When it comes to songwriting, Ray Davies is doubtless one well-respected man. Yet, unbelievably, Ace Records’ recent Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 marks the first collection to explore in comprehensive fashion the early body of work created by Davies outside of his famous band. Its 26 tracks encompass songs not recorded by The Kinks, or first released by artists other than The Kinks, as well as a handful of contemporary cover versions, sessions featuring The Kinks on backup, and even previously unissued tracks. Chockablock with rarities, it’s divided into two sections by compiler Alec Palao – one dedicated to songs of “Expression,” and one to songs of “Observation.” (Davies himself considered those his two primary styles of songwriting.) Though Davies is often considered to be a quintessentially “English” songwriter for his incisive looks at life in Great Britain, Kinked reveals his style as truly wide-ranging. Not coincidentally, the anthology also features a number of performances by American artists equally attuned to his and The Kinks’ sound.
Dave Berry’s low-key, haunting “This Strange Effect” sets the tone for the proceedings. While it’s quirky, it’s still very much a pop tune. Many of these songs – particularly in the opening half dedicated to songs of “Expression” – find Davies conforming to the pop sounds of the day even as he finds his own voice. (One Dave Davies track – 1964’s driving “One Fine Day,” performed by Shel Naylor – is included, too, making the case that Dave’s sensibility was very much a key part of the early Kinks sound.) Quite a few of these melodic nuggets found their way to U.S. shores.
Goldie and the Gingerbreads’ “Look for Me Baby,” a previously unissued track produced by U.S. expatriate Shel Talmy in 1965 with the requisite New York girl-group attitude, is just one of the many highlights on Kinked. Brit girl group The Orchids have fun with a rousing, string-laden take on “I’ve Got That Feeling” produced by Talmy. Perry Botkin, Jr., perhaps best known for his work with Harry Nilsson, brings a wonderfully baroque touch to his arrangement of “I Bet You Won’t Stay” by the “Rhythm of the Rain” hitmakers The Cascades, produced in thick, echo-y fashion by Andy Di Martino.
Ace has uncovered The Olympics’ previously unreleased “So Mystifying,” a tough bit of garage rock that Alec Palao suggests was the first Kinks cover by a black artist. It’s an odd yet fascinating record – the arrangement is by Jack Nitzsche, and the track features Glen Campbell, Don Randi and Sonny Bono, but it hardly has the grand sound associated with Nitzsche and the Wrecking Crew. It’s more rock than soul, despite The Olympics having been freshly signed to Warner Bros.’ R&B imprint Loma. (Perhaps that’s why it was shelved.)
Ray Davies was thrilled when Peggy Lee gave her seal of approval to record “I Go to Sleep,” long before The Pretenders made the song a pop-rock standard. Lee’s typically cool interpretation of the little gem beguiles. Lee’s Capitol labelmate Bobby Rydell is heard on the upbeat “When I See That Girl of Mine.” His strong take on the song predates The Kinks’ recording, but despite its strength, the former teen idol had a hard time regaining his footing in the post-British Invasion years. His final hit, ironically, was January 1964’s “Forget Him,” written by the U.K.’s Tony Hatch.
The Kinks shared a spot on the Pye roster with reigning British Invasion queen Petula Clark, who brought her inimitably warm style to “A Well-Respected Man” under the aegis of (you guessed it) Tony Hatch…but only in French! The superstar didn’t get around to cutting “Un Jeune Homme Bien” in English, but her big-beat French version heard here is expectedly delightful.
The “Observation” songs that comprise the second part of Kinked are a diverse crop, too. Leapy Lee’s sweetly and youthfully romantic “King of the Whole Wide World” (1966) was the only non-Kinks recording to bear a Ray Davies production credit until he helmed The Turtles’ Turtle Soup three years later. Dave Davies, Pete Quaife (and possibly Mick Avory) and Carol McDonald and Margo Lewis of The Gingerbreads played and sang on the track. The Kinks also appear on Barry Fantoni’s 1966 “Little Man in a Little Box,” one of many cuts here which could easily have been slotted onto one of the band’s records.
