Between 1964 and 1971, The Kinks were musical trailblazers who took Britain and America by storm. Critical acclaim accompanied many of The Kinks’ albums. Partly, this was because The Kinks never stood still musically. Instead, they were musical chameleons. They realised that to stay relevant, that their music had to change.

In the early days, The Kinks combined rock and R&B on their first five albums. Raw, full energy and youthful exuberance The Kinks spoke to a generation on both sides of the Atlantic. From their 1964 debut album through 1965s Kinda Kinks, The Kink Controversy and 1966s Face To Face critical acclaim and commercial success accompanied the released of these albums. It seemed that The Kinks could do no wrong.

Despite enjoying commercial success and critical acclaim, The Kinks were ready to change direction musically. The opportunity to do so, arose in September 1967, when Something Else By The Kinks was released. This was the last album produced by ‘musical impresario’ Shel Talmy.  

Following Something Else By The Kinks, Ray Davies would take charge of production, during what proved to be a new chapter in The Kinks’ story. The songs that the Davies’ bothers would write were very different

Unlike so many sixties bands,The Kinks eschewed throwaway pop music. Instead, they created cerebral music. It was intelligent, thoughtful, satirical and thought-provoking music. Sometimes, there was a degree of cynicism in The Kinks’ songs. Other times, The Kinks songs were tinged with melancholy, as if longing for an England that was long gone. However, from 1966 onwards, many of The Kinks songs found Ray Davies became a storyteller. 

The role of storyteller was one that Ray Davies was suited to, and seemed to embrace. He brought the sometimes cinematic lyrics to life, on The Kinks’ carefully crafted songs. They were a cut above the lightweight songs of other sixties bands. Despite this, commercial success eluded The Kinks in Britain.

Neither 1967s The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society, nor  1969s Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall Of The British Empire) charted in Britain. Both of these albums were released to critical acclaim. While music critics “got” these albums, they passed record British buyers by. Things didn’t get any better for The Kinks.

As the sixties gave way to the seventies, chart success eluded 1970s Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One. That was the case with the two albums The Kinks released during 1971. Neither Percy nor The Muswell Hillbillies charted in Britain. In America, The Kinks albums were more popular.

In America, which had more of an album culture, The Kinks enjoyed both commercial success and critical acclaim. They were one of Britain’s most successful musical exports. That’s despite being banned from entering and touring since 1965. The ban was up in 1970. 

Despite being banned from America, The Kinks’ 1969 album Arthur (Or The Decline and Fall Of The British Empire) reached number 105 in the US Billboard 200. While this was a long way from their first three albums, at least The Kinks’ were finding an audience stateside.

Then when 1970s Lola Versus Powerman and The Moneygoround, Part One reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200, it became The Kinks’ second most successful album. It looked like The Kinks were back.

Sadly, it was not be. When Percy was released in 1970, it failed to chart. Later that year, Muswell Hillbillies reached just number 100 in the US Billboard 200. This was a huge disappointment. Especially since Muswell Hillbillies was The Kinks first album for RCA Records. However, by then, the Davies’ brothers’ “other career” was proving both successful and profitable.

Ever since the earliest days of The Kinks’ career, Ray and Dave Davies had written songs for other artists. By 1971, when  The Kinks signed to RCA Records, Ray and Dave Davies were successful songwriters.They had written for artists on both sides of the Atlantic. Everyone from Dave Berry, Peggy Lee, Petula Clark, The Pretty Things, Bobby Rydell, Duster Bennett, Marianne Faithfull, The Knack, Herman’s Hermits and Nicky Hopkins and The Whistling Piano had recorded songs penned by one or other of the Davies’ brothers. These tracks feature on Ace Records’ recently released compilation Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971.

Twenty-six songs feature on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971. These songs show how the Davies’ brothers songwriting skills over a seven year period. Many of the songs on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 were never recorded by The Kinks. Others songs were recorded by other artists before The Kinks decided to record them. Some of the songs are very different to what The Kinks were releasing during that period. They’re the polar apposite to the raw power of early Kinks songs. Instead, the songs have a much more traditional song structure, and range from melodic pop to much more sophisticated songs. This makes sense. Between 1964 and 1967, Ray and Dave Davies’ were maturing and evolving as songwriters. That’s apparent on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971, which I’ll pick the highlights of.

