BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
While even Kinks Kollectors may greet yet another reissue of Muswell Hillbillies with some scepticism — there have been at least a couple of re-dos already after all — it’s likely the most devoted among them will be tempted to shell out the modest sum needed to acquire this latest edition of what was arguably the band’s last great concept creation. Muswell Hillbillies found the Kinks opting for Americana well before the term was even invented. While only a handful of its songs achieved the notoriety that marked, say, “Lola” or “Well Respected Man,” or, for that matter, any of the dozens of other chestnuts in their exhaustive catalogue, it did have its share of standouts — the boozy “Alcohol,” the driving “20th Century Man” and the wistful “Oklahoma USA” among them. Still, it was the overall synchronicity, similar to what was achieved with Village Green Preservation Society and Arthur, that made this the Kinks Klassic that it remains today.
It’s rewarding enough to hear this album newly remastered after more than 40 years. Most of the audio add-ons are essential as well — most notably, “Lavender Lane,” a furtive ballad that bears similarity to “Waterloo Sunset;” a lovely demo of “Nobody’s Fool”; “Mountain Woman,” an outtake that would have found a nice fit in the final set list; and a low-cast take on “Have a Cuppa Tea.” In the interest of full disclosure, it ought to be noted that the 2013 British reissue on Sanctuary contained most of these tracks and more (In ’98 the Velvel label did a single-CD reissue for the US market that contained only two bonus cuts.) Regardless, it’s the archival concert video footage occupying the accompanying DVD which makes this version a near necessity: a pair of 1972 appearances on the BBC, while having surfaced in the past on bootleg VHS and DVD titles as well as on a British box set, are cleaned- and spiffed-up for the American fans and kollectors.
With the approach of the Kinks’ 50th anniversary in 2015, there’s already plenty for Kinks Kompletists to spend their discretionary funds on. Indeed, not one, but two expansive box sets will be on the proverbial store shelves before the end of this year alone. However, when tallying up the priorities, a new edition of Muswell Hillbillies ought to be among them.
DOWNLOAD: “20th Century Man,” “Lavender Lane,” “Mountain Woman”
Go HERE to read our recent story about the Kinks in the ’70s.