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The Kinks
Come Dancing With The Kinks: Best of 1977-1986
Koch Records

As with most "Best Of" records, this seems like an attempt to give the majority of people who like the Kinks, but arenít fans, a collection of music they may like to own. And I guess in itself, that motive is not evil. What is evil is how many labels have released a "Best Of" record with 3 of the groupís best songs, and a plethora of crap. This album almost fits into that, if not for the fact that the Kinks did write more good songs than the 4 that ever saw the light of radio. My other gripe about these "Best Of" collections is that all too often, like here, the radio singles are represented by live tracks, rather than the actual studio/single releases. But I digressÖ

"Come Dancing" begins this collection. And well it should, as it is the finest of Kinks songs, and a fitting title for a Kinks record. This song is one of the least known of the 3 or 4 Kinks radio songs, and by far the most overlooked. The horns are powerful, and the song just comes alive in your ears. Thereís a party in my head, and everyone is invited! "Low Budget" is a typical rock track of the 1979 era. Youíve got your blues-rock guitar with its great riffs, and doubled up chorus background vocals. Itís a nice song, fitting right alongside anything that Thorogood could throw at you. "Catch Me Now Iím Falling" begins with a Beatles sounding piano part, and then kicks in the guitars and drums, and a rock song is born. I love the way the vocals are produced as if they are in the distance, and the pre-metal metal guitar is always welcome. More blues-rock greets the ears on "A Gallon Of Gas." With all the trademark stop and go of white blues, and a great late 70ís guitar tone, this song is listenable, but not much more.

"(Wish I Could Fly) Like Superman" is the disco edit of the somewhat fun song released in í79. Itís a song that, despite its disco drums, is enjoyable and has all the elements of a great single. A fast paced bass beat, and nice stereo guitars highlight the track and help to de-emphasize the vocal lines, although they are well written and performed. "Sleepwalker" is a bar room pleasure, complete with hopping piano, and early metal guitar parts. Itís a fun song, and easily gets the toes-a-tapping. More fantastic Davies-brother piano begins the song "Full Moon." This is one of those songs that I had completely forgotten about ever hearing, and now I donít understand why. It is a very lush arrangement with a chorus of background vocals, reminiscent of Wall-era Pink Floyd. "Misfits," from 1978, is a great track that highlights a band in transition. That transition was from the pop music of the early 70ís and 60ís, to the heavier guitar rock of the late 70ís. "Take a look all around, the misfits are everywhere" Ray seemed to be speaking more of himself and his band in this song than making any heavy social commentary. "A Rock And Roll Fantasy" continues the tone of questioning who the band was, and the possibilities in their future. The death of Elvis Presley at this time seemed to influence Rayís writing, and this song is a prime example. "The King is dead, rock is done, you might be through, but Iíve just begunÖ" This music, the Kinks in 1977-78, was pure magic, and I wish it was represented more here.

Then this compilation jumps forward to the mid-80ís with "Do It Again," a departure from the heavy metal sounds, and a hearkening to a Who-like sound. Ray began writing great songs again and left behind so much of the frustration that seemed to plague him in the late 70ís. This was a great song then, and it is still a great song now. More great Daviesí piano and punch on "Better Things." From 1981, this track was so David Bowie, and so well produced, I remember not even thinking it could be anyone but. The Kinks continued to grow and shift as a band, defying easy categorizations, and gaining new fans. In much of this material from the early 80ís, there is a lighter feeling, a feeling of joy from the band. Two live performances are included here for the songs "Lola" and "You Really Got Me." It is really a sad effort to include songs from the 60ís on an album of songs from the 70ís and 80ís in order to make the compilation more accessible to people who arenít fans. "Lola" is well performed, and everything is exactly where it should be. "You Really Got Me" lacks the power of the original guitars, but it is a nice version, despite the heavy metal guitar solo. "Good Day" is a quirky little song, with more aural possibilities than other Kinks recordings. This is a song that reveals more things to your ear each time you listen. "Holes in my socks and I canít find my shoes. Itís no surprise that Iím singing the blues."

Rounding out this compilation is the Dave Daviesí penned "Living On A Thin Line." A brilliant song, and one of Daveís best, it carries along a martial cadence in vivid 80ís style. To think that this was the Kinks in their final days of glory is hard, but the legacy of songs such as this and "Donít Forget To Dance" are indisputable. Both were well written, and well produced, and were some highlights of the post-stadium-era Kinks performances. "Destroyer" was a product of that stadium rock experience. The culmination of the need for the band to produce music that could be presented in that stadium environment, led to simplifying and biggifying their sound. "Destroyer" remains, to this day, one of my favorite Kinks songs, and I am happy to have it here with its inherent rip-offs of their own early hits. "Father Christmas" brings us back to the angst of 1977 with a lighthearted romp about kids beating the crap out of Santa. Sleigh bells and wonderful guitars highlight a song with a serious message about not forgetting that some people have less than others at a special time of year. "Father Christmas, give us your money, weíll beat you up if you make us annoyedÖ donít mess around with your silly toys."

The limiting character of this record being the "Best of 1977-1986" weighs heavily on me. I would rather this had been the best of the Kinks from 1963-1983, so it could begin with "You Really Got Me" and go on to include songs like "Sunday Afternoon" and finish up with "Come Dancing." The influence that the Kinks had on the heavy metal movement of the 80ís is very evident on this compilation, and it is certainly aimed more at that listening audience. If you are looking for those Kinksí songs that you know you love, this may not be the place, but if you would like to hear some gems that you probably never heard, unless a fan, then this compilation is worth the buying.

ĖDavid DeVoe

Track Listing:

  1. Come Dancing
  2. Low Budget
  3. Catch Me Now Iím Falling
  4. A Gallon Of Gas
  5. (Wish I Could Fly) Like Superman [disco edit]
  6. Sleepwalker
  7. Full Moon
  8. Misfits
  9. A Rock n Roll Fantasy
  10. Do It Again
  11. Better Things
  12. Lola [live]
  13. You Really Got Me [live]
  14. Good Day
  15. Living On A Thin Line
  16. Destroyer
  17. Donít Forget To Dance
  18. Father Christmas

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