The Kinks

The Kinks [1970]

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This obscure double-LP set -- the first double album (albeit a compilation) in the group's history -- came from England's Pye Records. Simply titled The Kinks, it was issued before the band's commercial resurgence with "Lola," and compiles a brace of the band's singles (and B-sides) cut across a four-year period from 1964 through 1968, all presented in chronological order. Unofficially known among fans as "the black album," it was among the first U.K. imports of the Kinks to show up in the United States, but was also out so early, circa 1970-1971, that it ended up being fairly obscure (especially in the U.S.). In the days prior to the issue of Reprise Records' The Kink Kronikles -- whose artwork seemed, at least in part, inspired by it -- this set seemed like a gift from heaven, however, despite sound quality that wasn't quite everything it should have been (though it was in original mono) and annotation that was nonexistent. In 1970 and for a long time after, it was the biggest cross section of the group's work that one could find, and thanks to the fact that Reprise let most of the Kinks' early catalog go out of print, it was also just about the only way to get a lot of their early work, including obscure recordings like "Long Tall Shorty" (though it was also missing tracks like their rendition of "Long Tall Sally"). And it was the only collection that juxtaposed the group's early rock & roll hits with later 1960s recordings such as "Death of a Clown," "Waterloo Sunset," "Days," etc. Obviously, it has been supplanted many times since, but it's still good listening. And the cover, black with some gold lettering, was so minimalist that it made a cool-looking addition to any collection on that basis alone.

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