Friday, 19 November 2010
Wednesday, 10 November 2010
You can ignore all the nonsense about “but she doesn’t write all her own songs” - Elvis only ever co-wrote a handful, and nobody has a go at him. At the end of the day, a good song is a good song - and the likes of “Gimme More”, “Womanizer”, “Everytime” and “Toxic” are as good as they get. This is the first of a two part blog looking at Britney’s career - primarily, we will be concerned with her UK releases, but mentions of important overseas releases will be included. Next month, we shall look at Britney on DVD, but this month, it’s a look at her albums and greatest hits collections, and the singles taken from each.
For each album, a scan of the standard UK CD edition is shown, along with details of each of the singles taken from it. Because Britney has always appealed to the collectors scene, every one of her albums listed below have also been issued somewhere in the world in a limited edition format, and for each LP, I have selected one such item (UK or otherwise) that I would suggest you try and track down first. I have also listed important single releases - any formats which include nothing of interest are not listed. In the odd instance where a single was issued on both CD and Cassette with identical track listings, this is noted where relevant.
UK Singles: ...Baby One More Time, Sometimes, Crazy, Born To Make You Happy
Britney’s debut appeared in early 1999, although the promo campaign for the record kicked off in the US late in 98. It had a very notable “sound”, created by Max Martin, quite heavy on synthesized keyboards, which was apparent on both the fast and the slow songs. Some critics have pointed out that this worked brilliantly on the up tempo numbers, but not so well on the ballads. The title track, regularly referred to accidentally as “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, after the line in the chorus, came with an iconic “Britney The Schoolgirl” video, and represented the Max Martin sound at it’s very best.
The album was issued in a bewildering number of editions worldwide - the basic UK edition featured 12 tracks, ending with a cover of “The Beat Goes On”, but most “collectors pressings” featured extra songs, either at the end of the CD, on a second disc - or both. The title track was the first single, and was issued on two CD’s, each with different track listings and artwork - the second CD was done in a limited run, and sold out quite quickly, making it one of the premier UK Britney rarities. If you are not too fussed about the artwork, you might be able to find both the B-sides of this edition more easily on the French CD Maxi Single, which includes them both along with the video on the CD-Rom section of the disc. “Born To Make You Happy” was issued on both CD and Cassette, with different tracks on each format - the first such single to do so. In some overseas countries, “From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart” was issued as a single (and a video was filmed) but all of the B-sides were taken from otherwise available 45s from across the globe.
Trying to pick just one of the numerous foreign pressings is difficult - although the album was issued in the same sleeve as the UK one (referred to as the “International” sleeve, as the US one was completely different), each were then usually housed in a slipcase with a different photo. The best one is probably the Hong Kong double disc edition, the outer slipcase using a picture of Britney lying on the grass, arms folded, smiling for the camera - it includes two extra tracks on disc 1, and also includes a 4-track edition of the “You Drive Me Crazy” single, which includes “Autumn Goodbye” as the final track.
Recommended Version: Jive ROD 9153-4
…Baby One More Time (LP Version)/(Sharp Platinum Vocal Remix)/(Davidson Ospina Club Mix) (CD1, Jive 0521692)
…Baby One More Time (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/Autumn Goodbye (CD2 in diff p/s with poster, Jive 052275)
Sometimes (Radio Edit)/(Soul Solution Mid Temp Mix)/I’m So Curious (CD, Jive 0523202 - some, if not all copies, play B-sides in wrong order)
(You Drive Me) Crazy (The Stop! Remix)/(Spacedust Dark Dub)/(Spacedust Club Mix)/(Video) (CD, Jive 0550582)
Born To Make You Happy (Radio Edit)/(Bonus Remix)/(You Drive Me) Crazy (Jazzy Jim’s Hip-Hop Mix) (CD, Jive 9250022)
Born To Make You Happy (Radio Edit)/(Bonus Remix)/…Baby One More Time (Answering Machine Message) (Cassette, Jive 9250024)
Oops!...I Did It Again (Jive 9220392)
UK Singles: Oops!...I Did It Again, Lucky, Stronger, Don't Let Me Be The Last To Know
The first signs of a slightly more “grown up” Britney were evident on album number two, although the Max Martin sound was still in evidence. There was the slightly mental “I found it at the bottom of the ocean” middle eight of the title track, issued as the first single, whilst “Stronger” saw a bit of a pop culture reference to her first single, with the line “my loneliness ain’t killing me no more”, more or less being lifted from "Baby".
