"If I had to do my life over, I would change every single thing I have done."-Ray Davies In the mid-60's, while The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were developing as songwriters and The Who were just beginning to come into their own and adopting the mod cool of The Small Faces, The Kinks were already making quintessential English music, fighting like cats and dogs (or brothers), being plagued by shady record deals and having an overall rough time in the recording studio. The group never had it easy and was always overshadowed by its more popular contemporaries, yet pound for pound (or dollar for dollar), they probably made more quality albums and grew musically more than any of the aforementioned. Widespread American commercial success has often eluded The Kinks. Is it their Englishness? Did they not tour enough? Are their records sometimes just a little too intelligent for the average arena rock fan? No, no and no. Yet, for the legions of Kinks fans on both sides of the pond, there is above all an affection for the group that is boundless. Their influence only becomes more pronounced (see punk, BritPop and the recent Kooks album, called Konk) and the Davies songwriting style (if there is only one) has crept into the heart and soul of many a singer-songwriter. Davies remains a songwriter of the highest order. While a deepening of thought has crept into his more recent work, he certainly has not lost his sense of humor. Oddly, he seems less reflective in his recent work and sounds more like a man looking to the future. While we wait for the next solo album and even pray to the rock gods that brother Dave gets better and is up for a Kinks reunion, we have the new long-player Kinks UnKovered (klever title). There have only been two Kinks tribute albums. How could this be? While they both were fine platters, Kinks UnKovered shows the elasticity of Davies's songs. The roots of the music are here, whether that be country, folk, blues or jazz. The joy. The coy wordplay. The audacity. And it's great to hear so many female voices sing Davies's songs. There has always been a very feminine side to Davies's songs. This makes the first time that the world can hear another side of the music and draw deeper meanings from the music than we have heard before. (Yes, I know the Pretenders covered "Stop Your Sobbing" and "I Go To Sleep" as did Sia cover "I Go To Sleep") In fact, what you have here is only a sampling of the great songs recorded for this project. A true labor of love. This disc says as much about the great songwriting canon of Ray Davies as it says about the large number of truly great musical acts living right here on Long Island. There are a few obvious choices, but they are not done in an obvious way. There are obscurities, but given how well they are done, they will not be obscure for long. There are many from the later overlooked albums, which stands as a testament to the group's longevity. I've always thought that Long Island music fans have been so in love with classic British rock because Long Island, geographically (and even topographically), has much in common with England (which I guess would make Huntington the counterpart to either Liverpool or London). The Kinks have played a fair share of shows on Long Island. Between 1969 and 1995 they played 22 shows, their first at a place called Leone's in Long Beach and their last at Westbury Music Fair in 1995. All the artists who are included here have a strong affinity for the song, with a capital S, whether they be singing their own songs or covering someone else's. Every track sounds like it was recorded by the person who actually wrote the song, even though we know they didn't write it. These recordings sound like they have been around forever. There isn't a self-conscious moment to be found anywhere here. Every track was done for all the right reasons. They're all different, yet they all fit together; just like a great Kinks album. It's not a concept album, or even a greatest hits, and that's a good thing. It's not in chronological order either. This lively set would make the perfect soundtrack of a sunny afternoon in the summertime, whether at Montauk or Brighton. Give it a listen..
Steve Matteo New York September, 2009