1966 was a key year for Ray Davies’ songwriting. The psych/R&B group Pretty Things did commendably with a swaggering read of “House in the Country,” and on the other end of the spectrum, the duo Mo and Steve made the dramatic, brooding ballad “Oh What a Day It’s Going to Be” their own. Per the notes here, the song was originally intended for Tony Bennett. Though Tony never recorded it, one can hear how Davies composed it for a big-voiced singer; Mo and Steve benefitted from the soaring arrangement by Johnny Harris. September ’66 saw the release of “All Night Stand,” a musicians’ slice-of-life tale originally intended as theme song to a film version of the novel of the same name. The Thoughts’ rocking version (heard here in a previously unreleased edit) is fine but one can’t help but wonder how The Kinks would have sounded performing it themselves. Also in September, Peter Noone and Herman’s Hermits gave Davies his biggest U.S. hit to that point with their jaunty No. 5-placing cover of “Dandy.” Far more aggressive is the 1968 recording of the anthemic non-conformist ode “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” on which The Chocolate Watchband and frontman David Aguilar channel The Rolling Stones. It’s presented here in a previously unreleased mix.
Ray Davies has never restricted his composing talents to records only, as he’s also stretched himself to write for stage, screen and television. Among the curios here is the instrumental “The Virgin Soldiers March” by The John Schroeder Orchestra, written for the 1969 program The Virgin Soldiers. Renowned session pianist Nicky Hopkins provides another instrumental via his barroom-piano cover of The Kinks’ 1967 single “Mister Pleasant.”
Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 is another must-have in Ace’s Songwriters and Producers series and an essential companion to the recent Kinks deluxe reissues available on both sides of the Atlantic. Many of these vibrant tracks are fiendishly difficult to find on record, and having them together fills in a key a chapter of Ray Davies’, and The Kinks’, early career. The 20-page full color booklet has Palao’s annotations on each track plus sidebars about key artists and producers; Nick Robbins has splendidly remastered all songs. Kinked! is available now from Ace Records at the links below!
- This Strange Effect – Dave Berry (Decca F 12188, 1965)
- Look for Me Baby – Goldie and the Gingerbreads (rec. 1965, previously unreleased)
- I Bet You Won’t Stay – The Cascades (Liberty 55822, 1965)
- King of the Whole Wide World – Leapy Lee (Decca F 12369, 1966)
- I Go to Sleep – Peggy Lee (Capitol 5488, 1965) (*)
- All Night Stand – The Thoughts (previously unreleased lternate of Planet PLF 118)
- So Mystifying – The Olympics (rec. c. 1964-1965, previously unreleased)
- Un Jeune Homme Bien – Petula Clark (Vogue ELP 8379, 1966)
- One Fine Day – Shel Naylor (Decca F 11856, 1964)
- Oh What a Day It’s Going to Be – Mo and Steve (Pye 7N 17175, 1966)
- Little Man in a Little Box – Barry Fantoni (Fontana TF 707, 1966)
- A House in the Country – The Pretty Things (Fontana TF 722, 1966)
- When I See That Girl of Mine – Bobby Rydell (Capitol 5513, 1965)
- Nobody’s Fool – Cold Turkey (Pye 7N 45142, 1972) (*)
- Act Nice and Gentle – Duster Bennett (Blue Horizon 57-3179, 1970) (*)
- I’ve Got That Feeling – The Orchids (Decca F 11861, 1964)
- Emptiness – The Honeycombs (Pye NPL 18132, 1965) (*)
- Rosy, Won’t You Please Come Home (Rosie, Rosie) – Marianne Faithfull (rec. 1966, first issued on London 820 632, 1988) (*)
- I’m Not Like Everybody Else – The Chocolate Watchband (previously unreleased alternate mono mix of track from Tower LP ST 5106, 1968)
- Who’ll Be the Next in Line – The Knack (Decca F 12234, 1965)
- Dandy – Herman’s Hermits (MGM 13603, 1966)
- The Virgin Soldiers’ March – The John Schroeder Orchestra (Pye 7N 17862, 1969)
- A Little Bit of Sunlight – The Majority (Decca F 12271, 1965)
- Big Black Smoke – Mick and Malcolm (Piccadilly 7N 35372, 1967)
- Mister Pleasant – Nicky Hopkins and The Whistling Piano (Decca 9-34466, 1967)
- End of the Season – The Ugly’s (Pye 7N 17178, 1966)
All tracks mono except (*) stereo