Kinks - Kinks, Kinda Kinks, The Kinks Kontroversy
None of the schoolboys, stooges and nutjobs from the initial wave of British Invasion bands had a deeper understanding of the black American music being mimicked than Ray Davies; it's tough to imagine any of the Kinks' peers so persuasively dismantling Sleepy John Estes' "Milk Cow Blues" or Bo Diddley's "Cadillac." The hard edge permeates the early originals included on the band's first three albums, newly reissued in deluxe editions, with only scant connection to the Kinks' most celebrated material.
On the 1964 debut, the band is all bluster and sneer; the early singles remain striking, highlighted by Dave Davies' breathtakingly mad "'Sister Ray' in 15 seconds" solos, but a prophetic moment in follow-up hit "All Day and All of the Night" gives the lie to all the machismo: Just before Dave's explosion, there's a frustrated pause as Ray is expected to give a catcall or scream, but all he can manage is an adorably awkward and distinctly British, "Oh, come on!"
Unsurprisingly, the band's angst turns inward on the excellent Kinda Kinks, with sensitive-prick anthems like "So Long," "Tired of Waiting for You," and the touching "Something Better Beginning." The extras are equally strong: "I Need You" delivers the abrasive rock the LP renounces, and the Beatle-worthy "See My Friends" offers otherworldly innovation.
By The Kink Kontroversy, "Till the End of the Day" aside, introspection has taken full hold. "I'm on an Island" is dominated by Davies' sardonic wit and a composed slow burn; even the angry songs express literate, dejected bitterness far beyond boy-girl problems: The cheekily brutal "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," is still perhaps the most eloquent theme of catharsis amid the sunny mid-'60s, with all the force of "You Really Got Me."
A decade ago, the rights quagmire enveloping the Kinks' early work lifted long enough for a series of dreadfully murky Castle/Sanctuary CD reissues; these much-needed two-disc expansions supersede those by including mono and stereo mixes, a smattering of unreleased material, and vastly improved sound from better sources. It's revealing to hear the discs in sequence as a trip through Ray Davies' beloved record collection matures into an idiosyncratic document of his curiosities and disappointments — the furious nonconformity on "I'm Not Like Everybody Else" to the unrequited love on the harrowing demo "I Go to Sleep." When Ray cries out those words of deepest misery and loss, it no longer sounds like adolescent smarminess, only anguish — like on those blues records the boys used to plunder.