "Muswell Hillbillies" as a true classic right up there with Dylan's "Blond on Blond", the Stones' "Let it Bleed"and the Beatles'  "Rubber Soul."  To dismiss them as a singles band I find rather myopic but I guess it all comes down to taste. And not "good" taste and "bad" taste but simply different tastes.

Two things:

a) last night I was at the Joanne Shaw Taylor concert and mentioned this thread to some friends  (a diverse group) who all agreed with me .

b) Tonight at a Chuck Prophet gig he dedictated 'Left Hand/Right Hand' to Ray and Dave Davies; then loudly suggested that they reform to play Glastonbury next year - and  was visibly disappointed not to receive a cheer in response! 

 

Perhaps they are thought of with more respect in the Americas and we 'take them forgranted' here.

   For what it's worth I used to own Muswell Hillbillies and probably only ever played it three times. Heyho - what do I know?

sadly, the brits don't all seem to recognize the brilliance of ray davies and the kinks. what did you think of ray davies first solo album-other peoples lives? you are lucky to see chuck prophet. i'm hoping he comes to vancouver,b.c. soon so i can see him too. alan, you pass on so much good music i wonder if you have heard this one yet? how about the debut album of a mississippi band called- the great american holy ghost electric show? i believe you put me onto the lucky strikes awhile back, hope i can return the favor. cheers

Thanks for the tip - will check them out; but I'm currently inundated with music (quite a bit which is excellent) and let you know my thoughts.

From your postings Harrisonaphotos, it's obvius our tastes usually jibe which is why I was so surprised by your opinion about the Kinks. I think you really need to give "Muswell Hillbillies" some more listenings to appreciate the importance of that album and the aptness of its social commentary. "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues" and  "20th Century Man" especailly spoke to me at that time and, sadly, still does. In looking again at the songs on that album I can't find one that I don't love. I fear you cheated yourself out of a rare pleasure by not "getting" this album.

The Kinks have always been my favorite of the early british bands, together with The Small Faces,
I loved "Muswell Hillbillies" back then, and it is still one of my favorite albums.

And, btw, The Kinks were a fantastic live band; I have seen them several times.

I feel I'm beeing bullied now! 

A friend just posted this on Twitter - "if you haven't seen it yet, at is more than highly recommended - great cast, great performance, great theatre! "

  Thankfullyy Graeme knows nowt about proper music......hahahahahaha (that's a joke btw)

The Kinks were the best pop rock band of the Brit Invasion by a mile (or kilometer?). That includes The Beatles and the Stones.

Each to their own; as they say, but you are plain wrong Mr James! :) as the Animals were innovative, but knew and embraced their roots; and in the case of lead singer Eric Burden ; still releasing exciting new material in the 21st Century.

Also; why the mention of Kilometres (correct spelling)? A form of measurement used in Continental Europe ;when Great Britain has always used miles  as a form of measurement and gave them to the Colonies when we brought civilisation across the Globe during the first British Invasion hahahahaha (smiley face!)

Second part first. I was trying to be funny and obviously failing miserably.

First part, I came within a millimeter (re?) of mentioning The Animals up there with The Kinks as the best of the Brit Invasion. To me the edge to The Kinks was their brilliant and consistent songwriting and a sound that wasn't re-packaging southern American music, which was 90% of the Brit Invasion (and thank God for them showing us to us). Eric Burdon is one of my favorite people of all time, and his "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is a must read. I personally favor his second Animals incarnation, and albums such as Every One of Us and Love Is.

 

Try Eric's album from last year - http://nodepression.com/article/cd-review-eric-burdon-til-your-river-run... I guess it will be on Spotify or the likes.

     Re: the Kinks - I had another conversation regarding this thread with another old man/music lover (aged 64) yesterday and he too agreed with me about them being a Pop band and, in his words 'quinisentially English'  and 'a bit too London for me' at that and was surprised their music had 'travelled to America'.

    If I had the time or inclination I should re-visit their work and the solo work of Davies R but my in-box is chock full of new and interesting new music from the Americas (and UK) that I will stick to that to entertain me.

