Friday, 5 November 2010

An Introduction To The Kinks In 7 Easy Steps

Of what I refer to as “The Big Four” - The Stones, The Beatles, The Who and The Kinks, it is the latter whose back catalogue is a bit of an oddity. Numerous albums nobody has ever heard of, reissues on a mix of obscure labels, and a consensus that everything they did after 1968 was rubbish. But delve further, and The Kinks reveal themselves to have made some fantastic records after they more or less fell out of public favour in the 70s. And they could still produce a genius pop record - just as the post-Keith Moon Who did “You Better You Bet”, The Kinks gave us “Come Dancing” in the 80s - as poignant and perfect as “See My Friends”, “Victoria”, or any of the other big hits from the 60s.

It may be because their back catalogue has been allowed to be passed from label to label (the Pye material is now on Castle, the RCA stuff on Velvel), but there are a series of box sets in existence that, between them, will provide you with a huge chunk of the band’s fairly extensive back catalogue. But what’s on them? Are they any good? Here, we look at these box sets and what they offer to the new (and old) fan.

The Pye Album Collection (2005, Castle CMXBX 1125, includes reissues of “Kinks”, “Kinda Kinks”, “The Kink Kontroversy”, “Face To Face”, “Something Else”, “The Village Green Preservation Society”, “Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround - Part 1”, “Percy”, “Arthur” and “Live At Kelvin Hall”)

The Kinks were first signed to Pye, and after a pair of flop 45s, hit pay dirt with “You Really Got Me” and proceeded to become one the biggest bands in the UK. By the end of the decade, they had fallen out of favour commercially, and yet were recording albums better than anything they had taped earlier in their career. 1968’s “The Village Green Preservation Society” was an astonishing work of beauty, effectively inventing Brit Pop 25 years early, and promptly sold next to nothing. It remains today, one of the ten greatest albums ever recorded. There were a few more hits the following years with “Lola” and “Apeman”, but the last album the band taped for Pye, the 1971 soundtrack “Percy”, more or less fell on deaf ears, although critical acceptance was rife.

The band issued nine studio LP’s on the label, along with a 1967 live LP “Live At Kelvin Hall”. The albums have all been reissued various times over the years, and in 2001, were issued on CD in LP style “boxed” sleeves in - where possible - exotic foreign sleeves. Only “Lola Vs Powerman” and “Percy” appeared in their UK sleeves, whilst some editions used were of versions where even the album title changed - so “Kinks” became “Kinks Size”, “Kinda Kinks” became “The Kinks”, and “The Kink Kontroversy” became “United Kinksdom”. All ten were then reissued again in 2005 in this box set.

Is it any good?

Well, it depends. The problem with the 2001 editions was that several years earlier, all of the band’s Pye era studio albums had been reissued on Castle with extra tracks - and these "new" editions came with no bonus tracks. So, if you are a newcomer who just wants the albums, it’s a superb set, and if you are a collector, the foreign sleeves are an obvious inducement (especially the brilliant “Cannonball” sleeve of “Face To Face”), but if you want bang for your buck, the idea of buying ten albums that are missing huge numbers of bonus tracks might seem a bit pointless. It’s also worth pointing out that “Village Green” is the Italian 12 track version - the original UK version had 15 tracks.

3 Classic Albums (2004, Castle CMETD 1033, includes reissues of “Kinks”, “Kinda Kinks” and “The Kink Kontroversy”)

A bit of a mis-nomer with that title - this box set has the first three Kinks LP’s, which are not actually their best - if it was to have included “Classic Albums”, then we’d have had the likes of “Something Else” or “Lola Vs Powerman”on here, although at least “The Kink Kontroversy” captures the band as they started to move away from rudimentary R&B, into the Blur-inventing lyrical and musical craftsmen we know and love today.

This box set, which at one point was supposedly an “HMV Exclusive” seems to be available seemingly anywhere, and includes the expanded editions of each album - originally issued back in 1998. The amount of extra material varies depending on what was released when - so “The Kink Kontroversy” has just four bonus tracks, whilst the other CD’s feature almost as many bonus tracks as were on the original LP’s, with the running time on both expanded from the length of a vinyl LP to that which fills up a whole CD.

Is it any good?

In a word, yes. This is the most essential of all of the Kinks Box Sets. The bonus tracks on each CD include not only all of the stand alone A-sides and B-sides from the period, but previously unreleased demos and alternate takes. You also get all of the material from the band’s first and third UK EP’s, which contained exclusive material (eight songs in total).

