The Kinks Choral Collection is a reworking of classic Kinks songs by the man who wrote them in the first place. Ray Davies, the primary singer and songwriter for The Kinks, has not strayed incredibly far from the songs' original arrangements. The gimmick here is that the backing vocals are provided by the 65 members of the Crouch End Festival Chorus.
With such a rich catalog of classic pop tunes to draw from, the album is quite listenable. Davies has chosen primarily from the mid-to-late '60s Kinks period, when his songwriting was among the very best pop music had to offer. The choral experiment doesn't really amount to much, with the original recordings remaining definitive.
A rather generic rock accompaniment is provided for most of the songs, with guitars, bass, and drums remaining generally faithful to the old versions. Some of the new arrangements work far better than others.
The second half of the album is dominated by a series of six selections taken from The Kinks' 1968 masterpiece The Village Green Preservation Society. "Do You Remember Walter?" starts off with a newly devised lilting ballad arrangement, providing a satisfying jolt of familiarity when the staccato rhythm of the original kicks in (albeit at a slower tempo). "Village Green," one of the slighter tracks from the original album, is given a haunting grandeur. In fact, there is a certain gravitas added to much of the material due to the massive weight provided by choral vocals.
On the other hand there are the early seminal rock classics, "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All Of the Night." These come across as mere novelties. Those primal riff rockers work best stripped down to the very basics, as The Kinks first recorded them. Grafting dozens of classically trained choral singers onto them comes off like a silly joke.
The experiment is most successful with the songs that were never really rockers in the first place. "Days" and "Waterloo Sunset" were majestic works of simple beauty that never relied on heavy drums or distorted guitars. Merging them with a non-rock, quasi-classical sound makes sense. In fact, some of these songs have been handled (or more often mishandled) by easy listening instrumental cover versions over the years. It's far preferable to hear the original author singing them.
Davies singing is clear and supple throughout. His voice has aged well, considerably better than many of his '60s contemporaries, probably because he was never much of a belter. He delivers the songs with basically the same phrasing and gentle delivery that can be heard on all the Kinks albums.
All things considered, it is hard to recommend The Kinks Choral Collection over the original sources. The Kinks, though not nearly as celebrated as numerous other legendary artists of the era, were responsible for turning out a series of emotionally complex albums. Davies can hardly be blamed for returning to past glories, but ultimately this is the type of project that might have been off left to live performances.