Unreleased Kinks

Rarely are an artist’s unreleased tracks worth our attention. Apart from The Velvet Underground's stellar offcuts there’s one other exception: The Kinks. “Something Else” (1967), “Village Green Preservation” (1968) and “Arthur” (1969) are untouchable LPs, but from this their greatest period there is much else besides. Ray Davies was for a time touched by an unearthly genius and wrote a slew of songs which never graced an LP proper.

A number of these tunes found their way on to the lovely “Great Lost Kinks Album”. This was issued cheekily by Reprise in America in 1973, but upon discovering its release Ray Davies started legal action against the label and the disc was subsequently deleted.

Many bootlegs have circulated in the intervening years but recently these marvels have seen the light in Sanctuary’s exhaustive Kinks reissue programme (cf the extended “Deluxe” CD editions of their original LPs) as well as on recent compilations like “Picture Book” and “The Anthology 1964-1971”. However, the best of these songs can be rather swamped amid stereo takes, BBC recordings, instrumental versions and interview snippets. Accordingly I’ve wrapped up thirteen of my faves in a Spotify playlist.

I won’t go into the songs and their genus in detail. One thing though which seems remarkable to me is the sheer cliff from which Davies' creativity fell after 1969's "Arthur". Critics hold a candle for "Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Vol. 1" (1970) and even "Muswell Hillbillies"(1971) I simply can't hear it at all. The last Kinks song I can feel is brother Dave's "Strangers", used like many other of their tracks by auteur Wes Anderson. It's as though Ray forgot to tell Dave the sixties were over.

Much is made of the Kinks' ban from America at the hands of the musician unions - but clearly it was the making of them. On a more profound level, restriction was necessary to their endeavour. In much the same way Ray's unfettered ambitions spiral out into musical theatre with mixed appeal - the latest manifestation of which has hit London's West End. The real attraction is of course a Muswell Hill of the mind, something these unheralded, supremely atmospheric demos capture in spades.


Six Minor LPs from the Eighties for £30

Well, actually it was £37 for the lot - but I didn't get where I am today without the odd exaggeration. Frankly, if I didn't lie to myself, who else would there be to lie to?

Flashback in Islington have just taken delivery of a big collection. Someone's died. Or gone bust. Lots of eighties stuff one doesn't see so often. Priced very cheaply. So I picked up a bunch of things I've always been curious about.

Chronologically then.

Pauline Murray and The Invisible Girls (1980)

Always, always wanted to hear this. I'm as big a Martin Hannett fan as the next man. But what a crushing disappointment. I've only read people being polite about it but it's real gold to lead stuff, the blame of which I'm afraid partly rests with Pauline. If you're reading this, sorry Pauline. It's not personal.

P.I.L. Flowers of Romance (1981)

Never heard this before I'm ashamed to admit. John Lydon clearly believed he could do no wrong. He made the mistake of thinking "Never Mind The Bollocks" and "Metal Box" were all about him. He was the eye of those storms, the anti-matter at the centre of their black holes, but it was the musicians he drew into those vortices that made those records what they were. This is a terrible, almost unremittingly feeble LP. Dominated by Johnny's muezzin-a-like wailing and ham-fisted percussion. Only the title track makes the slightest concession to a tune. Back to the drawing board.

The Comsat Angels: Sleep No More (1981)

Rock deity Phil Knight endorses this. It's pretty great. A minor classic guitar epic. Like a pocket U2. Or a noir-ish Psychedelic Furs. Or an oblique Simple Minds. Or a deracinated Big Country. I could go on, but shant.

Cabaret Voltaire: The Crackdown (1983)

Ok, so my old pal Nick Gutterplekz, I wonder how this fits into his analogue cosmology? It's not the hip Cabs of "Red Mecca", though perhaps in one of those quirks, somehow suddenly very trendy. A stab at a more commercial sound which is really as misshapen and discordant as their older stuff. The rapping a bit odd, but strangely tolerable.

Breaking news: Ho, ho! It's all about the free LTD edition EP that comes with this. "Featuring four tracks from the "DOUBLEVISION" VIDEO." This is what I always wanted from the Cabs. Amazing.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Neo Geo (1987)

Big fan of this guy's. Never had anything as late as this. A literally astonishing line up - Iggy Pop, Sly Dunbar, Tony Williams, Bootsy Collins, Bill Laswell, David Van Tieghem. Silly. Must have cost a fortune in session fees. Sadly, it's quite flat. However "Okinawa Song - Chin Nuku Juushii" is fantastic. There's a great video of him playing a slightly slaughtered version live beside the Eiffel tower. That tune highly recommended to the bamboo flute and fairlights massive.

Ambitious Lovers: Greed (1988)

Love Arto. 4EVA. I have "Envy" (1984)  too which I've realised along with this and "Lust" (1991) forms a kind of trilogy. Geddit? Like the Cabs' effort it's a gloriously wrong-headed attempt at entry-ism. Always really rated "Prize" - but discovered "Noon Chill" is really the one. Must cop that one soon.