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I first discovered the music of The Kinks through listening to a couple of sixties compilation albums that my parents owned, I had heard 'You Really Got Me' , 'Sunny Afternoon' and 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion'. I was about 9 years old and I just liked the music, I didn't really read much more into it than that. The Jam released a cover of 'David Watts' as a double A-side and on their album 'All Mod Cons' and listening to that album I started to become more lyrically aware, it was then that I heard one of the main influences on this album was Ray Davies song writing. Ray Davies style of writing was different to anything else I had heard, he didn't just write songs, he wrote little 3 minute stories, observations of what he had experienced/seen. I bought a Kinks greatest hits album and every song was catchy, sing along and most important to me; it had a point to it. Like The Beatles, even The Kinks B-sides were just as good as the A-sides and even a lot of their album tracks were good enough to have been singles. This compilation is a mixture of some of the best of their catalogue from 1964-1984, the first CD has all the singles and the second CD has rare tracks, singles not released in the UK and album tracks, everyone of them as strong as the other, musically and lyrically.
Ray Davies - Vocals/Guitar, Keyboards/Vocals
Dave Davies - Guitar/Vocals
Mick Avory - Drums
Pete Quaife - Bass/Vocals : 1964 - 1969
John Dalton - Bass/Vocals : 1969 - 1976
Jim Rodford - Bass/Vocals : 1978 - 1996
Nicky Hopkins - Keyboards/Vocals at various intervals throughout, but mainly from 1970 - 1984
==Brief Outline of the Group==
Ray and his brother Dave Davies formed The Kinks in 1962 along with two of their childhood friends; Mick Avory and Peter Quaife, it was not long after their formation that the band signed a record deal with Pye records. They released a couple of cover versions as singles which flopped, it was then that Ray wrote what would be the song that would catapult the band into the stratosphere...'You Really Got Me', from then on the hits just flowed. In the twenty years covered by this album the band 24 singles in the UK, including 14 top ten hits, and 3 number one singles. The band also released 20 studio albums, with 3 of them hitting the top ten. In 1996 the band split up, after years of sibling rivalry between the brothers (these were the original Gallagher brothers, even now they have a love hate relationship)it's hard to understand how they lasted as long as they did. Ray still tours solo and he performed 'Waterloo Sunset' at the closing ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games. The Kinks were as English a band as you could get, and their influence can be heard in works by The Jam, Blur, Oasis, The Ramones, The Clash and many others.
I'll run through all the singles on disc 1 and the best from disc 2.
Disc 1 opens with one of the most distinctive guitar riffs of all time, if you have never heard 'You Really Got Me' I would imagine you have been living on the moon all of your life. The whole song is based around a power chord riff, which has been credited with influencing heavy metal artists years later. The distorted sound was done by Dave slicing an amplifier and sticking a pin in it, this became the distinctive Kinks sound for a few of their hits. No matter how many times I have listened to this track (too many to mention) I never tire of it, and it has to be listened to loud. The song was released in August 1964 and reached number 1 in the UK Singles Chart, where it stayed for two weeks, it is the song that defines The Kinks and is still played live today.
The bands second single 'All Day and All of the Night' incorporates a similar distorted guitar sound to 'You Really Got Me'. This song was released in October 1964 and managed to reach number 2 on the UK Singles Chart. The song starts with a guitar riff and the vocal seems to start off quite low before building up to the chorus, it just seems like it gets louder and louder before coming back down again. This is such a great tune that it has been covered by bands such as The Stranglers (it was actually this version that I heard first) and Alvin and the Chipmunks. Another track that stands the test of time and definitely one of their best.
I first heard 'Tired of Waiting for You' on an advert years ago (can't remember what the advert was for), but I didn't know who it was by, all I knew was that it was pretty catchy (probably the reason it was chosen for an advert). The song opens with a nice little bit of finger picking guitar before the band kicks in. After the fast pace rock of the previous two songs, this is a welcome piece of melancholy. I love Ray's voice when he hits those high notes, you almost think he's not going to make it, as the song has so many changes in tone through it. This became the bands second number 1 single in January 1965.