The title track was heavily remixed overseas, with a US CD single offering up a good 30 odd minutes of mixes, and came housed in a slightly different sleeve - same photo, but given a bit of what looked like a ‘Photoshop’ make over. Most of these mixes have never been released in the UK. All four of the singles issued in the UK appeared on at least two “essential” formats, with different track listings. Soon after the album’s release, Britney undertook her first world tour, and in the UK, the album was reissued as a new “Special UK Edition” to coincide, which added the B-side of “Lucky”, “Heart”, and a new song, “You Got It All”. These appeared before the final track on the CD, rather than after it.
Again, there are more “rare” formats of this LP worldwide than you can shake a stick at, but if you have to own just one, make it the superb French double CD. This includes the original 13 track record, but comes in a thick card case with a free CD Single. The CD Single is unique - it includes just one audio track, “You Got It All”, plus the videos for “Oops”, “Lucky” and “…Broken Heart”. The photo is a zoomed in version of the normal album cover, and original copies featured both the CD, CD Single and the slipcase in sealed shrinkwrap.
Recommended Version: Jive 6385 9220808 7
Oops!…I Did It Again (LP Version)/Deep In My Heart/From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart (Ospina’s Millennium Funk Mix) (CD, Jive 9250542)
Oops!…I Did It Again (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/From The Bottom Of My Broken Heart (Ospina’s Millennium Funk Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9250544)
Lucky/Heart/Lucky (Jack D Elliot Radio Mix) (CD, Jive 9251022)
Lucky/Heart/Oops!…I Did It Again (Jack D Elliot Club Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9251024)
Stronger/Walk On By/Stronger (WIP Remix) (CD, Jive 9251502)
Stronger/Walk On By/Stronger (Instrumental) (Cassette, Jive 9251504)
Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know (Album Version)/(Hex Hector Radio Mix)/(Hex Hector Club Mix) (Cassette, Jive 9251984 - also issued on CD but with photo cropped at bottom of sleeve)
Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know/Oops!…I Did It Again (Rip rock ‘N’ Alex G. Oops! We Remixed Again! Radio Mix)/Stronger (MacQuale Mix Show Edit)/Don’t Let Me Be The Last To Know (Video) (Enhanced CD, Jive 9252032)
Britney (Jive 9222532)
UK Singles: I'm A Slave 4 U, Overprotected, I'm Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman, I Love Rock 'N' Roll, Boys
So, depending on whether you refer to her as “Britney Spears” or “Britney”, makes this third album a self-titled affair - just like Deep Purple’s third record, for those of you who like to know these things. Britney was now properly grown up - the Neptunes produced lead single, “I’m A Slave 4 U”, sounded nothing like anything she had taped before; all bump and grind breathless raunch, complete with an equally steamy video. Interestingly, even though Britney was now maturing, her label in the UK still went ahead with issuing all her singles on the now-dying Cassette format, a format that at the time was primarily aimed at younger music fans, who could not afford Compact Discs. Unlike earlier Cassettes, the track listings for releases from this album matched the accompanying CD format.
There was still a Max Martin sound on the likes of “Overprotected”, but songs such as “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman”, was an obvious sign of a girl/woman starting to move onwards in life. The track became the “unofficial” theme tune to Britney’s movie issued at the same time, “Crossroads”, although several Britney songs were featured in the film. One such song, a cover of “I Love Rock N Roll”, at first looked like it would not get a UK release, and import copies turned up in the shops, but a UK version was eventually issued, with the same cover but different coloured text on the front - and different bonus tracks.
The original UK edition of the album was a 14 track affair, which “officially” ended on track 12, with a song called “When I Found You”. Track 13 was a “bonus” track, “I Run Away”, which later surfaced on the B-side of “I’m Not A Girl”, whilst track 14 was “What It’s Like To Be Me”. Overseas editions varied both in terms of track listings and artwork - pick of the bunch is the Australian CD/DVD set, which comes in a white and red slipcase, replaces “I Run Away” with “Before The Goodbye”, and also adds remixes of the first three singles from the LP as bonus tracks. There is also a DVD/CD edition - same content, but in a bigger box, and with a “longer” version of this picture on the cover.
