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Monday, December 12, 2005

Dave Davies: Anthology - Unfinished Business

While Ray Davies is the most recognizable member of the Kinks; as lead singer, main songwriter, producer and resident "genius" of the group; his brother Dave Davies was always just as important a piece of the puzzle. Dave's songs are not as numerous, nor as well-known as Ray's, but are also quality songs.

After 40 years in the business, and as a member of the Kinks, Dave certainly deserves this 2-disc collection highlighting his contributions to the band most closely associated with the genius of his sibling. Disc 1 focuses on Dave's contributions to the Kinks, opening with his stinging, stunning guitar work on "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night" before shifting to spotlight Kinks songs featuring Dave Davies as lead singer. Having all these great songs co-exist side by side rather than doled out one or two tracks at a time on album after album truly shines an illuminating new light on brother Dave's talents. The man is a great songwriter in his own right and only in a band with the songwriting genius of Ray Davies dominating the material would an artist of Dave's talents be regulated to second string. Highlights include "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," "Death of a Clown," "Love Me 'Till the Sun Shines," "Strangers," "Living on a Thin Line," and "Look Through Any Doorway." Even the few misfires here, like "There is No Life Without Love," and "This Man He Weeps Tonight," prove that, although big brother Ray may have been blessed with a sharper pen and superior vocal range, Dave could have been a fine frontman for the Kinks, himself. Be sure not to miss the wonderful, previously unreleased, "Mr Reporter."

Disc 2 focuses on Dave Davies' solo recordings, and includes some modern recordings of material released on some of his earlier solo albums, long considered to be the ultimate sin among most music collectors. Although the re-recordings balance the set out nicely, they still form a very unwelcome intrusion upon the Anthology concept of the collection. That said, this set proves an enlightening primer on Dave Davies neglected solo output. While the quality of material is less than what he supplied to the Kinks (and really would you save your best material for a solo album that nobody would buy or give them to a band project that would at least sell a few), it is still a fine collection of, mostly, forgotten gems. Highlights on this disc are 1980's "Imagination's Real," and a live recording of "Unfinished Business."

In fact, my main, major, complaint is the sound quality of the collection. Oddly, everything on these discs sounds like poorly mastered early 60's recordings, even the songs recorded as late as 1998. I'm not sure why the collection is so poorly mastered, especially since the Kinks' catalog recently received a grand remastering for their most recent spate of re-releases.

It is imperative here to point out that the copy of this collection I am reviewing is the European release, not the American. The American release, hampered by legal problems, features no Kinks material from 1966 - 1970, and is therefore shorter and much less fulfilling. It is definitely worth the extra coinage to get the European version, an all-around much better reflection of Dave Davies' 40-year musical career.

So, while the material in this collection is, mostly, first-rate, a massively botched mastering job renders this a middling release. I want to rate this set highly because it is brimming with wonderful, if forgotten, songs, but honestly can't see myself subjecting my ears to the displeasure of the sound quality again. This release rates a toaster, a cool item to have, but one that can be done without.


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