Review: The Kinks at the BBC
Published on August 16th, 2012 | Jonny Abrams
This collection of Kinks recordings for the BBC is a comprehensive enough document of their ’60s and ’70s output, and the performances are in general sufficiently strong and faithful to the studio versions to work, in theory, as a Best-Of-of-sorts for the casual fan.
For the Kinks superfan, it’s a bit of an outlay to make for a package that, while obviously full of golden music, won’t tell you too much that you didn’t know already. Early runs through of songs like “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night” take on a reedier quality than their fuzz-blast studio counterparts, while there are some entertainingly enthusiastic cover versions showcasing Dave Davies‘s rasping, rocky lead vocals.
Assorted thoughts by this point: “I’ve Got That Feeling” rivals “I’ll Remember” as Kinks Song That Sounds Most Like The Beatles (an admittedly, not to mention commendably, short list), there’s a different kind of syncopation to the main guitar part of “Tired of Waiting for You”, and there’s amusement and/or fond nostalgia to be gleaned from the inclusion of radio announcers’ introductions, such as the “Here come those four lads from London…” that paves the way for an airing of “This Strange Effect”, written by Ray but at the time a hit for Dave Berry.
“A Well Respected Man” of course ushers in the wittily observational Ray that would yield such a great six-album run from 1966’s Face to Face through to 1971’s Muswell Hillbillies. The Something Else material for some reason attracts some especially playful commentary from our announcer chum: “I think it gives them a great sense of power to do that” he says of the fade-out at the end of “Death of a Clown” (is Rocksucker hearing things or do they indeed include the tuneless harp stroke for the “old fortune teller” bit?), “Harry Rag” is curiously referred to as an “extraordinary epic”, while “David Watts” is met with a perfectly Smashie and Nicey-esque “fah fah fah to you too, mate!”. Is it Tony Blackburn?
“Get this beautiful introduction…oh, it’s too much!” whoever he is says before “Susannah’s Still Alive”, just one of the gems included here that are now available on Dave’s belatedly released first solo record, and “Mr Pleasant” is worthy of mention for managing to sound so very exuberant despite being down a brass section.
The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) are both sparsely represented, the latter getting only its title track and “Monica” on board, the latter just a harmonica and organ-supplemented “Victoria”. “Where Did My Spring Go?” is a fine reminder of the wealth of extra material from that era (“Berkeley Mews”, “Misty Water”, “Did You See His Name?” etc), “When I Turn Off the Living Room Light” a not-quite-as-fine reminder but pretty good nonetheless, questionable opening line (“It doesn’t matter if you’re Jewish”) notwithstanding.
Dig that thunderous drumming in Dave’s wonderful “Mindless Child of Motherhood” – also so great, a real lost classic, then the vampiness of Muswell Hillbillies cut “Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues”, the piano and brass of which spill over into renditions of LP mates “Holiday” and “Skin and Bone”, the latter in particular given the ‘show tune’ treatment, Ray conferring upon the former a rather different vocal phrasing to that on the album version.
From then on in The Kinks at the BBC is mostly comprised material from Everybody’s in Show-Biz, Sleepwalker and Preservation Acts I and II, which may or may not be your cup of tea but the performances are generally pretty spot-on. “Get Back in the Line” from Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround is a welcome addition, as is closer “Alcohol” from Muswell Hillbillies, Ray sounding particularly chipper in the latter with his stage banter, which includes asking the audience if there are any sinners amongst them, referring to himself as Johnny Cash, and the splendid-in-isolation “Hey, easy on the trombone, man”.
“Alcohol” is brought to an end in most theatrical fashion, encapsulating at once where many felt The Kinks went wrong from 1972 onwards and the band’s own refusal to give a damn what anyone else thought. All in all this is a worthwhile document of one of our very greatest bands, but it would be hard to argue it as being essential.
The Kinks at the BBC is out now on Sanctuary Records. For more information please visit www.thekinks.info.