Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Oct. 5, 2012
The KinksAt the BBC (Sanctuary/Universal)
Despite a four-decade arc defined by dramatic commercial peaks and valleys, the Kinks were rarely at a loss for exquisite songcraft. Picking up where 2001's two-disc BBC Sessions: 1964-1977 left off, this 5-CD/1-DVD UK import meticulously traces the band's enthralling path. Their earliest Beeb sessions, necessitated by the Musician's Union "needle time" restrictions, are expedient re-recordings of singles like 1964 breakthrough "You Really Got Me" and 1965's proto-psychedelic "See My Friends." The raw power of these performances underscores how the Kinks attracted disciples as disparate as Van Halen and the Jam. As Ray Davies' vivid depictions of shambling everyday existence emerges with "Sunny Afternoon," the band's arrangements become subtler. Many of the Kinks' late-Sixties radio sessions forego live performance in favor of augmenting studio recordings with overdubs, but the band's under-heralded mid-Seventies incarnation with horns and backup singers shines in live concert recordings that reaffirm the strength of Preservation Act tracks like "Money Talks" and "Demolition." The box set also unearths bootlegs of sessions not archived by the BBC, though the sound quality is horrendous. The real gemstone is nearly four hours of BBC-TV appearances. Ray owns the camera in a vampy breakdown of "Got Love If You Want It" from 1964's The Beat Room, and the group's 1977 Christmas concert begins with Old Grey Whistle Test host Bob Harris taking a pie in the face and ends with the frontman singing "Father Christmas" in full Santa regalia. A poignant 1993 Late Show performance of "Scattered" and a 1994 update of "You Really Got Me" find the latter-day Kinks still bringing down the house in the Britpop era.