One of my least favourite songs by The Kinks, 'Everybody's Gonna Be Happy' was released in March 1965, and it got to number 11 in the UK Singles Chart. It always reminds me of the type of songs Elvis Presley was singing in his movies at the time, really repetitive and mediocre.
'Set Me Free' would be in my top ten of my favourite songs by The Kinks. The song starts off with a slow distorted guitar, before heading into another slice of melancholy. Even though it is really repetitive with one verse and one chorus repeated over and over, it is a lovely song to sing along to. Davies pleading to his girl to set him free because he can't bear her to share him with anyone "I don't want no one, If I can't have you to myself. I don't need nobody else, If I can't have you to myself". This song was released in May 1965 and reached number 9 in the UK Singles Chart.
Probably my least favourite single by The Kinks; 'See My Friends' is up next. I was never a fan of The Beatles when they started to incorporate Indian music into pop songs, however, I did like the Rolling Stones when they did it, this song preceded both of those tracks and for me it just doesn't work, the whole song just seems dull and boring. Ray's vocal on this just seems to drone on all through the track, I am shocked that the song made the UK top ten, albeit only just, reaching number 10 in July 1965.
'Till the End of the Day' is a return to form with a high tempo rocky number built around power chords, well that formula seemed to work on their first two singles and it does work here too, although not with the same effect. This was released in November 1965 and reached number 8 on the UK singles chart.
Fashion was a big thing in the sixties, and in London, Carnaby Street was the fashion epicentre of Great Britain. Davies wrote this little observational tale about the people who swamped the fashion stores searching for the latest trends, it's the only song that includes the phrase "Carnabetian army"; a term coined by Davies to describe the fashion hungry who frequented the various boutiques in Carnaby Street. The song doesn't sound like anything the band had done before, it was done as a music hall jolly up, with the catchy chorus shouts of "Oh yes he is!". The song was released in February 1966 and reached number 4 in the UK Singles Chart.
'Sunny Afternoon' was the bands third and final number 1, it was released in June 1966 and stayed at the top of the charts for two weeks. During Harold Wilsons reign as Prime Minister through the 1960's people that earned a lot of money, such as successful musicians were placed in a Super Tax scheme, which meant 95% of their earnings went to the Inland Revenue. The first verse attacks the tax man, singing "The tax man's taken all my dough(slang for money) and left me in my stately home lazing on a sunny afternoon". In the next verse he sings about his girlfriend leaving him, "My girlfriends gone off with my car, gone back to her ma and pa, telling tales of drunkenness and cruelty". The song does have a happier tone though, as despite these troubles, the singer is quite happy lazing on a sunny afternoon with his beer. The songs mood is set by the piano, which is a different direction from the guitar heavy tracks that have preceded it. Even though it is one of their biggest hits, it isn't a favourite of mine and I would be quite happy to leave it out of my top ten favourite Kinks tracks. I think I heard it too much when I was younger, and it's not the type of song I could listen to over and over again.
Another piano laden song; 'Dead End Street', a song about living in squalor is up next. This is one of my favourite songs by the group, it has just got some amazing observational lyrics. From the song that preceded it, where the singer describes sitting in his stately home, we have a song about the other end of the spectrum, where the singer is living in a rundown flat and looking for hope to get out of it, but ultimately there is no hope, as they are second class citizens. The song was released in 1966 and reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart accompanied by a controversial(at the time) video of them leaving a house in a coffin etc, which the BBC banned.
'Waterloo Sunset' is one of The Kinks best loved tracks and is the song Ray performed at the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It's a lovely tale supposedly about Terrance Stamp and Julie Christie who were romantically involved at the time, hence the characters "Terry" and "Julie" in the song. The song starts off with Peter Quaifes bass intro before the distinctive riff by Dave, this song also has some lovely harmonies and a lovely sentiment to it. I would rank this as my second favourite track by the group (we haven't come to my favourite yet). This was released as a single in May 1967 reaching number 2 in the UK Singles Chart.
