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The Best Kinks Live LP, Ever

May 24, 2021

The Stones, the Who, the Yardbirds and the Small Faces are all revered today for their live performances. Their contemporaries The Kinks: not so much. They were certainly an erratic proposition in the early days, not least because of onstage disagreements. This  1965 live LP is as about as good as it gets.  Later on they would become variously a music-hall act (on RCA) and heavy rockers (with Arista). But in between these eras, from about 1969 – 1971, there was a sweet spot when they played some really good gigs.

Unfortunately well-recorded recorded evidence is hard to find. There is an oft-booted recording from the Fillmore West in November 1970 which is an audience recording of an average gig. The Fillmore West show from 1969 is available as a soundboard recordng on CD as Back In The USA (Tendolar, 1999) and offers better sound and a more focussed performance.  Weirdly there is virtually nothing in decent quality from the UK or Europe during this time.

So I was delighted to find online a recording of the Kinks March 27th 1971 performance at Queens College, Flushing, New York.  The recording is very listenable. The instruments and vocals are clear but there is also a fair amount of audience noise. So it is not a straight soundboard recording, but the quality is too good to have been recorded by someone in the audience with a cassette recorder.  My guess would be a reel-to-reel onstage recording through some decent microphones. Does anyone know more ?

The audience response adds excitement to the gig and clearly enthuses the band, who are in fine form. The first three minutes sees Ray trying to do something complicated with the lights without success, culminating in his flouncing off with a “Tell you what, forget we came here.” Of course he is soon back onstage for the first surprise of the night, Johnny Cash’s  “Give My Love To Rose”.  Then a slightly hammy intro to regular set opener Til The End Of The Day, followed by an excellent take on Brainwashed.  The Lola… LP had been released the previous November and four of its songs are included: Apeman, Get Back In Line, Powerman, and the title track, which gets the best response of the night  Dedicated Follower of Fashion and Sunny Afternoon both inspire audience sing-alongs.

The second major surprise of the set is the inclusion of two rarely played gems, Mr.Pleasant and Autumn Almanac. According to the BB Chronicles blog this was possible because student Ben Rosenblatt introduced himself to the band before the show and was invited to sit in on piano for these two songs.  Ben does a marvellous job , particularly on Mr Pleasant. On the original record the piano part is played by the legendary session-player Nicky Hopkins: Ben takes Hopkins’ part, replicates it and even improvises around it. Autumn Almanac is slightly less sure-footed , but that is down to Ray – he introduces the song as “one that even I don’t know.”

Then it’s a brace of medleys, long a feature of the Kinks live performances. The first kicks off with a tough version of Milk Cow Blues, sung by Dave with Ray on harmonica. The segue to Powerman is handled well and the two songs fit together well., which is more than you can say for  the heavy-metal version of You Are My Sunshine which follows. Ray seems to realise this as he does a standalone version which fares better.  Then another mighty medley to finish off the set, this time You Really Got Me / All Day Of the Night.

Encores are demanded and delivered. Ray starts Waterloo Sunset alone before the band drop in around him, John Gosling’s piano and  Dave Davies’ guitar provide delicate support: the harmonies are spot-on, even on that tricky finish. A driving Victoria is built around Dave’s rhythm guitar and Gosling’s boogie-woogie piano and provides a rousing final number.

Even if you are only a marginal Kinks fan you will enjoy this and if like me you are enamoured of their every move between Face To Face and Lola then you will love it.

God Save The Kinks!

Download the full set here



From → Gigs, Music

  1. Mike Baess permalink

    Wow – what a great find and thanks for sharing. I haven’t heard it yet but it’s sure whet my appetite for later.

    I think the reason The Kinks didn’t follow The Rolling Stones or The Who as an arena attraction was down to their material which
    benefitted more from cosy music hall style theatres. They didn’t really go after an American audience until their live ban was lifted in 69 so, thankfully for us,
    they concentrated on making music for their UK market.

    Probably like you, I’ve always hoped to find a live gig from 1968 where they might have played live versions of songs from Something Else or Village Green but I don’t think they ever did. There was a BBC Special, Colour Me Pop, where they played an interesting set but all that exists is this clip –

    Kinks on Colour Me Pop: medley Dedicated/Respected/Clown AUDIO ONLY – YouTube
    rare off-air audio of the Kinks appearance on Colour Me Pop, July 1968 (otherwise missing). This was the opening medley they played on the programme, and the…


  2. Thanks for the medley Mike – hadn’t heard that before!

  3. Pancho Fco. permalink

    For me the best live album of The Kinks is One For The Road.

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