Okay, so what do we have here? Another Kinks Kompilation? Aren’t there enough of those already?
The latest attempt to distil the brilliance of The Kinks onto two CD’s ties in with the jukebox musical based on their material. Whether you’re a fan of them or not, jukebox musicals have been big business for a while now, with Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You being two of the most profitable shows in the history of live performance. There have been interesting attempts to vary the theme too, such as Cirque du Soleil’s Love soundtracked by Beatles numbers, but generally it’s been a case of these musicals leaning a little too heavily on the act’s singalong hits and little else.
I genuinely hope that Sunny Afternoon is a success for its creators though, if only because it might encourage music fans to delve deeper into The Kinks back catalogue and realise that it offers a lot more beyond a brace of great albums and a string of truly brilliant hit singles through the mid 60s and into the early 70s. With this in mind, yet another compilation of hit singles is probably the least we could expect in terms of a tie-in release.
Except it isn’t just another compilation of hit singles…
Sunny Afternoon inevitably has all The Kinks singles that we’re familiar with, and almost anyone with even a fleeting interest in 60s pop music could immediately name at least a dozen tracks on this compilation. It’s the other stuff where Sunny Afternoon wins over other, more obvious compilations of the band’s material. First of all, it’s not in chronological order, which has been something that has been utilised with increased rarity these days. Usually mixing up the chronology is an attempt to hide the fact that an act’s later material wasn’t as good as their early stuff, however in the case of Sunny Afternoon, it’s an attempt to follow the musical’s narrative.
The other nice aspect of this compilation is to highlight some of the gems hidden on Kinks albums that don’t get heard as often as they should do. From a demo of “I Go To Sleep”, to a handful of album cuts which should be regarded among The Kinks best work, this compilation digs a little deeper, tries a little harder. As someone with a passing interest in the band and the various solo careers since, there’s a good selection of songs that I hadn’t heard before, which can only be a good thing. Sure, there are some howling omissions, such as the likes “The Village Green Preservation Society” or hits like “Autumn Almanac” and “Apeman”, but I suppose if they didn’t fit into the narrative of the musical, then they wouldn’t be on here. Still, I suppose that they’re the type of songs now ripe for later discovery for anybody for whom Sunny Afternoon is their first Kinks Kompilation.
In the marketing of any compilation, a balance has to be struck between complete newcomers needing a definitive introduction, and those, who have a passing, but not exhaustive knowledge of the acct in question. A lot of the time, a compilation trying to be both of these will reek of compromise. This isn’t the case for Sunny Afternoon though, as the balance is struck almost perfectly, to the point where even the most devoted Kinks Kompletist will have an interest in the various radio interviews and sessions that close the second disc. Sure, for newcomers they may seem an odd addition, but they are very evocative of the pre-Radio 1 era where there was actually not much in the way of pop music played on the radio, so such interviews were very much an ‘event’. Besides, it makes a pleasant change to the isolated live tracks so often included on such compilations to pad them out.
Sunny Afternoon is a release that could easily have slipped under the radar and have just been another Kinks Kompilation, however it offers something a little more substantial than just plodding through the well known hits that have been plodded through on a regular basis so many times before. If you’re a newcomer, or just want to dig a little deeper into their career, this is now the place to start