Long one of the most recognizable names in the Brit-pop invasion of the 1960’s, The Kinks have made a long and fruitful career out of a mash-up of Pop, Blues, and R&B stylings, all channeled through the compelling minds of the Brothers Davies: Dave and Ray. Never quite achieving the superstar status of some of their other like-minded contemporaries, the band nevertheless has served as a guiding light for many current rock songwriters as evidenced by Ray’s recent collaboration with the likes of Britt Daniel, Lucinda Williams, and Mumford and Sons. Plus, there are still persistent rumors that the warring brothers may get the band back together and reunite, a venture that would surely prove to be as gratifying to concert promoters as it would to long-time fans and acolytes.
For the past several months, The Kinks have been in celebratory mode as many of their albums are being re-released in the deluxe format that has been all the rage amongst record companies of late. The latest installment here presents three of the band’s strongest ‘60’s releases into a repackaged format: 1966’s Face to Face, 1967’s Something Else, and 1969’s Arthur. Fans familiar with the music will appreciate the amped-up sound and alternate mono versions and studio outtakes that populate the releases. Newcomers may also find a wealth of discovery on these discs, notably the sarcastic wordplay on tracks like “Session Man” and “Most Exclusive Residence For Sale”, the vocal range on classics like “Victoria” and “Waterloo Sunset”, or the band’s garage rock fury on cuts like “Love Me ‘Til The Sun Shines” and “Party Line”.
These three albums also represent the era when The Kinks began to successfully tinker with their formula; introducing tinkling piano and string snippets that gave their music that whimsical quality that has made it a favorite of filmmakers like Wes Anderson, who consistently feature Kinks tracks in film scenes. Above all, the songwriting is at the center of most good Kinks tracks and particularly so on these releases. Simple love ballads and tales of longing and despair sit alongside pointed political swipes and grand, contrarian statements. It is this versatility that has always given The Kinks a bit of a sharp edge and distinguishes them as more than just Brit-pop purveyors.
As with all of their records, there is some filler on each album and the sheer quantity of tracks on these remastered versions makes navigating the albums in their entirety a tough process. However, the good far outweighs the bad and one would be well served in giving some attention to these three releases. They are a portrait of a band in their prime, building off past successes yet adding new developments and additions that proved vital to their legacy which continues to grow in these current times.