Dave Berry’s cover of Ray Davies’ This Strange Effect opens Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971. This Strange Effect was released on Decca in July 1965. While the single reached just thirty-seven in Britain, it gave Dave Berry a huge hit in Belgium and Holland. This resulted in Dave’s 1967 album being entitled This Strange Effect. It’s one of Dave Berry’s finest singles. Just like his 1964 classic The Crying Game, This Strange Effect oozes quality. The arrangement is underrated, with Dave’s vocal a mixture of melancholia and disbelief at having at last, found love. His reading of the song is heartfelt and  beautiful, and whets the listener’s appetite for the rest of Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971.

Although Goldie and The Gingerbreads were a New York group, for a while they were based in Britain. That was after they were discovered by The Animals. They brought the quartet back to Britain, Goldie and The Gingerbreads recorded the Ray Davies’ song Look For Me Baby. It was recorded in May 1965, with Shel Talmy taking charge of the production. Sadly, this slice of poppy soul was never released, and makes a welcome debut on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971.

By 1965, commercial success was becoming a stranger to The Cascades. So when they came to record their next single She’ll Love Again, their manager and producer Andy Di Marino decided that a Ray Davies song I Bet You Won’t Stay was perfect for the B-Side. It would be good publicity for his charges. However, when She’ll Love Again was released in August 1965, the single never troubled the charts. Things might have been very different if I Bet You Won’t Stay was released as a single.

I Bet You Won’t Stay features an arrangement where elements of pop and psychedelia melt into one. The final ingredient is a  vocal full of cynicism. This is a potent mix, and results in a hidden gem of a track. It also showcases Ray Davies’ skill as a songwriter during his expressionist era.

Another song written during Ray Davies’ expressionist era was I Go To Sleep, which Peggy Lee released as a single in August 1965, it failed to chart. This was a track from Peggy Lee’s album Then Was Then And Now Is No. It was released in 1965, seventeen years after Peggy Lee’s 1948 debut album Rendezvous With Peggy Lee. By 1965, Peggy Lee was still a huge name in jazz and pop circles. Still she could breath life and meaning into lyrics. This she does to I Go To Sleep, her wistful emotive vocal perfect for the understated arrangement. It’s a reminder of a truly talented singer, who enjoyed a career spanning six decades.

In 1965, The Kinks released their Well Respected Man as a single in 1965 on Pye. It reached number thirteen in the US Billboard 200. So later in 1965, The Kinks 1965 released an American album entitled Well Respected Man. Ray Davies’ song was the gift that kept on giving.

Not longer after this, Petula Clark decided to record a cover Well Respected Man. However, her version, was in French. For several years, Petula had been recording in English and French, and was enjoying success on both sides of the Channel. Un Jeune Homme Bien was produced by Tony Hatch, who had also produced Petula Clark’s biggest hit Downtown. It gave Ptula a worldwide during 1964. Although Un Jeune Homme Bien didn’t enjoy the same commercial success as Downtown, Petula’s vocal is full of scorn as the lyrics take on new meaning.  

In July 1965, The Kinks released Who’ll Be The Next In Line as a single. It reached number thirty-four in the US Billboard 100.  Just two month later, and The Knack released Who’ll Be The Next In Line as their debut single. The Knack were originally from London, but like many British bands in the sixties, spent much of their time in Germany. However, their manager and producer Larry Page brought the band home to record Who’ll Be The Next In Line as their debut single. 

Just like his brother, Dave Davies is a talented songwriter. He wrote One Fine Day, which Shel Naylor released as a single in March 1964. It was produced by Shel Talmy and Mike Stone. They’re responsible for a hopeful and melodic fusion of pop, soul and rock. Alas, One Fine Day didn’t give the Midlands Powerhouse the hit single that he so richly deserved.

By the time The Pretty Things released A House In The Country as a single in July 1966, commercial success was a thing of the past. Meanwhile, Ray Davies was regarded as one of great observers of everyday life. These songs ranged from wry to sarcastic, sardonic and witty. A House In The Country was certainly witty and ironic. It was produced by Steve Rowland, and sees The Pretty Things power through an arrangement that married rock and R&B. Vocalist Phil May gives voice to Ray Davies’ observations against a powerhouse of an arrangement. Sadly, even a Ray Davies song could change The Pretty Things’ fortunes, and never again did they enjoy another hit single. However, A House In The Country is a reminder of one of the great British groups of the sixties.

