A question I often get is “Have you heard ‘x‘ by ‘band y’?” I’m always eager to offer up opinions, but like any other music collector, there are albums I simply have not heard yet. Friends and fellow writers continually offer fantastic suggestions, but time and money are always limited. I like to listen to my old music too, and not just stuff that is new to me all the time. Getting caught up on bands I may have missed is a time consuming process.
The Kinks are one such band. Growing up as a rocker, I was aware of their hits and the overall narrative of their career. As an adult, I wanted to start with a compilation. When you have a band with a career as long and varied as The Kinks, I very much enjoy getting a snapshot of the whole thing rather than pick off albums one by one. Sony’s double disc Essential Kinks is 48 tracks of rock from 1964 to 1993. It’s a rather monolithic slab, but it does tell a story.
The beginning is hard and ragged British invasion rock and roll, and the road is windy. Whether you know these tunes from movie soundtracks (“Nothin’ in This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl”) or Van Halen riffs (several), many songs are familiar. Early on, their pop and rock stylings could be compared with equal respect to that of those Beatles. The songs are just as unique, memorable and British. The charismatic vocals of Ray Davies immediately capture the imagination. His knack for melody is uncanny. As time goes on, their music becomes more unique and conceptual, but no less captivating. It is here that I discovered my favourite Kinks song, “Apeman”.
Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that I already knew many of these songs as covers. Queens of the Stone Age did “Who’ll Be the Next in Line”. Def Leppard did “Waterloo Sunset”. The Jam tackled “David Watts”, and made a hit out of him again. I can also hear a lot of Dave Davies’ guitar in the rock bands that followed. There is no denying the influence of the Kinks.
The only imperfection with this compilation is that live tracks are substituted for studio ones on “Lola”, “Till the End of the Day” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”. You’ll tell me “just buy the albums, then” and to that I respond, “OK”. (“Lola” live is a single B-side.)
I’ll be lazing on a “Sunny Afternoon” with the Kinks.