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Music Review: The Kinks – The Kinks at the BBC [5-CD/1-DVD Box Set]

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The Kinks have opened their vaults and those of the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) with the upcoming August 13 release of a massive five CD plus one DVD box set. The Kinks at the BBC gathers together all 24 of their performances for the BBC network beginning September 7, 1961, and ending October 8, 1994. The bonus DVD contains performances from Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Text, and a number of assorted concert appearances. When all is said and done, it adds up to 190 different tracks.

Just about every major British music artist, and hundreds of minor and obscure ones as well, appeared on the BBC. The Kinks material is a treasure trove of live performances, in-studio session work, unreleased tracks, and interviews, many of which have not seen the light of day since their original broadcast. The sound quality varies depending on the equipment used at the various sessions. Also, the BBC erased a number of their older broadcasts shortly after they were first aired and this set fills in some gaps with material that was recorded by fans at the time. All in all, it is far superior in quality and quantity to the previously released BBC Sessions: 1964-1967, the 35 track compilation which was issued during 2001. Note that this set will also be released as a two-CD set that, while not as extensive, is a lot cheaper.

This is an essential release for any fan of The Kinks as it traces the history of the band from a unique perspective. Their well-known material combines with deep album cuts and obscurities to create an interesting musical timeline.

The oldest tracks are four songs, plus three interviews, from their September, 1964 performance at the Playhouse Theater in London. “Cadillac,” “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter,” “Little Queenie,” and the ever-present ”You Really Got Me” present the band at the beginning of their career. I don’t know if there was any studio wizardry to enhance the sound (this would happen on a consistent basis with the BBC music series) but “You Really Got Me” just may be the best version of the song I have heard. The tempo is a little faster than usual, the bass is more upfront in the mix, and the vocals are extremely clear. In fact, many of their early studio albums suffered from a muddy sound but that is not the case on many of the same songs presented here.

One of the highlights of the set is their 19-song, 1977 Christmas concert from the famous Rainbow Theatre, which appears in both audio and video format. It catches the band during the middle part of their career as songs like “Sleepwalker,” “Death Of A Clown,” “Slum Kids,” “Celluloid Heroes,” and “Alcohol” share space with many of their big hits.

The newest material was from a 1994 session recorded at the Maida Vale Studio. “Phobia,” “Over The Edge,” “Wall Of Fire,” and a revisiting of “Till The End Of The Day” find The Kinks in late-career hard rock mode. “Phobia” is about as hard as The Kinks ever rocked as Dave Davies just takes off with his guitar solos.

The several dozen video tracks create a chronicle of the band as The Kinks and their music mature before your eyes. While many of their well-known hits are presented several times, it is the deeper cuts that really make the disc worthwhile. Songs such as “Virgin Soldiers” (1972), “Muswell Hillbillies” (1971), “Village Green Preservation Society” (1973), and “Scattered” (1993) are examples of the band presenting some of their more sophisticated material live. They even crank up a version of “Good Golly Miss Molly.

The Kinks are sometimes an overlooked band from the British Invasion era, but their catalogue of material is just about the equal of most of their contemporaries. The Kinks at the BBC is an essential release in the band’s long history as it resurrects dozens of long unavailable tracks.

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