 

Alan (smiley face)

Again in order. First, I have Eric Burdon's "Til Your River Runs Dry," it's good. Second, 64 is not old. Third, as your inbox is full but you're interested, and to anyone else, I highly recommend "Kinks: The Ultimate Collection" 2002 by Sanctuary Music Group (though outside says SANDO 109). Contains 44 of their greatest.

It's on Amazon.

Oh, and if you ever had the good fortune to see them live, uh, they're far from a "pop band"; one of the best live rock bands I've ever seen.

Will James...(I feel I have to note who my comment is to since one never knows where one's comment will end up on a thread) I wanted to relate something to you about Gram Parsons after reading your efforts on behalf of his legacy on the "How Can We Make This Site Better" thread but didn't want to add it to that endless discussion and have gone here since I remember you commented on this thread.

Anyway...I was watching a documentary I recently bought about Graham Parker, his career and his participation in a recently released dramatic film. In it one of the people interviewed who was a big fan said that most people his age had never even heard of Graham Parker and those who thought they had would get him mixed up with Gram Parsons. In the face of such ignorance your task/goal must be daunting. On the other hand, Since Gram pre-dates Graham and people think of him when Graham Parker is mentioned, perhaps he's more "well-known"  than one would think.

Just to make this comment relevant to this thread--I listened to the Kinks' "Muswell Hillbillies" this weekend since it had been awhile and man-oh-man, what a fantastic fucking album both musically and lyrically. Certainly one of the best releases of the 1970's.

 

 

Still getting notifications and waiting on a radio station to get back to me... Yes, people are always calling him Graham Parsons. Usually they know who they're referring to though. Yes it is daunting but as I said in the other post in the dreaded how can we make this site better page, I tend to tilt at windmills. Thanks. Oh and yeah, MH is a great Kinks album; Ray Davies is one hellova writer. A friend and I think that Townsend copied him a lot.

For what it's worth the legendary Graham Parker has NEVER been mistakenly called Graham Prsons or Gram Parker in the UK......we know our stuff here. Just a pity it took him so long to remember we loved him too.

My Webster's dictionary spells it kilometer. 

The album review on the Amazon site says that the sound quality of this album "The Essential Kinks" is not very good. A remix is needed.

The Ultimate Collection (see above) is plenty good enough for me.

Thanks, maybe that is the one to get

And much less expensive.

Today I finally decoded the "how' of getting back on No Depression. And as a life-long Kinks fan, whose first albums were their early releases, I looked over this and after 50 years all I can think is: why are A&R guys still making curious decisions about what tracks are worthy? If you have 150-160 minutes of music and two discs, and this was never a good live band, put good album cuts on it. Sure, they were on lots of labels, but most fans know that their best stuff is not heard on "Everybody's in Showbiz" or "Preservation I," the second disc here is loaded up with tracks from these and has only three from the three great discs before that-only one each from "Muswell Hillbillies" and "Arthur." C'mon, these might not have sold like hotcakes but the music was immensely better than the first half of disc 2 here (exception being Sweet Lady Genevieve). Of course there will always be omissions, but I wonder how indispensible some of the tracks are when they left off "Shangri-La", "Animal Farm", "Too Much on My Mind" and others in favor of some early '70s songs like "You Don't Knopw My Name" and "Life on the Road". Too bad the Davies' signed off, some younger fans are going to miss some good tracks.

 

#like

btw I had/have a best of LP with Shangri-La on it; and it was a great song. I'd forgot.

For folks that don't want to have 20 albums laying around but want to get most of the Kinks' better known stuff in two releases, The Ultimate Collection from 2002 has a lot of their pre-arena rock stuff, and Come Dancing With the Kinks has the Arista songs after 1977 on a single disc. And, for those who can round it up, get the Kink Kronikles to pick up the album tracks and B sides from their midddle period, like King Kong and Berkley Mews (almost every Kinks fan will have this double disc, and it does include a lot of cuts that are on the Ultimate release).

Two words... Muswell Hillbillies