The Kinks – The Kinks at the BBC – album review

The Kinks – The Kinks at the BBC
CD
Available now 

A new box set delves into the BBC archive for classic recordings and forgotten tapes of The Kinks. 

As the reception to Ray Davies’ appearance at the otherwise dull Olympics Opening Ceremony proved, the songs of Ray Davies are some of the most loved and highest regarded of British music history, or indeed any music history.

However, like so many of his baby-boomer generation contemporaries, Ray Davies’ work delivered little of the promise of his late 1960’s peak ”“ something largely down to his 1970’s shift towards US-friendly rock, stifling his more observational instincts following the seemingly little public appetite for his Village Green fantasies (though this would disprove itself in time).

”˜The Kinks at the BBC’ captures the Muswell Hill quartet from their primitive beat group rumblings to their 1977 polished rock via a stream of some of the most perfect pop songs of all time. Songs that not only perfectly defined the era in which they were wrote but continue to be eternally relevant today.

Davies’ influence directly runs through the best of British music since, from Weller to Turner. The greatest irony is that for all of Davies’ well founded premonitions on the loss of Britain’s virginity to America and the big dollar, his band fell into the same trap just as quick by the tail end of the 1970’s. Though whilst most rock critics write the Kinks into oblivion once they were re-introduced across the Atlantic, ”˜The Kinks at the BBC’ does serve a refreshing reminder of some of their more inspired 1970’s moments, such as the sublime Yankophilic ”˜Celluloid Heroes’ and the poignant housing critique ”˜Demolition’.

Whilst parts of this compilation have been available before, Kinks fanatics will delight in the inclusion of the 1974 Hippodrome concert and the 1977 Christmas concert (both available in full on the 5 disc edition!).

Of course, this compilation pulls out many of the classics, beginning with a furious ”˜You Really Got Me’ and taking us neatly through ”˜Sunny Afternoon’, ”˜the Village Green Preservation Society’, ”˜Days’ etc, often punctuated by the joyful bursts of the legendary Brian Mathew, almost comedic in their kitsch antiquity.

A fantastically music hall rendition of the much underrated ”˜Harry Rag’ (Cockney rhyming slang for ”˜fag’ as in cigarette) and a stripped down, more piano-led ”˜Waterloo Sunset’ provide moments of genuine marvel amongst this compilation.

Whilst most of this compilation comes from the BBC archives, some nuggets have come from the bootleg collections of the fans that held onto things long after they were lost or destroyed by the BBC, adding an extra interest value to this compilation.

Like often the best of bands, the Kinks were completely out of step with the rest of British music at the time. The dating on the session tracks on this compilation are an interesting reminder of how in 1968 when the Beatles were dabbling in Eastern tunings and the sitar, the Kinks had been there three years earlier with ”˜See My Friends’ and had now turned their attention to vaudeville, variety and strawberry jam (and all the different varieties).

Though only two tracks from the genius ”˜Village Green Preservation Society’ LP feature on the compilation, the rare previously lost ”˜When I Turn Off The Living Room Lights’ and ”˜Where Did My Spring Go?’ from that era delight here.

As the fantastic accompanying booklet states on the subject of both the Kinks and the BBC; ”˜So central are both to British cultural life that it is not surprising that they should have collided and collaborated over the course of three decades’.

The compilation is a great testament to the supreme commitment to music broadcasting that the BBC has adhered to through ”˜Saturday Club’ to John Peel to 6Music and releases such as this in the modern age, as well as being testament to the genius and verve of one of Britain’s most celebrated bands, the Kinks.

All words by Fergal Kinney. You can read more from Fergal on LTW here.

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  1. If I’m allowed a bit of a shameless plug, here’s my take…
    http://drownedinsound.com/releases/17171/reviews/4145350

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