'Autumn Almanac' is an observational song about great British traditions, such as; Drinking tea with a toasted buttered currant bun, watching football on a Saturday, having roast beef on a Sunday and going to Blackpool for a holiday. When I listen to the Blur song 'Sunday Sunday' it seems that Blur were definitely inspired by this track, as similar imagery is used. The song is done in a music hall style again with the piano being the prominent instrument again. The song was released in October 1967 and was to be their last UK top ten hit for 3 years peaking at number 3.
Possibly the worst ever song by the group, 'Wonderboy', it's a kind of folksy type tune and doesn't even sound like The Kinks, I normally skip this track. The song was released as a single in April 1968 and was their worse chart performance since their two cover versions prior to 'You Really Got Me', peaking at number 36.
'Days' is a fantastic track, Kirsty MacColl covered it in 1989 and if you haven't heard the original, here it is. It is hard to tell which version is better, as they are equally good. The song is very folky and catchy, it was released as a single in January 1969 and reached number 12 on the UK singles chart, incidentally, so did Kirsty MacColls version.
'Plastic Man' seems to be about fake people and it would have been a hit had the BBC not refused to play it because it contained the word "bum"(oh how times have changed), it only reached number 31. Not the greatest of their singles but certainly not their worst either.
'Victoria' was the first track from their concept album (everybody was making them) 'Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)', it was also a return to the charts for the group, as their previous two singles 'Drivin'' and 'Shang-ri-la' ( my favourite Kinks track) had failed to chart. The song reached number 33 in October 1969.
'Lola' saw a return to the top ten for the band, it tells the story of meeting a transvestite in a club in Soho. It is a great song and lyrically perfect, the song is really funny when he describes the encounter " Well I'm not the world's most physical guy, but when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine". The song reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart in June 1970.
The next two tracks 'Apeman' and 'Supersonic Rocket Ship' have a calypso feel to them and to be honest here, I think the band should have quit after Lola, as these are nowhere near their best and it doesn't get better from here. 'Apeman' was to become the bands last top ten single peaking at number 5 in November 1970 and 'Supersonic Rocket Ship' was to be their last top twenty single until 1983, peaking at number 16 in May 1972.
'Better Things' was definitely the worse title they could have chosen for this song, it only managed to reach number 46 in the chart in June 1981, the bands best days were totally behind them; their last 27 singles had failed to chart. This is not The Kinks I want to remember, this track in my opinion is nothing more than a cheesy pop song.
'Come Dancing' saw the band return to the top twenty, it's a back to form for Ray Davies with a story song about remembering how his sister used to go dancing on a Saturday at the club that's now a parking lot. The song has a nice romantic touch as he explains he used to love watching his sister come home and kiss a guy goodnight. The song is quite keyboard heavy, well it was the early 80's. 'Come Dancing' reached number 12 in November 1982 and marked the last time The Kinks would ever reach that high in the charts, with the next track 'Don't Forget to Dance' only reaching number 58 in September the following year, and enough said about that one really.
For me, the stand out tracks on Disc 2 are 'David Watts', ' Stop Your Sobbing', 'A Well Respected Man', and ' Shangri-La', the other ones are good but these are the best of the bunch.
As mentioned previously, I first heard 'David Watts' covered by The Jam and I loved the story of the guy at school that everyone wants to be like, holding him up as some kind of superhero. The Kinks version has a much lighter feel and starts off like a demo and when the piano starts it kind of trots along like a horse. The song was released on the album 'Something Else by The Kinks' in 1967.