As an aside, of the remaining seven Pye era LP’s, all of the other studio albums were also expanded in 98, with virtually all of the non-album A sides and B sides appearing on the relevant releases. Each set also included previously unissued material, making them pretty much essential purchases. “Village Green” offered up the UK 15 track mono, and Overseas 12 track stereo albums - the only such reissue of the campaign to offer such a style of track listing. No reissues of the “Kelvin Hall” live LP include extra tracks.

The Marble Arch Years (2001, Castle CMGBX 318, includes reissues of “Well Respected Kinks”, “Sunny Afternoon” and “Kinda Kinks”)

You might think from the title that at some point, The Kinks signed to a label called Marble Arch and recorded three albums. Not at all. Marble Arch was the name of a Pye budget label, and these are the three albums that the label released between 1966 and 1969.

Given that most releases on budget labels get released, then deleted, and then effectively “replaced” by a far superior reissue, the idea of putting these three in a box seems strange - after all, I don’t see a box set of Beach Boys releases on the Music For Pleasure label. But the story is that the “Well Respected Kinks” LP, being a sort of “semi greatest hits”, became a huge seller, selling in greater numbers than the studio LP that had preceeded it, “Face To Face”. “Kinda Kinks” is the odd one out, being a straight forward reissue of the second LP, albeit in a new “Village Green” era picture sleeve.

Is it any good?

Sort of. The packaging is beautiful - the sleeves themselves are great, and the fold out sleevnotes insert comes with some fun reprints of 1960s newspaper adverts, and although the albums at the time were exciting in that they included non-album A sides and EP tracks, it’s all material that is easily available on other Kinks CD’s. If you simply have to own every album and best-of the band ever released, it’s a must buy. If not, the curiosity value might sway you, but musically, there’s nothing monumentally rare on this set.

The RCA Years (2006, Velvel 34677 98212, includes reissues of “Muswell Hillbillies”, “Everybody’s In Showbiz”, “Preservation Act 1”, “Preservation Act 2”, “A Soap Opera” and “Schoolboys In Disgrace”)

In 1971, The Kinks signed to RCA, for whom they would record six albums. There was no live LP during this period, although 1972’s “Everybody’s In Showbiz” was half studio/half live. Another label in the US issued “The Great Lost Kinks Album” during this period, a combination of previously unheard songs and other tracks never released in the States, but the LP was compiled without the bands' wishes, and was later withdrawn.

The RCA years are strange - there were no real hit singles during the period, although “Supersonic Rocket Ship” did dent the lower regions of the charts, but it remains a fascinating part of the band’s history. The last four albums were all concept records, the band even taking to performing some of them in full on stage, whilst “A Soap Opera” was even preceeded by the TV show “Starmaker”, a musical featuring songs from the LP with Ray Davies as the lead actor. The material from this period is, at times, amongst the best songs the band ever recorded - despite a critical mauling, even from other band members, I maintain “A Soap Opera” is a great lost classic, whilst the adoration for “Muswell Hillbillies” has grown over the years amongst the band and the fans. The six albums here were reissued in 1998, re-pressed in 2004, and this box, technically a US Import, surfaced in 2006.

Is it any good?

I would say so. With the exception of 1976‘s “Schoolboys”, every CD has extra tracks - most of them are previously unissued, whilst even the reissue of “Preservation Act 1” offers ’new’ material - two songs, previously only available as singles are included, but appear in remixed form. If you have none of these albums, this set is a worthy purchase.

The Arista Years (2006, Velvel 34677 98192, includes reissues of “Sleepwalker”, “Misfits”, “Low Budget”, “One For The Road”, “Give The People What They Want”, “State Of Confusion” and “Word Of Mouth”)

With their concept album years behind them, a more ‘Rock And Roll’ sounding Kinks signed to Arista in 1977, and would remain on the label for the best part of a deacde - a period in which their profile in the US continued to grow, whilst their UK following remained fairly static. Only when “Come Dancing” became a hit did people suddenly realise The Kinks had never gone away post-”Lola”. The Arista years spawned six studio albums, whilst 1980’s live LP “One For The Road” also appeared on Video and is currently available on DVD.

As with the RCA albums, Velvel acquired the rights to reissue the records in 1998 and 2004, with this US Box appearing in 2006.

Is it any good?

