FEEDBACK ONLINE - ISSUE 33
More Classic Kinks on SACD
The Kinks, Everybody's In Show-Biz - Ray Davies, guitar and vocals; Dave Davies, guitar and vocals; Mick Avory, drums; John Dalton, bass; John Gosling, keyboards - Konk/Koch Records VEL-SC-79816, Stereo Hybrid SACD
The Kinks, Low Budget - Ray Davies, guitar, keyboards and vocals; Dave Davies, guitar and vocals; Mick Avory, drums; Jim Rodford, bass; Nick Newell, saxophone - Konk/Koch Records VEL-SC-79817, Stereo Hybrid SACD
The Kinks' first album for RCA Records, 1971's Muswell Hillbillies was a critical success, and RCA decided to give the band a great deal of creative license on their next project, which evolved into a lavish double album and concert film. The resulting album was Everybody's In Show-Biz, which consisted of two parts: a concept album about the harsh realities underlying the glamour of show business, and a second album recorded live at Carnegie Hall to capture the rancor and party atmosphere of their live shows of the era. Neither aspect of the two concepts was completely successful; however, they did achieve a great deal of success in broadening the growing rift between brothers Ray and Dave Davies. Dave Davies had just scored a top hit in the U.K. with a solo song "The Death Of A Clown," and Ray Davies, being jealous of the fact that the Kinks had not enjoyed recent similar success as a group, allowed this tension to affect the creative process throughout the entire project. At one point during the live tracks, Ray Davies is introducing the members of the band, and he introduces Dave Davies as "Dave 'Death Of A Clown' Davies, an obvious slap at his younger brother's success. Over the next few years, the Kinks would experience frequent roster changes, with ex-members often citing the inability to deal with the ongoing tension between Ray and Dave Davies as the reason for their departure.
For the concert appearances, Ray Davies decided to add a brass section; they were also retained for the studio sessions. While this arrangement served many of the studio songs successfully, the brass section, which pretty much acted as a foil for Ray Davies' considerable live antics, created a real distraction for the focus of the band in concert. Fans didn't respond particularly well, either. Permission couldn't be obtained to film the band's live performances at Carnegie Hall, so the film that was supposed to accompany the album was shelved by RCA and never released, despite the fact that the band had filmed countless hours of footage documenting the entire tour both onstage and off. The entire concept of the project was emasculated by the lack of a concert film, and the resulting album wasn't really much of a success commercially.
Most of the songs on the studio album hearken to the preceding album Muswell Hillbillies, although perhaps not as successfully maintaining the acerbic wit and humor of that album. The one exception, and a real travesty of the entire convoluted process that evolved into this album, is the song "Celluloid Heroes," a timeless Ray Davies classic that has gone on to become one of the most-loved Kinks songs of all time. Even though it was eventually released as a single in support of the album, it never charted in England or the U.S.—just another indicator of how fickle the record-buying public can be.
In terms of sound quality, the studio sessions fare significantly better than the live tracks, which lack the lushness and sparkle of the studio recordings. That said, the SACD version still may be the finest incarnation these tracks have ever seen on recorded disc. The track "Celluloid Heroes" alone gets this disc three stars, but the remainder is something of a mish-mash, and while there are indeed entertaining moments throughout, much of the album ultimately may only appeal to die hard fans. However, you need this disc, if for no other reason, to add "Celluloid Heroes" to your collection. And it's a tremendous value, with what is essentially a two LP set on one SACD disc at a single disc price.
The Kinks Low Budget was, in my book, one of the last really great pre-new wave rock albums. Released in the summer of 1979, it was propelled to prominence by Ray Davies' reaction to disco satire "(Wish I Could Fly Like) Superman." The Kinks were one of the truly great live bands, but Ray Davies always felt that the record-buying public only remembered their old classic songs, and not anything that they'd done recently. This album really was his reaction to disco and punk, and Davies saw an opportunity to make the Kinks relevant again. He abandoned the "concept" approach of the previous recent string of Kinks albums, and his strategy apparently worked, resulting in the Kinks' biggest-selling album in more than a decade. The resulting disc offered several big hits, along with numerous well-crafted rock songs with much of the wit and humor of classic Kinks output, and received critical praise along with significant commercial success.
Several of the songs are downright hilarious. The aforementioned "Superman," despite its thumping disco beat, is a really amusing portrait of the trials of everyday living. "Low Budget" also comically extols the hazards of squeezing out an existence controlled by ever-tightening purse strings, and "Gallon Of Gas" is a really hysterically good blues number that chronicles the perils of surviving the oil embargo of the seventies. "Little Bit of Emotion" showed a softer side of the band in stark contrast to the raucous rock that fills much of the disc. I saw the Kinks live twice during the period just after this album's release, and the shows were a revelation, with none of the legendary bickering between the two brothers obviously present, and the presentation of this album's material along with classic Kinks output was truly entertaining.
Compared to my now out-of-print MFSL SACD version of the same disc (which, by the way, includes the exact same song selection, even down to the bonus tracks), I really couldn't discern much difference between the two competing discs. I did sense a slight boost in the bass area on the MFSL disc, but that's really common with most MFSL releases. At a retail difference of about half the price, I'd definitely go with the Koch version. While this album may not be renowned for its audiophile qualities, it's nonetheless an excellent seventies-vintage rock recording, and the SACD layer trounces the Redbook layer in every respect.
Both of these discs are superb in their own right, and well-deserving of a place in anyone's collection—for Kinks fans, they're no-brainers. And the relatively low price for the SACDs makes them even more attractive. Highly recommended.