'Stop Your Sobbing' has a lovely vocal to it and it sounds like an early Beatles track, right down to the harmonies. Not a very nice song when you look into the lyrics "There's one thing you gotta do, to make me still want you, gotta stop sobbing at all". This appeared on the bands debut album and was covered by The Pretenders on their debut album in 1979 (Chrissie Hynde and Ray Davies were seeing each other at the time).
'A Well Respected Man' is an observational tale of the middle and upper classes, wondering what makes them so respectable when they are just the same as the lower classes. The song is done in a music hall style, I like the way he puts on a posh accent when singing "He goes to a regatta, he adores the girl next door cos he's trying to get at her". The song was released on the EP Kywet Kinks in 1965.
My favourite Kinks track, 'Shang-ri-la', tells the story of an old man who feels safe in his house, which he calls 'Shang-ri-la' (meaning paradise) as the song goes on you hear that his paradise is more like a prison " The gas bills and the water rates, and payments on the car, too scared to think about how insecure you are, life aint so happy in your little shangri-la", quite a sad song really. It is done in a kind of operatic style split into different sections, the mellow verse section, the high speed break , then back to the mellow verse section before building up into a choral crescendo. I would recommend buying this album purely for this track alone, it truly is a beautiful song. This was released on the album 'Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire)' and was also released as a single, but it failed to chart, god knows why.
**All songs composed by Ray Davies unless otherwise stated**
1) You Really Got Me
2) All Day and All of the Night
3) Tired of Waiting for You
4) Everybody's Gonna Be Happy
5) Set Me Free
6) See My Friends
7) Till The End of the Day
8) Dedicated Follower of Fashion
9) Sunny Afternoon
10) Dead End Street
11) Waterloo Sunset
12) Death of a Clown (Dave Davies)
13) Autumn Almanac
14) Susannah's Still Alive
17) Plastic Man
21) Supersonic Rocket Ship
22) Better Things
23) Come Dancing
24) Don't Forget to Dance
1) David Watts
2) Stop Your Sobbing
4) Mr Pleasant
5) I Gotta Move
6) Who'll Be the Next in Line
7) I Need You
8) Where Have All the Good Times Gone?
9) Sittin' on My Sofa
10) A Well Respected Man
11) I'm Not Like Everybody Else
12) Love Me Till the Sun Shines
13) She's Got Everything
16) God's Children
17) Celluloid Heroes
18) (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
19) Do It Again
20) Living On A Thin Line (Dave Davies)
This album is relatively cheap for what you are getting; 44 songs with only a couple of weak ones. The ultimate retrospective of one of the greatest bands to come out of swinging sixties Britain and also one of the greatest songwriters to ever come out of Britain.
amazon.co.uk = £9.49 including delivery = Just over 21p per song
grooves-inc.co.uk = £4.66 including delivery = Just over 10p per song
Overall this is a fantastic introduction to the music of The Kinks and the songwriting skills of Ray Davies. The majority of the songs on disc 1 are brilliant, with only a few weak ones. Tracks 1-15 on disc 2 are good with some really stand out tracks, I didn't really like anything the band did after Lola, so I would always miss tracks 20-24 on disc 1 and tracks 16-20 on disc 2. The thing I like about this album compared to 'The Singles Collection' is that it has some album tracks and B-sides which are really good and should have been singles, and plus, I haven't found any other compilation that has 'Shang-ri-la' on it. This compilation has something for everybody on this, from a time when music was music!
The Ultimate Collection
If you like the Kinks, then this is a must buy.
1. "You Really Got Me"
2. "All Day and All of the Night"
3. "Tired of Waiting for You"
4. "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy"
5. "Set Me Free"
6. "See My Friends"
7. "Till the End of the Day"
8. "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"
9. "Sunny Afternoon"
10. "Dead End Street"
11. "Waterloo Sunset"
12. "Death of a Clown" (Dave Davies)
13. "Autumn Almanac"
14. "Susannah's Still Alive" (Dave Davies)
17. "Plastic Man"
21. "Supersonic Rocket Ship"
22. "Better Things"
23. "Come Dancing"
24. "Don't Forget to Dance"
1. "David Watts"
2. "Stop Your Sobbing"
4. "Mr. Pleasant"
5. "I Gotta Move"
6. "Who'll Be the Next in Line"
7. "I Need You"
8. "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?"
