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Parallel Universe with Kinda Kinks Reissue
on May 8, 2011
I have always thought the original British release of "Kinda Kinks" (disc one in this reissue) was the weakest of all Kinks albums. True, there are many Ray Davies original compositions, and "Tired of Waiting for You" is one of their biggest hits. However, the album was largely recorded over three days between tours and promotions, and the hurried nature of the record is accompanied by songs about a woman that the singer is in turn hiding from, can't find, is out of reach, is too possessive, is gone, is sad, is changing, is late (in two songs!), is wronged, and is generally causing some sort of unhappiness. While this is somewhat typical of the Kinks, it adds up to an experience of concentrated anxiety. The beauty of the final song on disc one,"Something Better Beginning," somewhat redeems the album, but many of its songs are not among the Kinks' best.
However, the revelation of the first three recent deluxe Kinks reissues is the second disc of "Kinda Kinks." Recorded mostly over the first half of 1965, the first ten songs of disc two, plus two of the other bonus tracks ("I Go to Sleep" and "This Strange Effect") would have made a tremendous album in its time (in the U.S., "Kinks Kingdom" was almost this album) and shows amazing growth for the young group. It shines a spotlight on the parallel universe that existed between the Kinks early singles recordings and their albums.
Disc two starts off with "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy," which immediately lightens things up (even though it was the least successful early single of the Kinks, it is really quite good). Pessimist Ray returns with "Who'll be Next in Line," which was the flip side of the "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy" single that was flipped to the A side in the US because it was (and still is) such a strongly nasty effort.
"Set Me Free" and "I Need You" were the two sides of the next Kinks single, as the group was urged (much to their resentment) to go back to their proven hit sound. You would never know the group was so unhappy, as these two songs remain two of their strongest from this period. "I Need You" in particular returns to the buzz saw guitar sound of "All Day and All of the Night" and is a garage band headbanger (the Ramones lifted the feedback intro in their debut album eleven years later).
The Kinks show everyone that they could not be told what to do with the two sides of their next single, "See My Friends" and "Never Met a Girl Like You Before." Not only is the sound of "See My Friends" not their proven sound, the Kinks managed to release the first Indian-influenced pop song of the era. Not only did they manage to slip into the top 10 with this original sound, they also managed to greatly influence the pop music that followed for the second time already in their brief history (the first time being the distorted blues riff and manic guitar solo of "You Really Got Me"). The opening of "Never Met a Girl Like You Before" is a jokey reference to the opening of "Tired of Waiting for You" that was undoubtedly placed their sarcastically to show the Kinks' label that they were using that proven Kinks sound. What follows is a snappy number that could have been on the Monkees first album a year later. This song was almost never included on Kinks reissues in later years by the not-so-amused folks at Pye.
The next four songs are from the "Kwyet Kinks" EP that featured "A Well Respected Man." OK, I won't go to the "Kinks influencing everyone else" well again, but I will point out that I think this is the first non "boy-girl" hit by a major British Invasion group, and it begins to usher in the more mature Kinks sound of their Golden Years of 1966-71 (in fact, one could argue that this song is the beginning of their Golden Years). Among the other three songs on the EP, "Don't You Fret" stands out as a great Kinks song. It starts out as if the group is playing "Bald Headed Women" from their first album again (nooooo!), but it quickly shows off a very Ray Davies lyric (including pots of tea) and two rave up breaks that are everything great about the Kinks.
Among the rarities included on disc two, the aforementioned "I Go to Sleep" and "This Strange Affect" were written for others singers and never officially recorded in the studio by the Kinks. The demo and BBC recordings included here present stripped-down versions of two beautiful songs.
All in all, this deluxe reissue sounds fantastic thanks to a great remastering job and, for all the reasons mentioned above, is well worth purchasing. The weaker material of the first disc is more than compensated for in the second disc, a pleasant surprise for someone who thought he had heard it all when it came to the Kinks. Kudos to all involved with these reissues and please keep them coming!