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Category:    Home > Reviews > Rock > New Wave > Pop > British > The Kinks SACD Wave One

The Kinks SACD – Set One (Velvel Records/Koch Records)


                                                                   Sound:     Music:


Muswell Hillbillies (1971)                                   B              B+

Preservation Act 1 (1973)                                 B              B+

Preservation Act 2 (1974)                                 B              A-

Schoolboys In Disgrace (1975)                          B              B

Misfits (1978)                                                  B+            B

One for The Road (1980)                                   B              B

Give The People What They Want (1981)            B+            B-

State Of Confusion (1983)                                B+             B

Word Of Mouth (1984)                                      B+            B-



The Kinks are one of the British Invasions most enduring bands because they were one of the most daring and honest.  Forming back in 1963, they hit quickly with You Really Got Me the year following and they were on their way, bringing Raymond Douglas Davies to the creative forefront of Rock.  The newly formed Velvel Records has made a nice chunk of their original RCA/Arista releases the initial launch titles of the new company, all presented as hybrid Super Audio CDs.  They are not multi-channel discs, but they are nicely remastered at the least.


Muswell Hillbillies is one of the band’s true classics and a very influential album, one that has something to say and was one of the most legitimate forerunners of what we once knew as Country Rock.  This is far more clever and witty than what you would get from that sub genre, deep in thought and realism lost on the current “flashy Country” that has eclipsed the real thing in Nashville and like centers of Country today.  It’s influence on Rock and the Punk movement to be is more significant, making it one of their best albums.  Two bonus remix tracks are included.


Preservation Act 1 has the famous cover of Ray Davies looking like “Son Of Abraham Lincoln” and is ready to poke fun at traditional values, but that is just for starters.  Not quite a concept album, it was also considered to be part of a theatrical presentation, though no motion picture was discussed at the time.  Revisiting characters from 1968’s The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, when they were still at Reprise Records. Touring and other pressures got in the way of a complete concept project or Musical, so this project would be an album in two parts.  Single versions of two tracks open and close this version.


Preservation Act 2 is more dramatic and delivers what the first album set up, and was a double vinyl set to boot.  Though not noted in the same breath as often as The Who’s Tommy, The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, The Beatles’ White Album, The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Pink Floyd’s The Wall, Rush’s 2112 or Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, it is as ambitious and may deserve more credit than it gets.  Some segments play like interesting radio drama, something even more of would have been welcome, but the whole album has its share of imagination.  Some of this is meant to be more humorous than any of those classics, but it should be taken no less seriously.  As Pete Townshend said about Tommy upon the remastered reissue of their 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival on DVD, reviewed with the SACD set of the Rock Opera classic elsewhere on this site, he intended his classic to be a satire of Sgt. Pepper’s and Pet Sounds.  Where he did not succeed, Davies did.  It reminds one of Frank Zappa, as a matter of fact.  This holds up as ahead of its time with its very real fears of a totalitarian future, becoming truer than anyone in 1974 could have imagined.  Those who are trying to write this off as only anti-Communist are fooling themselves, or lying to others.


Schoolboys In Disgrace is a few albums later, putting the band squarely back in single album and singles territory.  This is a Pop/Rock exercise with no concept or grand point, just a theme that holds together a consistent resentment of authority, conformity and betrayal by the system at every turn.  This was at a time before this was more associated with people crying wolf and does not pull any punches.  The use of 1950s Rock styles is interesting throughout, but some of the ideas do run on a bit.


Misfits had their biggest U.S. Pop hit in eight years with A Rock ’N’ Roll Fantasy, but fans and vinyl album FM Rock stations were always supportive of them; at least the better ones.  The band also changed, as members John Gosling (keyboards) and Andy Pyle (bass) left.  Jim Rodford’s bass became a new signature for this new era of the band and the songs here were as potent as most of Davies’ previous output.  Three alternate single mixes and a bonus track are included.