In 1965, Bobby Rydell was a one-time teen idol who was in the process of reinventing himself. He had to. Commercial success was no longer a friend of his. So when Bobby released It Takes Two as a single in September 1965, on Capitol Records, Ray Davies When I See That Girl Of Mine was on the flip-side. Against a stomping beat, Bobby delivers a needy, hopeful vocal. This is very different to what the former teen idol previous recordings. Despite this commercial success eluded Bobby Rydell.

With some songs, it possible to date them exactly. That is the case with The Honeycombs’ Emptiness. This Joe Meek production has a mid-sixties sound. That’s no surprise. Emptiness was released on Pye September 1965. It’s a track from The Honeycombs’ sophomore album All Systems Go! At the heart of the song’s success is a heart-wrenching vocal, and an arrangement that’s a vortex of pop and rock. It has Joe Meek’s trademark sound.

Marianne Faithfull recorded Rosy, Won’t You Please Come Home back in 1966. The Ray Davies’ composition was reinvented with the help of arranger and producer Mike Leander. Against a baroque arrangement, Marianne becomes a storyteller, delivering an impassioned husky vocal. Sadly, the song wasn’t released until 1989, when it was renamed Rosie, Rosie. Belatedly, music lovers got to hear an impassioned rendition Rosy, Won’t You Please Come Home.

Given The Pretty Things were struggling, Ray Davies gave them first dibs on A House In The Country. Once the single was recorded, Who’ll Be The Next In Line was released in September 1965. This slice of garage rock should’ve launched The Knack’s career. Especially with a sneering vocal that is full of cynicism. It’s almost Jagger-esque. Despite the undoubted quality of Who’ll Be The Next In Line, the single failed commercially. By 1967,The Knack had split-up, after releasing just a trio of singles. It was a case of what might have been?

Straight away, The John Schroeder Orchestra’s cover of The Virgin Soldiers March has a cinematic sound. That should be the case. Ray Davies had been commissioned to write the theme to The Virgin Soldiers March in 1969. Later that year, The John Schroeder Orchestra covered The Virgin Soldiers March. It was produced by John Schroeder, whose responsible for the track’s moody, thoughtful, cinematic sound.

Mick and Malcolm only ever recorded one, single, Dead End Street in  October. On the B-Side was a cover of The Kinks’ Big Black Smoke. This is another observational song from the pen of Ray Davies. It’s akin to a modern day morality tale from Mick and Malcolm. Sadly, very few people got the chance to hear it, as Dead End Street was never released in spring of 1967. Somewhat belatedly, Mick and Malcolm’s morality tale about London’s dark underbelly can be heard on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971. It’s a welcome addition to the compilation.

My final choice from Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 is the final track, The Ugly’s End Of The Season. It was released on Pye in September 1966. By then, The Kinks had recorded the song in April 1966, but their version wasn’t released until September 1967. Despite getting first “dibs” on End Of The Season, The Ugly’s almost theatrical version failed commercially. However, with its quintessentially English sound, it’s the perfect way to close a compilation of songs written by quintessentially English band…The Kinks.

They were not only one of the most successful and talented bands of the sixties, but featured two truly talented songwriters. Ray Davies was the most prolific of the two brothers. That’s apparent on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971, which was recently released by Ace Records. It features twenty-six tracks that were penned by the Davies’ brothers. 

The songs on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971 veer between  cerebral music and satirical to thoughtful and thought-provoking. Sometimes, there was a degree of cynicism in the songs. Other songs are tinged with melancholy, Then from 1966 onwards, many of The Kinks songs found Ray Davies became a storyteller. 

The role of storyteller was one that Ray Davies was suited to and seemed to embrace. So are the artists on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971. They bring Ray Davies sometimes cinematic and carefully crafted songs to life. They’re why nowadays, Ray Davies is regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Proof of this, are the Ray Davies’ songs on Kinked! Kinks Songs and Sessions 1964-1971, which document and celebrate the songwriting careers of Ray and Dave Davies.















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