The Kinks

The Pye Album Collection

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This box set delivers both a little more and a little less than it promises -- though the packaging is so cryptic that it's difficult to say precisely what it does promise. Billed as The Pye Album Collection, it contains ten nicely packaged mini-LP sleeves (each with an appropriate inner sleeve to protect the CD -- are you listening, Sony Classical, Rhino Handmade, and Hip-O Select?) representing the group's ten original albums for Pye Records. Not that these haven't been available before in various incarnations on both sides of the Atlantic (including some extant audiophile editions) and loaded up with bonus tracks -- but the producers have correctly reckoned that for the fans, on some level, the Kinks are like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and the Who, in that their albums carry some serious significance for a lot of people, standing up well on their own and also evoking a specific time and place in listeners' respective pasts. There are no bonus tracks anywhere here, and onlookers should also be reminded that the Kinks released a ton of important singles early in their history -- including "All Day and All of the Night," "A Well Respected Man," "Dedicated Follower of Fashion," and "Till the End of the Day" -- that were never part of any official LPs (except greatest-hits compilations) and, thus, are not represented here in any form. But that said, on the original Pye albums themselves, the spot-on, state-of-the-art, up-to-date mastering is so close that you feel like the Davies brothers' guitars are in the room with you on "So Mystifying" and "Just Can't Go to Sleep" (from their self-titled debut LP), and everything on the disc sounds that way. On the other hand, the makers have opened that album with "You Really Got Me," which was track number seven on the original LP, and also moved "Too Much Monkey Business" from its spot at track number 11, and everything except for "You Really Got Me" is in stereo, which is OK because they got the sound right (in fact, better than it was on the original LP). And the cover is a kind of hybrid, re-creating a Japanese cover for the album (with all songs listed in Japanese), and using the title "Kinks" on the spine but Kinks-Size on the front cover. Kinda Kinks, by contrast, contains only 12 songs (no singles) and a French Vogue Records cover (which uses the title "The Kinks" on its front and back jackets). Kink Kontroversy is present with the art from the Italian version (cover title "United Kinksdom") and the basic 12 songs. Face to Face is offered with its familiar U.K. cover art missing, replaced by a really cool photo of the band from the Greek version of the album. And Live at Kelvin Hall uses a cheerful shot of the bandmembers, all holding clocks, from the French issue. The real treat, however, is the Japanese version of Something Else, with its shot of the bandmembers staring out in full color, while the foreground presents as pretty a psychedelic array of flowers as anyone saw in 1967. Village Green Preservation Society appears in its ornate Italian jacket, with its cheerful shot of the band on a grassy field, and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire), in its Dutch sleeve, has the black-and-white profiles of the bandmembers flanked by visual Victoriana, including the old girl herself. Lola vs. the Powerman & the Money-Go-Round, Pt. 1 features the familiar U.K. and U.S. art, and Percy -- which is really an afterthought as an album -- offers the U.K. sleeve art. The total running time seems skimpy for a ten-CD set, but the price is right and the packaging is fun.

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