KINKS Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround (Essential!)

"Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround" was The Kinks' eighth album, and, like the rest of their verbosely titled quasi-concept works, failed to chart in Britain, despite containing the hits "Lola" and "Apeman". (Note that the album version of the former contains a reference to Coca Cola, which was replaced by cherry cola on the single to placate the BBC!) If you can resist judging the album by its cheap-looking pen-drawn cover there's a rich swathe of quality tunery here, loosely woven around Ray Davies' bitter experiences at the mercy of the music industry. My favourite forgotten two minutes is "This Time Tomorrow", a gorgeous slice of yearning that reminds of The Byrds at their jangly best, but songs such as the caustic "Top Of The Pops" and "The Moneygoround" aren't far behind, and unlike some of its contemporaries at no point does the concept seem to overwhelm the purpose of the songs.

The current vinyl release of "Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround" is part of Castle's 180gm series, and arrives in a gatefold sleeve with lyrics, although not the extra tracks that can be found on the reissued CD. Rather confusingly the labels claim it's in mono, whilst the cover says otherwise - it sounds like stereo to my two ears, anyway. A good effort, and if your Kinks collection begins and ends at one of the many compilations available "Lola Vs Powerman And The Moneygoround" is one of half-a-dozen worthy ways of broadening it.

KINKS The Kink Kontroversy (Essential!)

This is a 180 gram vinyl reissue of the third Kinks long player, originally released in November 1965 (a month before "Rubber Soul"). Like the early works of The Beatles, The Byrds and The Rolling Stones it seems very much a product of its times, squeezed out to meet the market's insatiable desire for new material rather than conscientiously pieced together as a satisfying listening experience, the same desire that saw the early albums of The Kinks, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones mutilated across the Atlantic in an attempt to squeeze a few more quarts from a pint pot.

Musically "The Kink Kontroversy" sees Ray Davies just shy of the precipice of greatness. Many of the dozen songs revolve around the concerns of their young audience ("I Am Free" ) or the pressures and delights of being in a jet-setting band ("Gotta Get The First Plane Home", "I'm On An Island"). There's also an attempt to square up to The Rolling Stones on their own R&B territory, with a cover of Sleepy John Estes' "Milk Cow Blues". But there's nothing that really matches the quality of the two songs here that you already know, those being their last real gasp single as a shallow pop band "Till The End Of The Day" and its epochal b-side, "Where Have All The Good Times Gone", precursor of the dissatisfaction that would empower some of the band's greatest work in the years to come. And from here on in Ray Davies would begin to write in character, using other personalities to explore the decline and fall of England and Englishness as the tidal wave of flower power swept almost all before it. So, despite being crudely produced in glorious mono by Shel Talmy, and being largely bereft of memorable songs, "The Kink Kontroversy" represents the passing of an age of innocence in Kinks history, and is at least important for that. As an aside, note the cover design and photographs, which were appropriated by Sleater-Kinney for their "Dig Me Out" album.

THE KINKS The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society (Essential!)

"The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society" was the band's sixth album, the first to be created in thrall to a guiding concept and also their first to fail to chart in Britain. Nevertheless, the seeds sown here were arguably reaped by the entire Britpop movement: if the latter was spearheaded by Blur's unofficial "Modern Life" trilogy, Damon Albarn's mockney observational writing is firmly rooted in the underappreciated music Ray Davies created here.

Surprisingly, given its forebears and descendants, nearly 35 years after its original release it sounds a remarkably delicate album, barring the odd outbreak of thuggish bravado (for example the "Milk Cow Blues"-style pounding that closes "Do You Remember Walter", the slashing, Townshend-baiting guitar throughout "Big Sky" and the accelerating rush through the middle section of "Last Of The Steam-Powered Trains"). Davies' lyrical preoccupations are given away by the title, the album being a celebration of olden days customs and technology that was rapidly becoming history, conceived at a time when fake nostalgia was actually the real thing. He almost croons "Sitting By The Riverside", like "Animal Farm" and "Village Green" an invocation of a past rural idyll, whilst "Starstruck" maintains a peculiarly English distrust of celebrity, glamour and success, where the worst conceivable addiction involves wine and champagne. "Phenomenal Cat" could be a stouter relative of Pink Floyd's "Lucifer Sam", tinged with Barrettesque nursery rhyme acid whimsy atypical of the rest of the album; the fluttering mellotron introduction to this track is just crying out to be sampled. "All Of My Friends Were There" is helter skelter music hall, and the impish mischief of "People Take Pictures Of Each Other" disguises the fear of impermanence at the song's core ("People take pictures of the summer…just to prove that it really existed").

This most recent issue of "The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society" is presented in glorious mono, apparently for the first time on CD, which raises the question of where the stereo mix from which previous CD issues have been sourced was obtained. (Was it, for example, a historically discredited post-production fix-up, like the stereo versions of the first four Beatles albums?) I don't wish to condone the current fad for reissuing albums specifically for the single-eared consumer (consider recent mono versions of Love's "Da Capo", "The Velvet Underground And Nico" and practically all of Dylan's 60s catalogue, the point being what, exactly?) but if that's the way it was then that's the way it should be now. Additionally, this reissue contains the 12 track stereo equivalent originally slated for release at the time but pulled when Ray Davies felt it could be improved, resulting in the 15 track mono main attraction. One of those "While every effort has been made…" disclaimers highlights the fact that the sound quality is rougher and more distorted than the released version, which itself is no "Brothers In Arms", but as well as stereo mixes of two-thirds of the real thing it contains a stereo mix of the contemporaneous single "Days" and the otherwise unavailable "Mr. Songbird", a jaunty, jazzy makeweight decorated with mellotron trills that darkens perceptibly with the final line "You help to keep the devil away". The stereo version of "People Take Pictures Of Each Other" also adds a few seconds of distant jazz band not evident on the released mix. Finally, there's the mono single version of "Days", which is lovely as ever, but not its b-side ("She's Got Everything"), which would surely have fitted quite neatly on the end.

No matter. Despite some concerns over its provenance, this reissue of "The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society" showcases an important album in a variety of poses, and arrives with a booklets crammed with information, photographs and memorabilia.