Hmmm. For some reason, the amount of “rare” material from the period seems a bit thin on the ground, and as such, several of the reissues come with no bonus tracks, and those that do tend to just include alternate mixes of songs from the albums that appeared on singles from the period, although “Sleepwalker” throws in a few B-sides and two versions of “On The Outside”. Unlike the RCA box, the previously released material does not appear in remixed form, so some of the reissues that are included in the set offer no “new” material at all.

If you have never bought an Arista label Kinks LP, then the set is worthy of consideration - but it’s also worth noting that with some copies retaining just shy of the £90 mark, it don’t come cheap. Also factor in the equation that all of these records have just been reissued again individually at a fiver each, and you can see that the VFM quota offered by this set is dubious.

The EP Collection (1998, Castle ESFCD 667,includes reissues of “Kinksize Session”, “Kinksize Hits”, “Kwyet Kinks”, “Dedicated Kinks”, “Kinks EP“, “Dave Davies Hits”, “The Kinks In Sweden”, “Waterloo Sunset EP”, “Dead End Street EP” and “The Village Green Preservation Society EP”)

Like The Beatles, The Kinks never quite committed to the concept of the EP. Some of their 60’s EP’s consisted exclusively of new recordings, others cobbled together old songs that people probably already owned. The band issued five (or six, more in a moment) EP’s in the UK, with “Kinksize Session” and “Kwyet Kinks” consisting of four new songs each - the latter including one of the most famous Kinks tunes, “A Well Respected Man”.

“Kinksize Hits” included the two biggies from the early days, “All Day And All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me”, along with their attendant B-sides. “Dedicated Kinks” threw in several hit singles on one pack, whilst “Kinks” offered up material from “Something Else”, in a near identical sleeve.

“Dave Davies Hits” was EP number six. Ray’s brother had started to record solo material whilst the band were working on “Something Else” and when that album’s highlight “Death Of A Clown” - a solo recording in all but name - was issued as a single, Pye decided to issue it as a Dave Davies 45, and not a Kinks one. In the end, Dave never quite got his solo career off the ground until much later in life, but not before “Susannah’s Still Alive” was issued as a stand alone 45 post-”Something Else”. “Dave Davies Hits” included four previously issued Dave sung “solo” songs, coupling these two A-sides with “Funny Face” and the astonishing “Love Me Till The Sun Shines”.

A box set of six EP’s is a bit of an odd number, so this 1998 box set included repressings of all of these EP’s in their original sleeves, plus four foreign releases and a poster. “The Kinks In Sweden” was not a recording of the band in Sweden, but simply a Swedish only EP which included “Sunny Afternoon” and three other oldies. The band were probably not even anywhere near Sweden when it was issued. The “Waterloo Sunset” EP originated from France, with three album tracks padding out the release. It was this EP that was later issued, in the same picture sleeve, as a UK single over 25 years later. “Dead End Street” was another French release, whilst the “Village Green” EP offered up four tracks from the 1968 UK 15 track LP in the same sleeve as the album of the same name. The appearance of “Last Of The Steam Powered Trains”, written about the end of mainline Steam Locomotives operating on British Railways in the same year, was an interesting choice, as the 12 track “overseas” editions of the album failed to include this song.

Is it any good?

CD Single Box Sets are a strange breed. The consensus is their target audience is something of a mystery. The hardcore fans would far soon have the original vinyl pressings, whilst they don’t appeal to the floating fan because the idea of having a greatest hits set spread across 10 CD’s is not particularly user-friendly. However, if like me, you simply want to own the band’s singles and EP’s, then this box is a convenient way of ticking off ten items from your “required records” list.

The EP Collection 2 (2000, Castle ESFCD 904, includes reissues of “Dandy EP”, “Long Tall Sally EP”, “The Kinks At Drop In”, “En Un Tarde De Sol Pye”, “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion EP”, “Till The End Of The Day EP”, “Mister Pleasant EP”, “Los Kinks Vol 9”, “Los Kinks Vol 10” and “Callejon Sin Salida”)

If the first EP box was filled out with a bit of padding by including four foreign releases, then this one went completely the other way - ten EP’s, all from overseas. In some ways, it works well - the ten releases here contain mostly different tracks on each disc, so you still get nearly 40 different songs in total, but it does make you wonder just how many more EP’s aren’t on these releases - after all, if there is a “Los Kinks Vol 9”, I assume there are “Los Kinks Vols 1 - 8” somewhere in existence.

In order, the EP’s originate from France, Sweden, Sweden, Spain, France, France, France, Mexico, Mexico, Spain. “Callejon Sin Salida” translates as “Dead End Street”. The other foreign titles do not translate to any of the songs on the relevant disc.