Recommended Version: Jive 9223872 PAL
I’m A Slave 4 U (LP Mix)/Intimidated/I’m A Slave 4 U (Instrumental) (Cassette, Jive 9252894, also issued on CD)
Overprotected (Album Mix)/(JS16 Remix)/I’m A Slave 4 U (Thunderpuss Mixshow Edit (The Remix)) (Cassette, Jive 9253074, also issued on CD)
I’m Not A Girl Not Yet A Woman (Album Version)/(Spanish Fly Remix Radio Edit)/I Run Away (Cassette, Jive 9253474, also issued on CD in slightly diff p/s)
I Love Rock N Roll (LP Version)/(Karaoke Version)/Overprotected (Darkchild Remix Edit)/I Love Rock N Roll (Video) (CD with free postcards, Jive 9254202)
Boys (Co-Ed Remix featuring Pharrell Williams)/(Instrumental)/(LP Mix) (CD, Jive 9253912 - 12” also available in unique p/s with LP Mix of “Boys” replaced by “I’m A Slave 4 U”)
In The Zone (Jive 82876 576442)
UK Singles: Me Against The Music, Toxic, Everytime
Don’t quote me, but “In The Zone” really marked the move away from “teen idol” to “pop star”. A lot of Britney’s earlier releases had been issued in exotic packages to try and give the younger fans a bit of VFM, but “In The Zone” was pretty much issued in the same sleeve everywhere, no more free stickers or posters for the pre-teens to stick all over their walls. The UK edition did have three extra tracks - the 12 basic tracks were followed by the “Rishi Rich’s Desi Kulcha Remix” of “Me Against The Music”, “The Answer” and “Don’t Hang Up”.
“Me Against The Music” was the lead single - the last Britney “45” to be released on Cassette in the UK. In the US, it was issued on various formats including a 12” which featured mixes unavailable in the UK. The track featured the Princess and Queen of Pop together, as Madonna sang a short section in the bridge, and featured in the video. But despite this, “MATM” is a bit of a long lost Britney single - the follow ups, “Toxic” and “Everytime” seemed to garner greater adoration, and became bigger hits. It’s easy to see why - “Toxic” was just pure pop perfection, complete with an ingenious video, featuring Britney as a sexy air hostess, whilst “Everytime” was little more than Britney and a piano, a beautiful record, complete with a controversial but spot on video of “Britney” supposedly attempting suicide as she battles with the madness of the paparazzi. In a momentus moment near the end, an autograph hunter shoves a magazine towards her as she is carried off, semi unconscious, on a stretcher. Pop culture at it's most perfect. “Everytime” was the point at which Britney started to show, on record, the down side to fame, just as Madonna poured her heart out on the “Like A Prayer” LP.
Soon after the album was released, a DVD also titled “In The Zone” was released, including promo videos and TV spots - and a free 4 track CD single (more info next month). In France, a box set housing the CD, DVD and CD Single was issued, and is probably the most interesting version of “ITZ” available - although “Don’t Hang Up” is absent from this edition.
Recommended Version: Jive 82876 620219
Me Against The Music (Video Mix)/(Rishi Rich’s Desi Kulcher Remix)/(Peter Rauhofer Radio Mix)/(The Mad Brit Mixshow) (Cassette, Jive 82876 576434 - also available on CD)
Toxic (Album Version)/(Lenny Bertoldo Mix Show Edit)/(Armand Van Helden Remix Edit)/(Felix Da Housecat’s Club Mix)/(Album Mix Instrumental) (CD1, Jive 82876 602092)
Toxic (Video)/In The Zone Special (Video)/Toxic (Lenny Bertoldo Mix Show Edit) (DVD, Jive 82876 603669, blue p/s)
Everytime (Album Version)/(Hi Bias Radio Remix)/(Above & Beyond’s Radio Mix)/(The Scumfrog Vocal Mix) (CD, Jive 82876 626202)
Everytime (Video)/Breathe On Me (TV Performance - Video) (DVD, Jive 82876 626209, slightly “zoomed in” p/s)
Greatest Hits: My Prerogative (Jive 82876 666162)
UK Singles: My Prerogative, Do Somethin'
On first glance, it might seem strange that Britney should issue a “best of” after only five years in the biz. After all, it took Madonna about seven years to do hers. But, a quick scan of the track listing, and you realised just how many hits Britney had had up to that point. As is now commonplace, there were some new songs on the set, although one of the “new” songs listed on the sleeve wasn’t actually new at all, as “I’ve Just Begun” was included on the free CD that came with the “In The Zone” DVD.
Both the other two new songs were then issued as singles. The song which gave the collection it’s name, a cover of Bobby Brown’s so-so “My Prerogative” came first, although Britney struggled to make it into a classic. The video, featuring Britney rolling around in bed in her underwear, was more exciting than the song itself, so it was no surprise that the label issued a DVD single featuring the video. The single was also issued on two CD’s with different bonus tracks - a common practice in the UK since the early 1990’s, but this was Britney’s first UK single to go down this path. Each of the three formats came in slightly different covers, although the photo used was the same on each.
