ABC Entertainment DVD VP1300
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The Kinks weren’t the most famous band to come out of the British Invasion, but few could match their longevity or output. From 1964 to their split in 1996, The Kinks released a string of hits: “You Really Got Me,” “All Day and All of the Night,” “Tired of Waiting on You,” “Well-Respected Man,” “Waterloo Sunset,” “Lola,” “Destroyer,” “Come Dancing,” “Do it Again”….. Along the way its cofounder, lead vocalist, and chief songwriter Ray Davies also experimented freely. The band had more reincarnations than a bus load of Hindus and appeared in guises such as pop band, a hard rock lineup, a folk rock ensemble, a preservationist society, a village dance band, rock opera performers, MTV video stars, and a nostalgia act. Insofar as rock historians can tell, their “See My Friend” was the first Western pop song to incorporate sitar into the arrangement, and The Kinks also anticipated and/or inspired glam rock, punk, heavy metal, and New Wave.

You Really Got Me tells much of this story, though it doesn’t always tell it well. The 87-minute production includes a lot of concert footage, but most of it is taken from just a handful of television appearances, especially a dynamite mid-80s nostalgia-soaked concert in Japan. While it is fun to see Ray and Dave Davies at the height of their polished power, the Japanese concert doesn’t tell us much about the band when the songs being featured were fresh. Moreover, the producers are too respectful and too focused on celebrating commercial success (at the expense of artistic expression). As a result controversy such as that which led to several personnel shakeups is glossed over as, indeed, is Ray’s ultimate estrangement from his brother Dave. An enduring mystery is why The Kinks were banned from entering the United States in the late Sixties. Reasons for the ban are obscure and don’t look to this production to shed any new light. In similarly incomplete fashion, The Kinks’ influence on musical history is stated, but seldom illustrated. Viewers are left to connect the dots between crunching power chords and metal music, between the lads’ bad-boy antics and punk, and between Davies’ showmanship and Bono’s U2 stage persona. A giant unresolved question is whether The Kinks were, simply, too English to obtain the global acclaim of contemporaries such as The Beatles, The Who, and The Rolling Stones. In fact, the overall production and didactic values of the video lean heavily toward the amateurish end of the scale.

For all of that, The Kinks themselves redeem You Really Got Me. Ray Davies comes off as a veritable chameleon. One can visibly observe his discomfort in early Edwardian-suited mop-top days, just as one can feel his ease leaping across the stage as a caffeinated front man for high-energy hard rock. Yet he seems equally at home posing as collier-rock village lad, an English hillbilly, a fey glam-boy, a cheesy and vaguely Latino impresario, or as a one-man-band-cum-subway bum. For all of its shortcomings You Really Got Me will send you to YouTube to track down more Kinks performances. For that alone we can be grateful.


Tune In
Compass 7-4534-2
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The latest recording from Irish-born, Edinburgh-based Nuala Kennedy is, depending on your point of view, either eclectic or inconsistent. In a remarkably short period of time Kennedy has established herself in the top tier of Celtic flute and whistle players; sets such as “Footsteps,” “Thíos Cois Na Trá,” and “The Blooming Bright Star of Belle Isle” offer plenty of evidence that her reputation is well-earned. Kennedy’s breath control and fingering are glorious, as is her timing with accomplished players such as hurdy gurdy artist Nicolas Boulerice and guitarist Phillipe Guidat. Like many younger players Kennedy mixes musical styles freely. Purists are likely to adore the aforementioned tunes and be distressed by Kennedy’s other choices, especially her pick of songs. Kennedy certainly has a fine voice, as she demonstrates on an intriguing rendition of “My True Love,” an arrangement textured by Lea Kirstein on cello, Brian Kellock on piano, and the late Oliver Schroer on fiddle. Individual taste, however, will dictate how listeners respond when Kennedy veers to the pop end of the musical spectrum. I enjoyed her composition “The Books in My Library,” a song that parallels a book shelf to paths taken (or not). It reminded me a lot of something Sally Rogers might have in her repertoire. I’m less enamored of her take on “The Waves of the Silvery Tide,” a duet with the warble-voiced Bonnie Prince Billy. (To put a point on it, I can't stand his operatic voice and wonder why weirdness so often gets more attention that singers with much better voices.) The album’s concept is to “tune in’ to various voices and influences. That’s admirable, but it also means that it sometimes lacks a foundational identity.