The Kinks SACD – Set One (Velvel
Muswell Hillbillies (1971) B B+
Preservation Act 1 (1973) B B+
Preservation Act 2 (1974) B A-
Schoolboys In Disgrace (1975) 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
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