The UK and American versions of the debut album by the Kinks. The Kinks have been one of my favorite groups since I first heard them in 1973 on the compilation album "Get It Together." I've wanted to do an entry on them for awhile but I haven't been able to decide on an album, so I opted to just start at the beginning. I have the UK version of the record (which was originally released in 1964 on Pye Records in England as NPL 18096) in a Spanish stereo reissue that I bought in Berkeley and an original mono pressing of the American version. Actually even though the inner label on the Spanish record says stereo, the record still sounds like mono to me. The mixes on both albums appear to be identical, although the Reprise pressing sounds a little better. The two versions are similar aside from the Reprise edition missing three tracks on the Pye version, "I Took My Baby Home," "I'm A Lover Not a Fighter" and "Revenge." The Reprise version has slightly better liner notes and a nice picture of the group on the back cover, other than that I don't think there is any good reason to have it except as a dumb collector thing which is why I have it. The record is unique among Kinks albums in that more than half of it was written by someone other than Ray Davies. Davies has six compositions on the album, two of which are first rate. "You Really Got Me" is of course an eternal rock classic. I've loved it since I was a teen. I still remember my outrage when a classmate in physics class in high school played me a tape of Van Halen's cover version which I regarded as sacrilege. The song's explosive heavy guitar riff and Dave Davies' raucous guitar solo are hard rock landmarks and Ray's urgent, desperate vocal adds to the recording's intensity. It still sounds powerful nearly 50 years after it was recorded. "Stop Your Sobbing" is a more sedate but catchy tune that is the only song on the album that hints at Davies' future as a pop craftsman although it isn't as good as the Pretenders' cover version. As for Davies' other songs, "So Mystifying" is primitive but fun, I like the jangly guitar riff. "I Took My Baby Home" is a very poppy, almost bubblegum type tune that sounds more like Jan and Dean than a Kinks song. The only thing I find interesting about it is Ray's harmonica playing. "Just Can't Go To Sleep" sounds like a girl group type song and the chorus seems to be aping the Beatles with "no no no" replacing "yeah yeah yeah." "Revenge" is a simple and very short instrumental that Davies co-wrote with the band's manager, Larry Page. It is probably the most undistinguished song Davies ever wrote. There are two numbers by the album's producer, Shel Talmy, which are easily the worst songs on the record. The inane "Bald Headed Woman" sounds like Talmy just made it up at the session. It is boring until the rave-up at the end. "I've Been Driving on Bald Mountain" (Talmy seems to have had a thing about hair loss) is just as bad, it sounds like the same song played a little faster. It is a dumb and repetitious song that is sheer tedium to listen to. Too bad Reprise didn't choose to leave these two off their version of the album, that would have made it better than the Pye version. The rest of the album consists of covers. My favorite of the covers is the band's frantic version of Chuck Berry's "Beautiful Delilah" which is full of energy, has an effectively sloppy vocal and features a manic guitar solo. The band also tackles Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business" but their performance here is less exciting. It pales in comparison to the Yardbirds' version of the song on "Five Live Yardbirds." That same Yardbirds album also offers a superior version of Slim Harpo's "Got Love If You Want It." The Kinks version is uninspired, although I do like the two rave-ups. There is a rocking version of Bo Diddley's "Cadillac" that gets me bopping. "Long Tall Shorty" is a cover of a song by Tommy Tucker. It a rhythm and blues tune with crude, boasting lyrics that sound unconvincing coming from Ray Davies although he makes a game effort practically croaking out the lyrics trying to sound tough. Ray does a little better with "I'm A Lover Not a Fighter" which is a cover of Lazy Lester's 1958 single. This tune is highly propulsive and Ray's scratchy vocal is delivered with gusto. The Kinks would never have made it as a rhythm and blues band, but at least they had good taste in covers. This is the worst Kinks album of the 1960s, but that is as it should be. They just got better and better as the decade went on. The one thing that stands out for me on this album is its vitality and energy. When I saw Ray Davies last year at the Wiltern, those were the two qualities that impressed me as well. There on stage was a 68 year old man rocking with passion and vigor, his indomitable spirit was still present after all these years. I consider Davies a brilliant pop craftsman, one of the great songwriters of his era who writes with intelligence and artistry, but inside him beats the heart of a true rock and roller as is evident on this album. Recommended to people who prefer the Animals over the Zombies.