This has turned into a banner year for The Kinks’ hardcore fans. Sanctuary Records – now a division of the Universal Music Group – has started to reissue classic Kinks albums as special, remastered, double-CD Deluxe Editions with a surplus of bonus material. The first Kinks reissues came out in mid-April and include the band’s UK debut, Kinks (Pye, 1964); the group’s English sophomore outing, Kinda Kinks (Pye, 1965); and The Kinks third UK long-player, The Kink Kontroversy (Pye, 1965). These three reissues mark The Kinks’ early legacy (1964-1965), from formation as an R&B/blues cover band following the path laid down by Manfred Mann, The Rolling Stones, and other likeminded English ensembles, to The Kinks’ American breakthrough, and on to the incipient original songwriting by co-founder Ray Davies, which would bear considerable fruit later in the 1960s.
The Kinks debut, originally released by Pye Records in 1964 (in the US, it was released by Reprise in an edited version as You Really Got Me), is justifiably famous for featuring the huge hit single “You Really Got Me,” which hit number one in England and leapt into the top ten in the US. That song, of course, has Dave Davies’ loud, distorted guitar riff that gives it a noticeably harsh sound which became enormously influential on the American garage rock scene and later helped shape the direction of hard rock and heavy metal. The debut’s 14 tracks are a blend of Ray Davies’ originals and de rigueur American rhythm and blues covers – some noteworthy and some atrocious – such as Chuck Berry’s “Beautiful Delilah,” Don Covay’s “Long Tall Shorty,” and Bo Diddley’s “Cadillac.” The most notable Davies’ track other than “You Really Got Me” is the simple, somewhat underdone “Stop Your Sobbing,” which avowed Kinks fan Chrissie Hynde escalated into a much better undertaking on The Pretenders’ eponymous 1980 inaugural album. Davies’ other songs include the Stones sound-alike “So Mystifying,” the Beatles-esque insomnia narrative “Just Can’t Go to Sleep,” and the derivative, bluesy boy/girl cut “I Took My Baby Home.”
The hour-long, 28-track Deluxe Edition version’s first disc has the original stereo versions of the 1964 album: 14 tunes plus 14 other assorted artifacts, including demos, mono numbers (including an unreleased mono demo of Davies’ “Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy”), and the four-song mono EP Kinksize Session. On the first disc, longtime Kinks aficionados will gravitate to a couple of 1963 mono demos by the pre-Kinks Boll-Weevils: Davies’ early stab at writing a beat group imitation “I Believed You” and a colorless rendition of The Coasters’ “I’m a Hog for You Baby.” Also of note is the stereo treatment of “You Really Got Me,” which boasts an unexpected reverb-tinged arrangement lacking the muscle of the better known mono version, though it nevertheless has historical merit. The second disc has the same 14 tracks presented in original mono plus an additional 14 cuts with alternate takes, BBC recordings and seven unreleased pieces.
The second disc – also an hour long – has several rare bonuses never officially heard before. There’s an alternative rave-up of Berry’s “Too Much Monkey Business” followed by an alternative rendering of “Got Love If You Want It,” a blues standard done by Slim Harpo that was also a live staple for The Yardbirds. Of more importance are BBC interviews and performances from late 1964, most of which have never materialized before, featuring run-throughs of a percussive-heavy “You Really Got Me,” a brisk, bass-driven “All Day and All of the Night,” and the Merseybeat-tinged “I’ve Got that Feeling.”
The second Kinks long-player, the 27-minute long Kinda Kinks (released by Pye in early 1965), was a rush job haphazardly put together in December 1964 between touring and promotional jaunts. It is considered by many to be a transitional endeavor. While Kinda Kinks is distinguished by Ray Davies’ originals – only two of the 12 tracks are covers (the obscure, bluesy “Naggin’ Woman” and a lackluster adaptation of the Martha and the Vandellas’ smash “Dancing in the Street”) – the record is widely considered the weakest of the early Kinks studio excursions. On the Deluxe Edition, the first disc collects the dozen tracks from the original mono release. The highlight is a holdover from the previous summer’s studio labor, the strong “Tired of Waiting for You,” which Kinks producer Shel Talmy had wisely saved. The cut became one of The Kinks’ biggest hits (number one in the UK and number six in the US). However, the pressure on Ray Davies to come up with album material resulted in songs with undeveloped lyrics focused on mostly unhappy moments with women. “Look For Me Baby” concerns someone the singer is hiding from; the folk-tinted, acoustic “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout that Girl” is about a man being wronged by a girl. The liner notes point out that the melancholy arrangement was inspired by the emerging underground London folk scene, not Dylan. During another acoustic composition, the Johnny Cash-like “So Long,” the singer says goodbye to his current romance. On the imitative “Wonder Where My Baby Is Tonight” Ray Davies can’t find his latest romance, and on the magnificent “Tired of Waiting for You” (later redone by Green Day, Dwight Yoakum, and Suzi Quatro) the narrator’s girlfriend is perennially late. She’s still late on the basic but driving “Come On Now.” During another Merseybeat replication, Davies pleads to his girl to “Don’t Ever Change” and, finally, the girl is distraught during the beat group dispatch “You Shouldn’t Be Sad.” Listened to closely, this music can result in a mood of condensed angst. The CD ends on a somewhat upbeat tone with the beautiful, Phil Spector-ish “Something Better Beginning.”
