These days it seems increasingly unlikely that we’ll see another Kinks studio album; despite constant back-and-forth interviews from Ray and Dave Davies stating that they’d like to do something, their solo projects currently lead their respective priorities. Until that miraculous time when they may decide to reunite for an album, or shows, fans are left with seeing the brothers Davies individually and hearing their solo works.
One such project is the incredibly successful Sunny Afternoon musical on the West End, having won four Olivier Awards earlier this year including Best New Musical. The show celebrates the early career of the Kinks, with a focus on elder brother and lead songwriter Ray, as they shot for chart success and international acclaim in the face of American unions and personal adversity. One year after the show’s debut at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London, a new compilation has been released as a companion to the original cast recording.
Sunny Afternoon, The Very Best of the Kinks is the latest in a long run of many Kinks compilations released the past few years, released on October 16. The two-disc has three distinct advantages over many “best of” compilations; after all, there are already so many Kinks compilations out there that merely recycle the same hit singles over and over. For one, rather than focus entirely on hits, this compilation essentially begins as a track-for-track copy of the musical’s soundtrack, in the exact order that the songs appear in the show. Many of these tracks, including “Sitting in My Hotel” and “Too Much on My Mind” were anything but hits for the Kinks. For the most part, only ardent Kinks fans had truly appreciated the beauty of such songs before the musical came out. Other songs, such as “This Strange Effect” weren’t even considered Kinks songs at all. Though penned by Ray Davies, “This Strange Effect” was given to artist Dave Berry; the version included on this album is a live BBC performance, and was never released as a studio track. Another well known song, “I Go to Sleep” was only ever recorded as a demo by the group; the song was more notably recorded by artists such as The Applejacks, Peggy Lee, and most famously The Pretenders.
The second edge of this compilation comes in the form of bonus tracks included after the soundtrack portion. The tracks chosen are a balanced mix of popular hits and lesser-known songs with great meaning. The songs were apparently chosen by Ray Davies for this release as an expanded soundtrack for the show, which play into the context and emotion of the musical. My personal favorite of these bonus tracks is “The Way Love Used to Be” from Percy soundtrack, a beautiful and melancholy ode to romance which I was lucky enough to hear performed live this past summer by Ray Davies himself, a rare treat indeed. Without spoiling the show for those who have yet to see it and aren’t as educated in the Kinks’ backstory, it makes sense as an avid Kinks fan that “The Way Love Used to Be” could have been worked into a lengthened version of the show for the Ray-Rasa marriage subplot.
Finally, this compilation has a wide audience to which it may appeal. Kinks completists will always want the latest CD, no matter what it is, to add to their expansive collections and hardcore fans will be pleased with the inclusion of deep tracks and interview clips in the set. The Very Best Of will also attract viewers of the musical who had little-to-no previous exposure to the Kinks before seeing Sunny Afternoon. There are always a certain number of theatre-goers who go to shows for the love of the medium rather than the subject and are converted into fans because the show moved them so much. Certainly the musical has acted as a gateway for casual Kinks fans to explore the band’s discography more intently and has introduced the band more to the thirty-and-under crowd. This compilation offers a great opportunity for the OST lovers to discover the original band recordings and hopefully will intrigue them to look more into The Kinks’s deep tracks through the studio albums.
If the compilation has any flaws, it is the limited timespan of the songs, which concentrate heavily on the ’60s and early-’70s era of the Kinks. Of course, this is no real fault of the album as the context of the set is based on the storyline of the musical, which only focuses on the early days of the Kinks’ career. I believe we can forgive the album for that and hope that the casual fans will take it upon themselves to discover the Kinks’ later works through genuine curiosity and interest.
Sunny Afternoon, The Very Best of the Kinks is available now on Amazon, iTunes, and in stores.