Is it any good?

Again, if you simply fancy having these EP’s in your life, it’s a must-buy. But if you are looking for a box set full of rare recordings, then this isn’t really the place to find them. Yes, “Long Tall Sally” is on here, as is the band’s finest hour, the UK B-side “Mister Pleasant”, but these are songs easily available elsewhere.

For the record: if you fancy owning all of the band’s UK singles, but are not bothered about the form in which you collect them, then the two EP box sets feature several EP‘s which have as their lead track a song issued as an A-side in the UK. I have listed the lead track on each of the EP’s in the two box sets where said song was also issued as an A-side in the UK. Where more than one song is listed, that means each song received equal billing on the front of the EP. The relevant releases are:

Kinksize Hits (You Really Got Me / All Day And All Of The Night)
Dedicated Kinks (Dedicated Follower Of Fashion / Till The End Of The Day / See My Friends / Set Me Free)
Dave Davies Hits (Death Of A Clown / Susannah’s Still Alive)
The Kinks In Sweden (Sunny Afternoon)
Waterloo Sunset EP (Waterloo Sunset)
Dead End Street EP (Dead End Street)
Long Tall Sally EP (Long Tall Sally)
En Un Tarde De Sol Pye (Sunny Afternoon)
Dedicated Follower Of Fashion EP (Dedicated Follower Of Fashion)
Till The End Of The Day EP (Till The End Of The Day)
Los Kinks Vol 9 (Death Of A Clown / Autumn Almanac)
Los Kinks Vol 10 (Days)
Callejon Sin Salida (Dead End Street)

This means the only Kinks 7” singles in the UK from the Pye Years that are fairly essential items are:
You Still Want Me
Tired Of Waiting For You
Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy
Plastic Man

I would like to try and go into greater details regarding the Kinks 45’s and hope to at least cover the Pye years in a future blog.


After the release of “Word Of Mouth” in 1984, the band then signed to London, for whom they recorded two more studio albums, “Think Visual” and “UK Jive”, and a live album “The Road”. In the 90s, they signed to Columbia and released what, for now, remains their last proper studio LP, 1993’s “Phobia”.

In 1994, inspired by the whole “Unplugged” trend, the band released the album “To The Bone” on their own Konk Records imprint. It consisted, in the main, of live acoustic recordings of material from throughout their career, book ended by “full band” electric recordings of “All Day And All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me” from a pair of 1993/1994 gigs. In 1996, a revamped and heavily expanded 2-CD edition of the album was released in the US, and then later released in the UK the following year. It came in a new sleeve, and concluded with a pair of new studio songs. A couple of songs from the original 1994 release were dropped in favour of these new songs - one of the “lost” songs, “Waterloo Sunset”, was issued as the lead track on a 4 track CD Single during 1994. To coincide with the 1997 release, Ray played a solo show at a HMV store in London, where he was joined for the performance of “Waterloo Sunset” by Cathy Dennis, who had just recorded her own version of the song which had been released as her then latest single.

Later in 1997, as a prelude to the expanded reissues of the Pye albums, Castle released “The Singles Collection”. It was certainly not the first Kinks best-of, but remains one of the few Kinks singles sets to include both “Long Tall Sally” and “You Still Want Me”. Lesser known singles like “Drivin’”, however, were ignored in favour of songs that were never actually released as UK singles, but had become well known over the years, such as “David Watts”. When first released, the album appeared as a double disc edition, with a free 15 track CD called “Waterloo Sunset - The Songs Of Ray Davies”, a sort of “alternative” best of. This CD includes four previously unissued demos, a live version of “Rock And Roll Fantasy”, and remixes of “Art Lover” and “Voices In The Dark”. Also included was the Stereo mix of “Waterloo Sunset”, long lost album tracks such as “Afternoon Tea” and “Holiday Romance”, plus that aforementioned greatest B-side ever, “Mr Pleasant”. With The Kinks having sort of gone on a long standing hiatus, with no concrete news as to whether or not they will ever play again, the “Waterloo Sunset” CD remains their final curtain call at present - reissues and box sets notwithstanding.

As mentioned earlier, I am hoping to go into the band’s 45’s in greater detail at some point next year, but for now, may I direct you to the excellent Kinda Kinks fansite, which gives track listings and details of all of the Kinks UK releases from 1964 to the present day.

Further reading:
Dave Emlen's Unofficial Kinks Website:

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