One for The Road is the band’s legendary live double album, also issued on DVD-Audio, but this is sonically the best version in the digital realm, though not the spectacular performer expected.  Fans love it, but as a live recording, this was not always tops to this critic.  Nevertheless, they fit the whole set on one SACD.


Give The People What They Want took advantage of the new role the previous live set and the Low Budget album gave the band, and suggests some then-current punk and New Wave sensibilities.  Some tracks are live, but studio work is most prominent.  They were now doing Music Videos, which we hope to consider in a future review when a full DVD of them is issued.  If they were repeating themselves at times, it was with some ironic distance, especially on Destroyer.  That is one of their strongest single recordings in the Arista era, but this album is on the uneven side.


State Of Confusion was simply an obnoxious album at the time of its release, including two Top 40 singles, Come Dancing and Don’t Forget To Dance.  That both songs were about dancing and kept singing of dancing at a time when Music Videos were full of them and the band was not a Dance genre band, this was always oddball.  However, it sounds better fourteen years later and the SACD’s DSD tracks reveal in their sonic clarity what Davies was really trying to do: a sarcastic New Wave album on many levels.  Where this sounded muddy just about everywhere one turned in 1981, and Arista pushed this album like no tomorrow, Music Videos included, the album is one of the more ahead of their time works.  Not to say it makes any big statement, but it says enough to not seem as old as it actually is.  One can also claim some of Davies signature sound and feel as auteur comes through here like none of the previous albums, not unlike Marvin Gaye on Midnight Love (also on SACD) a year later.  You have two talents really doing something of interest and note with then-new technology that was missed at the time.  Ironically, this album remains one of their most well known and commercially successful, something that usually does not happen to good music. This disc comes with four bonus tracks, including an alternate version of Don’t Forget To Dance.  Young Conservatives can be taken as an attack on the conformist side of New Wave artists dressing up, lending itself a bit too much towards Yuppies.  It is one of his greatest singles.


Word Of Mouth is considered a belated gem of the band, but despite some of the better sonics among these discs, the sound is a bit flatter and thus slightly regressive, versus State Of Confusion.  Though personal and personable, this was the right album at the wrong time and Arista seems to have not liked it much at all.  They may have been having problems at the time, but why the reversion to The Beatles and their older sound all of the sudden?  No matter, it was just a bad move and is one of those albums populist fans might argue is good or great because “it sounds like their old stuff” as if that were always a good thing.  Though it is not a disaster here, it is a huge comedown after the last release and they were soon to be gone from Arista.  Who knows what would have happened under better circumstances, but we’ll never know.  This comes with two bonus tracks.



The Direct Stream Digital on each of the discs is superior to the PCM tracks also offered, both being 2.0 Stereo in most cases, but in the majority of the discs, the SACD/DSD tracks are not always as much of an improvement as was hoped for.  Whether it was the way RCA/Arista stored the masters or just the way the original production was limited for whatever reason, they just do not have the openness and revealing nature of the best SACDs.  Maybe this is why 5.1 was not used on any of them, though information on some of the back of the discs suggests 5.1 when it is not there.  The PCM sound makes us believe it is an issue of the masters, versus anything the DSD remastering caused, confirmed by the liner notes.  Each disc comes in a paperboard fold-open with a Digipak on the right and booklet on each respective album inside the left part if the foldout.  This is not the favorite way to have any title, but the old CD jewel boxes are not much better.  Too bad the new Super Jewel Box option was skipped.  Also, the booklets’ text are sometimes too hard to read, so be warned of small print, or print fading or just more difficult to read into certain color backgrounds.


Velvel has issued a few more Kinks SACDs, while Mobile Fidelity previously issued Everybody’s In Show Business and Low Budget, which are still in print.  We hope to get to those titles very soon, but either way, this makes The Kinks one of the few bands to see much of their catalogs come out in either SACD or DVD-Audio to date.  We hope that changes too.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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