9. "Sittin' on My Sofa"
10. "A Well Respected Man"
11. "I'm Not Like Everybody Else"
12. "Love Me Till the Sun Shines" (Dave Davies)
13. "She's Got Everything"
16. "God's Children"
17. "Celluloid Heroes"
18. "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman"
19. "Do It Again"
20. "Living On A Thin Line" (Dave Davies)
The Kinks were oringially formed in 1964 by two brothers, Ray Davies and Dave Davies. The two brothers were to form the backbone of the band as other members came and went for the next 30+ years of being together. The first song on this double album is their first massive hit, featuring as Ray puts it himself, the "barking dog sound" of his brothers electric guitar - which was to become instantly recognisable as a Kinks trade mark.
Ray was perhaps the main man behind the band. He wrote and sang on the majority of the bands songs. The method of his writing can clearly be seen on this compilation album. His viewpoint on the world can clearly be seen in many of the songs that are included on this album. From the "Empire" of Queen Victoria to a person's perfect home in "Shangri-La" but not really a Shangri-la as other homes on the street are identical.
This double album contains 44 songs over 2 disks. It isn't just a back catalogue of everything Ray Davies did in the group, but also features songs by Dave Davies, such as Death of a Clown, which ultimately was to give him the nickname Dave "Death of a Clown" Davies, as his unique voice adds a new dimension to the band. The songs are a perfect way to either get to know the Kinks music more in depth, or if you are already a keen follower, a nice blend of songs taken from many different albums. My personal favourite albums are represented on this compilation, Arthur and the Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society.
The insert of the album comes with information such has who wrote the song (mainly Ray) but more importantly perhaps what the original album was that the song was taken. So if you like a particular song on this album then you can see where it originated and perhaps purchase the other one as well to build up your collection of The Kinks music, or to remind you what album it is if you already have it.
By listening to the variety of songs on this album you will begin to appreciate The Kinks, who at the time were overshadowed by The Beatles, The Who and others. They are now recognised as one of the most influential English bands of all time, entering the Hall of Fame in 2005, however the band are no more. Dave and Ray, the existing members fell out - as brothers do, and tour separately, but the myth of the group getting back together will always be circulated, hopefully one day they will return.
This album can be bought for as little as £5 and due to the number of tracks on both disks and the quality of the music, both lyrically and sound this is well worth the money. I do recommend that the first time you listen to the album, if it's the first time you have heard any of the Kinks songs, listen carefully to the lyrics and you will begin to appreciate the genius of Ray Davies - a true genius.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 You Really Got Me - Shel Talmy, The Kinks
2 All Day And All Of The Night
3 Tired Of Waiting For You
4 Everybody's Gonna Be Happy
5 Set Me Free
6 See My Friend
7 Till The End Of The Day
8 Dedicated Follower Of Fashion
9 Sunny Afternoon
10 Dead End Street
11 Waterloo Sunset
12 Death Of A Clown
13 Autumn Almanac
14 Susannah's Still Alive
17 Plastic Man
21 Supersonic Rocket Ship
22 Better Things
23 Come Dancing
24 Don't Forget To Dance
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 David Watts
2 Stop Your Sobbing
4 Mr. Pleasant
5 I Gotta Move
6 Who'll Be Next In Line
7 I Need You
8 Where Have All The Good Times Gone
9 Sittin' On My Sofa
10 A Well Respected Man - Shel Talmy, The Kinks
11 I'm Not Like Everybody Else
12 Love Me Till The Sun Shines
13 She's Got Everything
16 God's Children
17 Celluloid Heroes
18 (Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman
19 Do It Again
20 Living On A Thin Line