The other new song, “Do Somethin’”, was more impressive, and was issued on two CD’s. The second one played just one audio track, but had both the video for the single and a “Video Megamix” on the enhanced section of the disc.
When first released, the UK edition also appeared as a double disc set, with a slab of remixes on CD2. Most of these mixes had not been issued in the UK before, whilst the “Megamix” included was a longer version than those issued on the “My Prerogative” and “Do Somethin’” singles. This double disc set is an essential purchase.
Recommended Version: Jive 82876 652602
My Prerogative/Megamix (CD1, Jive 82876 652572)
My Prerogative (LP Version)/(Instrumental)/(X Press 2 Vocal Mix)/(Armand Van Helden Remix)/(X Press 2 Dub) (CD2, pink p/s, Jive 82876 652582)
My Prerogative (Video)/(Album Version) (DVD, unique p/s, Jive 82876 661529)
Do Somethin’ (LP Version)/(DJ Monk Radio Edit) (CD1, Jive 82876 682132)
Do Somethin’ (LP Version)/(Video)/Megamix (Video) (CD2 in diff p/s, Jive 82876 681922)
Blackout (Jive 88697 190732)
UK Singles: Gimme More, Piece Of Me, Break The Ice
The period from 2004’s “Greatest Hits”, to 2007’s “Blackout” saw a few odds and ends being released (a remix album, and a DVD with a free CD of four new songs), but the period was more notable for Britney’s private life - marriage, babies, divorce, and of course, that head shaving incident. But all that paled into insignificance with the release of “Blackout”, the subject of excitable reviews which saw Britney push her music further into the left field.
There was some mumbling about the lead single, “Gimme More”. The video, which saw Britney playing a pole dancer, was deemed to be indiciative of ‘Britney’s fragile state’, according to the tabloids, but this was of course a load of nonsense. The single was a thrilling, minimalist, electro rumble, opened with the brilling “It’s Britney, Bitch” scowl. Follow up, “Piece Of Me”, was even better - a knowing two fingered salute to the press, which was pure pop at it’s most subversive, with the most brilliant chorus - “I’m Mrs Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I’m Mrs ‘Oh My God, That Britney’s Shameless’, I'm Mrs Extra Extra This Just In, I’m Mrs She’s Too Big Now She’s Too Thin” - sheer brilliance.
Of the three “Blackout” singles, only one featured a new song on the B-side, with was the third and final release, “Break The Ice” - the previous singles featuring remixes of the A-side instead. This new song, “Everybody”, was one of four songs Britney taped for “Blackout” that failed to make the cut - in the UK at least. In Japan, all four were added on to the end of a limited edition version of the CD as bonus tracks, and it is this edition which is the most desirable to collectors.
Recommended Version: Jive BVCP 21572
Gimme More (LP Version)/(Kaskade Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 186762)
Piece Of Me (LP Version)/(Boz O Lo Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 221762)
Break The Ice/Everybody (CD, Jive 88697 290262)
Circus (Jive 88697 406982)
UK Singles: Womanizer, Circus, If U Seek Amy
Britney was seen by some parts of the media, by now, as a bit of a “faded” star and when it was revealed that she was going to release an album in 2008 with a similar title to one being issued by Take That, the tabloids went into overdrive. When Take That’s album was revealed to be selling quicker, it was seen as some sort of sign that Britney was past it. Not a jot of truth. Whilst the Take That album was a load of overblown, airbrushed, MOR tosh, Britney’s LP was a continuation of the exhilarating sound of “Blackout”, exemplified none more so than on lead single, “Womanizer” - as exciting a single as any she had made up to this point. In the US, the single hit the number one spot.
“Circus” rather unusually featured an “old” track, as the “Blackout” song “Radar” was re-recorded for inclusion on the LP. The title track was issued as single number two, with a remix of “Womanizer” on the B-side, although Britney blotted her copybook a bit on the promo campaign for the single, as her mimed performance of the song on “The X Factor” saw her receive a fair bit of criticism. The follow up single, the cheekily titled “If U Seek Amy” (say the title fast, you should be able to work out the joke), came backed with a remix of the previous single - yet again. “Radar” was then issued as a promo only single, having originally been planned to have been a commercially released single when it had appeared on “Blackout” a year previously. Promos of that version of the song also exist.
As well as being issued as a standard 14 track edition, “Circus” was also released at the time in the UK with two extra tracks (“Rock Me In” and “Phonography”), along with a free DVD. The colours used on the artwork of this edition differed very slightly, and it’s extra material make it one of the most desirable editions of the album released worldwide.