It is quite a different story for the far more interesting Kinda Kinks bonus disc, which collects mono singles showcasing The Kinks’ rapid development: the four-track, mono Kwyet Kinks EP; several Ray Davies demos; alternate takes; BBC sessions; and of special interest, four unreleased tracks. The most important song is “See My Friends,” a 1965 tune which is the first example of an Indian-influenced drone in British pop, created by Dave Davies using feedback. Ray Davies was stimulated in part during a stopover in India during an Asian tour, when he heard Indian fishermen chanting as they lay out their nets. While there is no sitar – The Beatles’ George Harrison was the first to play a sitar during “Norwegian Wood,” done later the same year – the song was clearly a portent of things to come, since other British rock bands also used Indian sounds or tones. Of the major cuts, “A Well Respected Man,” from the Kwyet Kinks EP, stands out as being a terrific radio hit as well as an early example of Ray Davies’ social commentary. The unreleased pieces include alternate takes for “See My Friends” and “Come on Now,” plus a pair of songs from BBC sessions, “You Shouldn’t Be Sad” and “Hide and Seek.”
The Kink Kontroversy (released by Pye in late 1965) basically said goodbye to The Kinks’ R&B aesthetic as well as the band’s early sound, and formally centered on Ray Davies’ songwriting skills, which were more philosophical and more deeply personal. Disc One of the Deluxe Edition has the album’s original 12 mono tracks and kicks off with The Kinks’ last ever cover tune, the blues standard “Milk Cow Blues” – a leftover from 1965 summer studio sessions – which was penned by Kokomo Arnold, although Sleepy John Estes is credited on The Kink Kontroversy. It has energy but is the kind of rhythm and blues rave-up The Kinks had already abandoned by the end of 1965. In the same spirit of moving on to other styles, the Merseybeat-inclined “When I See That Girl of Mine” can also be seen as Ray Davies’ final farewell to the beat group style. The Kinks’ future was in other directions, such as the elegiac “Ring the Bells,” Ray Davies’ acoustic ode to marriage. Optimism also colors the big hit “Till the End of the Day,” a pre-release radio knockout; melancholy memory shades one of Ray Davies’ strongest mid-1960s compositions, the standout “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” which meant so much to young Kinks fan David Jones that Jones recorded it eight years later when he was better known as David Bowie. “I’m an Island,” a forgotten gem, has a calypso arrangement which presages Davies’ future paean to the tropics, “Apeman.”
The bonus disc for The Kink Kontroversy has 17 cuts: mono singles, alternate takes, more BBC session material, and three unreleased tracks. The second disc opens with Davies’ sharply witted “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” a revenge narrative against dictated style makers that was The Kinks’ first 1966 single. An alternate take that escalates the song’s English dance hall influence is also included. Davies’ sarcasm also flows through “Mr. Reporter,” a swipe at Fleet Street muckrakers. Ray Davies’ weariness with relentless, tiring touring is exemplified on the roughly recorded demo for “All Night Stand,” which hinted at the nervous breakdown Davies nearly suffered during this period. As far as the unreleased material, “Never Met a Girl like You Before” is the key track to hear. The opening has a flippant reference to the intro for “Tired of Waiting for You,” no doubt put in to express The Kinks’ dissatisfaction with being told by their label to come up with material similar to previous Kinks’ singles. The rest of “Never Met a Girl like You Before” has a brisk arrangement reminiscent of the kind of manufactured pop music which labels would foist on the public later in the 1960s. The other two unreleased tunes include an alternate take of the single “I’m Not like Everybody Else” and a live version of “A Well Respected Man” from a BBC radio broadcast.
The stereo and mono material for all three re-mastered reissues has outstanding sound quality – improved from the thin production found on the original LPs – due to Andrew Sandoval and Dan Hersch’s detailed remastering. These recordings were never meant to have a high fidelity, audiophile quality (they were done with very low budgets in a short amount of time using primitive audio equipment) but the remastering job not only preserves The Kinks’ musical integrity and spirit but provides a prominent sonic push without too much excessive punch. Each CD set comes with a generous booklet filled with photos, artwork, information, and data on each track, sleeve notes concerning the making of each album, important anecdotal remarks (for example, why drummer Mick Avory doesn’t perform on most of The Kink Kontroversy), and lots of quotes from the autobiographies by the Davies brothers, Ray Davies’ memoir X-Ray (Overlook Press, 1995) and Dave Davies’ life story, Kink (Hyperion Books, 1996).
Sanctuary has continued to roll out other double-CD Deluxe Edition reissues, recently delivering Face to Face (Pye, 1966), Something Else by The Kinks (Pye, 1967) and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (Pye, 1969). A three-disc Deluxe Edition reissue of the landmark The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (Pye, 1968) came out back in 2009. A Deluxe Edition version of Muswell Hillbillies (RCA, 1971) was slated for June 2011 release but apparently is now on hold.