BBC Sessions (Sanctuary)
Reviewed by Kent H. Benjamin, Fri., July 13, 2001
BBC Sessions 1964-1977 (Sanctuary)The Kinks' fabulous BBC sessions have finally surfaced after years of rumors, dodgy-sounding boots, and promises; this 2-CD set's many delays are reflected in its 1996 copyright date. In the early Sixties, the BBC was the only place for British kids to hear pop music on the radio. There were only a couple of "pop" shows a week, and union regulations meant bands were required to perform live in person, as opposed to merely having their records played on the radio. Unfortunately, much of the Beeb's amazing archive of otherwise-unavailable performances was routinely bulk-erased. Surviving shows have been located on transcription discs made for overseas markets and military bases. Better yet, as one of the most popular bands in England -- behind only the Beatles and Stones -- the Kinks performed a huge number of exclusive tracks on the BBC, and this long-delayed collection includes 33 previously unissued live performances, an informative 20-page book packed with unpublished photos, and brilliant sound quality reproduction. Many of the tracks substantially exceed their tinny-sounding studio counterparts, and most of the Kinks' early hits appear in sizzling, sloppy live takes that are British Invasion pop at its best. Of particular interest is the oft-bootlegged "This Strange Effect," a legendary unreleased Kinks track that was a fair-sized hit for Dave "The Crying Game" Berry. Singer Ray Davies was arguably the finest songwriter of his generation in England, and brother Dave was one of the hottest (and least heralded) of all lead guitarists, and the proof can be found on this CD. Disc one includes most of the Kinks' earliest U.S. hits, alongside a substantial helping of obscure but delightful album tracks from the late Sixties. Some, like an exquisite "Waterloo Sunset" will be a godsend to longtime fans. Disc two is a more mixed bag, with early- to mid-Seventies tracks presented non-chronologically with two tracks appearing twice. The Kinks' BBC Sessions serves as an excellent two-disc primer for one of the all-time brilliant British rock groups.