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The Kinks | Songs We Sang For Auntie : The BBC Sessions 1964-1977
The critical and popular re-evaluation of The Kinks' muscular body of work continues with this 37 track double pack, an epic trawl through the BBC vaults interspersed with interviews and insights from the leading lights of what DJ Brian Matthew endearingly refers to as the 'shaggy set' (an entire conversation about hair length is included here.) From London popscene favourites to US stadium rock icons, the whole saga is mapped out in (mostly) glorious detail. The first CD is unsurpassable, from the stabbing proto-punk garage pop of You Really Got Me and All Day and All of the Night, to the soaring poignancy of Days through Eastern-influenced psychedelia (See My Friends), good time rock'n'roll (Everybody's Gonna Be Happy) and full-on music hall Cockernee singalong (Harry Rag, a loving ode to the joys of smoking complete with an introduction from Matthew to explain the rhyming slang of the title.) The sound is often rough and ramshackle, but the boundless energy present in these performances gives lie to the myth that The Kinks were uncomfortable outside of the recording studio. But what really sets The Kinks apart from others in their field is Ray Davies' extremely poetic lyrics - songs like Where Have All The Good Times Gone? and Days convey a heartfelt nostalgia dramatically at odds with the rampant psychedelic futurism of the swinging London scene. It was this dedication to remembrance that was to be The Kinks' undoing in the late '60's as, Ray's masterpiece, Village Green Preservation Society, sank without trace under the weight of its own unfashionable Englishness. CD2 begins promisingly - late '60's obscurities like Dave Davies' Mindless Child of Motherhood lull the listener into a false optimism. But after the Stonesian joys of '72's Muswell Hillbillies (sadly under-represented here) it's a steady downward track, through the misguided rock operatics of Preservation to the fumbling Yank-rock of Sleepwalkers where, thankfully, we leave them. But forget the fallout and remember the glory days as Ray Davies shrugged off the surly bonds of the Earthbound songwriter and ascended to a higher plane [been putting anything in your Harry Rag, Tom? - Ed], to take his rightful place alongside Messrs. Beachboy, Bacharach and Beatle in the very highest pantheon of popular artists.

Tom Huddleston
June-July 2001