The Kinks Begin a Retrospective Journey

The Kinks Begin a Retrospective <em> Journey </em>

Written by Frank Doris

I’m going to say this right up front: I consider the Kinks’ Ray Davies to be the greatest pop/rock songwriter of all time. Yep, I know I’m putting him at the top of a list of luminaries including Dylan, Joni, John and Paul, Leonard and others, but I find Davies to be the most incisive, poignant and profound observer of the human condition of anyone. In my opinion, he gets to the heart of what it’s like to live life on this planet like no one else.

Raymond Douglas Davies was already nostalgic for a bygone British era when he was still a young man, alternating between joyful rockers like “All Day and All of the Night” with wistful longings for better days in songs like…well, entire albums like 1968’s The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society and 1969’s Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire). Consider “Shangri-La,” a bittersweet vignette of what it was like to be a middle-aged, middle-class man in 1960s England:

“Put on your slippers and sit by the fire
You’ve reached your top and you just can’t get any higher
You’re in your place and you know where you are
In your Shangri-La”

Or take the landmark 1967 “Waterloo Sunset,” which I consider to be the single greatest rock/pop song ever written. It’s the story of someone watching and reflecting on two lovers, their lives, and his and their dreams:

“But I don’t feel afraid
As long as I gaze on
Waterloo sunset
I am in paradise”

This song not only has deep personal resonance for me, but for many others: “Waterloo Sunset” reached Number 2 on the British charts, and is number 14 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list. It’s one of the favorite songs of Copper’s Jay Jay French and his daughter – at her wedding it was the song for their father/daughter dance.

Both of these and many more are included on a new Kinks anthology, The Journey, Part 1. There have already been a countless number of Kinks greatest hits and retrospective albums (any serious Kinks fan will be familiar with the indispensable The Kink Kronikles) so why another? Available on streaming, CD and a 2-LP set, The Journey – Part 1 does contain a varied selection of hits, album tracks and rarities, but its real claim to fame is that it’s organized thematically, into four parts (which neatly coincide with the four sides of the LP set), grouped as follows in the back cover notes:


Side 1: Songs about becoming a man, the search for adventure, finding an identity and a girl.
Side 2: Songs of ambition achieved, bitter taste of success, loss of friends, the past comes back and bites you in the back-side.
Side 3: Days and nights of a lost soul, songs of regret and reflection of happier times.
Side 4: A new start, a new love, but have you really changed? Still haunted by the quest and the girl.

Just listing some of the tracks on The Journey – Part 1 will send shivers up any dyed-in-the-wool Kinks konnoisseur’s spine: “Who’ll Be the Next in Line,” She’s Got Everything,” “Do You Remember Walter?”, “Stop Your Sobbing,” “Days,” “Where Have All the Good Times Gone,” “Celluloid Heroes,” “This is Where I Belong” to name a few. Along with hits like “You Really Got Me” and “Tired of Waiting for You,” there are B-sides and deep cuts like “It’s All Right” and “Too Much on My Mind.” While Ray has always been the principal songwriter, brother Dave has contributed some glittering gems to the Kinks canon, and the magnificent “Death of a Clown,” “Mindless Child of Motherhood,” and “Strangers” are among those included here. The Kinks’ stylistic influences include rock, pop, music hall, R&B, and so much more.

I’m very happy to say that many of the tracks are presented in their original mono single and album versions. Like the mono mix of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and other Beatles albums, these mono versions just sound right, the way the songs were originally intended to be heard and felt. Later cuts, such as “The Hard Way” sand “Sitting in the Midday Sun” are, of course, in stereo.


The Kinks in 1965: Pete Quaife, Dave Davies, Ray Davies, Mick Avory. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/promotional photo.

It’s hard to make definitive pronouncements on the sound quality of the album overall because of the fact that the songs were recorded over the course of years and the sound of them is all over the place, from the rough distortion of “You Really Got Me” (you can picture the VU meters getting pinned) to the excellent clarity and stereo spread of tracks like “Supersonic Rocket Ship,” “No More Looking Back” and “Strangers.” Even on the roughest recordings, the guitars have presence and punch, and the main vocals are always upfront and easily heard, with some often-sublime background vocal harmonies throughout.

The audio restoration for The Journey – Part 1 was done by Andrew Sandoval at Beatland Tours, and the analog mastering for the vinyl and lacquer cuts was performed by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio. I’m sure some remastering tweaking was done to keep a degree of sonic consistency, but I applaud the fact that it doesn’t sound too processed to the point of blandness. A lot of the early Kinks recordings were raw, with rough-sounding guitars – Dave Davies famously cut up the speakers in his early Elpico amp to get distortion. You don’t want to screw with such glorious noise. I listened to both the vinyl LP and the 24/96 hi-res audio stream.

Ray Davies was not giving interviews in conjunction with this album’s release, but he, Dave Davies and original drummer Mick Avory provide song-by-song commentary in the liner notes. Here’s a sampling of a few tracks and comments:

“You Really Got Me”

Ray: “I was playing in an R&B band in a club in Soho and saw this gorgeous girl dancing in the audience. During our break, I went into the audience to find her to tell her about this song I had just written, but she’d disappeared. I’ve been looking for her ever since.”

“Mindless Child of Motherhood”

Ray: “We were starting to try recording in other studios away from Pye Number 2. Dave was self-conscious about the lyrics, so I went shopping while he did his vocals.”

Dave: “Personal and sad, tragic love song.”


Ray: “The only way to say goodbye is to be grateful and give thanks that the person was ever there at all.”

Dave: “A beautiful Ray song. Powerful and wonderfully moving.”

“I could tell from the first rehearsal at Ray’s house that this was a strong number. It didn’t take very long to put it together either. Another one in the list of classics. Kirsty McCall did a great cover of it as well, bless her.”

“Where Have All the Good Times Gone" 

Ray: “My tour manager at the time was amazed that I was 21 when I wrote this because he considered it to be ‘an old man’s song’ but then, I’ve always been old I guess.”

“Waterloo Sunset”

Ray: “The lyrics should say enough but if I went into detail, it would break your heart.”

The Journey – Part 2 is slated to be released later this year. Let the Kinks Kingdom begin the speculation as to what might be included, aside from the obvious “Lola” – ah, there are so many! “Sitting in My Hotel,” “God’s Children,” “A Well Respected Man,” “Dedicated Follower of Fashion,” "This Time Tomorrow," “Victoria,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” "Misfits," and “Mister Pleasant,” for starters. Not to mention “Big Sky…”


Header image courtesy of BMG.

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