Even before the Kinks made their first hit, the 1964 fuzz rocket “You Really Got Me,” singer-composer Ray Davies was writing about euphoria in the past tense — check out “I Believed You,” a brash 1963 demo included on this six-CD set and recorded when the Kinks were still a North London dance band called the Boll-Weevils. But Davies quickly refined that raw longing into a fiercely personal pop of loss — the mourning grind of ’64’s “Tired of Waiting for You,” the explosive ’65 wailer “Where Have All the Good Times Gone” — built on the Kinks’ bratty R&B spunk and dusted with the antique sparkle of British music hall.
Half of Picture Book‘s long view (this is the first Kinks anthology to go up to their mid-Nineties finish) is devoted to the band’s sustained brilliance into the early Seventies, emphasizing Ray’s near-daily pursuit of excellence and a fading Albion across now-fabled singles and corralled rarities. Some of the legendary tension between Ray and his younger brother, Dave, the Kinks’ lead guitarist, was rooted in the latter’s love of loud, and his equal, if not upper, hand is evident in the wisely selective passage through the Kinks’ Seventies and Eighties arena-rock resurrection. But Ray never stopped looking over his shoulder. Picture Book ends with another demo, “To the Bone,” from 1995, in which Ray spots a favorite old LP in a record shop, triggering memories of a failed love affair. “Every single groove,” he sings, “cuts me to the bone.” It is a familiar sensation here.