Recommended Version: Jive 88697 407752
Womanizer (LP Version)/(Instrumental) (CD, Jive 88697 409422)
Circus/Womanizer (Mike Rizzo Funk Generation Radio) (CD, Jive 88697 455282)
If U Seek Amy/Circus (Joe Bermudez Radio Remix) (CD, Jive 88697 487822)
The Singles Collection (Jive 88697 623422)
UK Singles: none
Another greatest hits? Even though there was a five year gap from Britney’s debut single to “Greatest Hits”, and another five year gap from that to this, Britney was nowhere near as productive in this second five-year period, which did make the idea of another best-of collection a bit strange. It was almost as if she had recorded another song, and not knowing what to do with it, decided to stick out a singles collection with it tagged on.
There was only one new song on this set, which despite it’s title, didn’t actually include all of Britney’s singles. “3”, a rather risqué number about the good/bad concept of a threesome, was another blistering piece of electro pop, but despite being issued as a single in some countries, it remained promo only in the UK. Unusually for a greatest hits set, the song appeared at the start of the CD, before the remainder of the record continued in normal chronological order.
“The Singles Collection” was issued in a variety of formats. In the US, it was released as a multiple CD Box Set, with each song coming in it’s own picture sleeve, using the same cover as the original single release. There were more "hits" on the boxset version, as every Britney single ever released (including tracks not on the UK CD) made an appearance. The only snag was that each CD only included one bonus track, so singles which had previously featured multiple B-sides appeared here with most of these missing. If you had never bought a Britney single in your life, the box set was a worthy purchase, but it did seem to offer less than it could have done (compare it to the gargantuan Girls Aloud Singles Box). It did include non-UK singles like “Outrageous”, “Radar”, and “3” - but it sold for a LOT of money. Finding a copy for less than £100 is not that easy.
A DVD featuring Britney’s videos was included in the box set, whilst in the UK, the limited edition version of the release came in a different coloured sleeve with the DVD as a freebie, although not all of the videos that could have been included were included. Whilst the DVD had been housed in it’s own picture sleeve in the box set, it was simply included sleeve-less in the UK double disc edition. Still, the OTT price structure of the boxset, in lieu of it’s lack of material, make it - in my view - less impressive than the double disc set, and that’s the edition that I would suggest you go for if you have all of Britney’s singles already.
Recommended Version: BMG 88697 62345 2
In addition to all of the above, there are a series of other interesting Britney items, some of which have only ever been available on import.
In 2000, Jive put their two star names at the time - Britney and N Sync - on a split 8 track CD titled “Your #1 Requests And More!”, which was sold exclusively through McDonalds. At the time, N Sync’s leader Justin Timberlake and Britney were the subject of much “are they or aren’t they dating” talk, giving the release a bit more intrigue than if it had just been Britney and another Jive Records act. The four Britney songs all originated from the “Oops” album, and although the title track was included on the set, it appeared in a remixed form.
At around about the same time, a series of Britney dolls were issued - and several of them came with free CD Singles. There was (more or less) a doll for each of the singles Britney had released from her first two records, with each doll coming in a different outfit with different accessories. The free CD included just the one song, the radio or album version of said single, and was housed in a plain white sleeve. Suffice to say, copies of the dolls sold intact with the CD as well are now worth a few quid. There was also a “play stage” - this was basically a big stage with a Britney doll in the centre, and if you pressed a button, it played a bit of an old Britney hit! Mental - suffice to say, I own this ridiculous item…
Also issued earlier in her career were a series of MCD’s - never heard of the format? Well it stood for (almost) “Musical Key Chain” and was exactly that - a key ring made of a big slab of plastic, which could either play a short burst of a Britney song, or the whole thing. Pressing different buttons played the edit or the full song. The MCD's originally came housed in some tough plastic packaging, packaged like a toy rather than a record. I am not sure how many different ones were issued, but I do know that at least one such MCD used a track that had never previously been issued as a single. Each MCD used a photo of Britney on the box, and where the song had previously been issued as a single, the original artwork from said single release was used for the pack.
2005 saw the release of the most forgotten of all of Britney’s releases - the “B In The Mix” remix album. A mixture of old and new mixes, the album rather strangely featured a new Britney song - albeit in remixed form, “And Then We Kiss”. The song has not appeared anywhere else since, and most certainly not in it’s un-remixed form, although I am sure the masters are locked away somewhere at BMG.
Next month, we shall look at Britney on Video and DVD - the format which she was born to exist on.
Britney's official site: http://www.britneyspears.com/
Friday, 5 November 2010
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
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.
Dave Emlen's Unofficial Kinks Website: http://www.kindakinks.net/