I decided to download some Kinks after I read an article in Rolling Stone about Ray Davies. I am somewhat familiar with the Kinks, and I had a couple of their albums on vinyl years ago. But I honestly have not listened to them in fifteen years. So, through my top secret on-line source, I downloaded their entire discography (I love the internet - have I mentioned that?). The first one I listened to was "Muswell Hillbillies" from 1971. I must say, I was quite impressed. Ray Davies songwriting is wonderful, and I loved the everyman, working class themes of the songs on this album. It's cohesive and it's a great illustration of why I like albums and not singles - thematic (and musical) consistency. Can you imagine "Shakedown Street" on American Beauty? No? Me neither. It wouldn't fit. This whole CD fits together nicely.
The second one I cued up was "One For The Road," a live double album that captures some great performances by the band. Great energy, great performances, and even some enthusiastic audience participation. I didn't know most of the songs, but I enjoyed it anyway. I give both of these CDs hearty recommendations. The Kinks have some things in common with the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Beatles, and other "British invasion" bands, but they certainly have an identity of their own. I have yet to plow through any more of the catalog, because I decided to listen to another band from the same era...
The story of Moby Grape (in addition to their funky, quintessentially 60s-sounding name) is what drew me to them - a band with five songwriters and singers, Skip Spence going insane and wielding an ax, etc. Anyway, I decided to hop on the Moby Grape train with "Vintage: The Very Best of Moby Grape." This is a double CD set. The first CD is essentially their debut album "Moby Grape," with some alternate versions, and some live cuts tacked onto the end. While I liked the debut album part, the live songs, particularly "Miller's Blues," are the best songs on the first CD because they showcase the band's musical talent. You can tell these guys can play. However, the second CD is a bit jumbled. While there are some gems, like "It's a Beautiful Day Today," there are also some clunkers and some ill-advised choices, including chipmunk-like vocals on "Funky Tunk" and some unfortunate use of horns in a few places. The second CD is a good illustration of why good compilations are difficult to pull off. The consistency is just not there. Of course, there could be several reasons for this: five different songwriters, crazy band members, fusion of so many different types of music, poor choice of songs by the producer, etc. It gives me a great appreciation for good compilations from bands of this era - Jefferson Airplane's 2400 Fulton Street is the one that comes to mind. Now THAT is a good compilation. If I had to think of bands that these guys remind me of, I would say Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and Buffalo Springfield. Anyway, this set gets a thumbs up for the first CD and a thumbs down for the second CD. Overall, it piques my curiosity and makes me want to seek out some live stuff of theirs.