What kind of rock star celebrates turning 21 with a song called “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”? That would be Ray Davies. In the early Sixties, when all the other Swinging London mods were flying high on drugs and miniskirts, he and his band were inventing a new school of surly rock & roll vibes. Van Halen and David Bowie both covered the tune, but nobody played it with the mean brat-punk edge of the Kinks. Today the Kinks are treasured mainly for late-Sixties cult classics like Something Else and Village Green Preservation Society. Their early gems don’t get the same attention, partly because they’ve been so tough to find. But these smashing deluxe editions finally tell the story, expanding the original mono albums with stray tracks, singles, demos and BBC sessions. The guitars crackle with violence — as if the Kinks are about to break into an onstage brawl any second now.
1965’s Kinda Kinks is the pick of the litter, packing 35 songs on two discs. Davies explodes as a songwriter, from the maybe-love-doesn’t-suck ballad “Something Better Beginning” to the no-actually-it-does ditty “Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl.” (In Rushmore, that’s the song playing as Bill Murray hides at the bottom of the pool.) His brother Dave adds the innovative guitar workouts of the bonus cuts “I Need You” and “See My Friends.” The Kink Kontroversy, also from ’65, peaks with the cheery “Till the End of the Day” — but the good times are over as soon as the song ends. Greater glories lay ahead, yet these editions prove the Kinks were something special from the start.