Where do I being on reviewing a deluxe edition of a record that’s 50 years old? I’ll start by saying I’m never going to call a deluxe edition perfect -- because a lot of the records getting that treatment were damn near perfect to begin with. There’s definitely a place and audience for extra material; just note that it wasn’t included on the original for a reason. But I’m not complaining about the extras here; that’s also kind of the point of a reissue like this.
There are multiple packages of the reissue. This is the Deluxe 2CD set.
Besides having one of the longer titles in rock history, Part 1. Lola Versus Powerman And The Moneygoround was the record meant to propel The Kinks back to the level of their British Invasion contemporaries: The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. They’d been unable to tour the US for a few years; they’d undergone management changes and legal battles. Now they felt free of this burden and fed up with the industry. The gloves were coming off.
Powerman is essentially a concept record that is built around a theme of people abusing power for their own means. Meanwhile, the two central characters “Lola” and “Powerman” each give contrasting emotion to the record: heart versus power (and a bit of deception with both). Throughout their discography, The Kinks manage to balance soft, earnest tones with powerful guitar crunch and that contrast is a perfect metaphor for the power struggle between capitalism and art that this record explores. The Kinks walk that line while pulling influence across the musical spectrum: everywhere from blues to calypso and carnival music. Beyond that, you can clearly hear their own influence in modern music. There are the heavy jam-type guitar tones that defined the ‘70s, hook-driving stoner vibes you still hear today, and steady piano to give the songs extra energy. The group added a fifth member just for this purpose.
Classics tracks include “Lola,” “Powerman,” “Strangers,” “This Time Tomorrow,” and “Got To Be Free,” which is barely touching on how many tracks here are known throughout pop culture 50 years later. For the most part it’s held up. I’m not a fan of the jam sounds in tunes like “The Contenders” or “Rats” and while I doubt the choice to imitate a Caribbean accent for “Apeman” drew much attention originally, I’m pretty confident it wouldn’t be done today. Beyond that, the concepts behind songs like “Lola,” “Powerman,” and the aforementioned “Apeman” are as relevant in 2021 as they were then. While the record stems from the Davies brothers’ experiences with the record industry, it extends far beyond its original inspiration to power structures in general. It clicks because it covers those weighty, angry, emotions while treading a wider array of feeling through singalong ditties, ballads, and crunchy rockers. With Powerman, The Kinks aren’t just saying they’re pissed off. They’re showing that they’re down to earth dudes and you should be pissed off at abuse of power too.
Disc one collects the original 13 songs, plus five alternate mixes. Disc two is a collection of new mixes, 21st century live performances, and various bric-a-bracs. It would be nice if the booklet shared information about their origins. Nonetheless, it feels like an alternates and remix collection. Fans will enjoy the different takes, but it also feels a little tacked on without any explanation. It’s a good Kinks collection to spin either after the main record or separately, though and I wish they’d found a way to fit the bonus material from disc one onto disc two instead, as I’ll cover in a minute.
The packing is a neat hard cover booklet that will still fit on any existing media shelf with other CDs. It’s a nice change of pace from the literal box set, which can be difficult to store when it’s an unusual shape or size. The liner notes are usually a big part of any set like this, and they come with a historical review of the record courtesy of writer Andy Neill, enhanced with direct quotes from Ray and Dave Davies about various pieces of the record, both for original context as well as a retrospective look back. It’s decent but, honestly, not much more that Wikipedia would tell you. And I found the “overlooked album” tone to be disingenuous -- overlooked records usually don’t get 50th anniversary deluxe editions.
The extra material in this set is all interesting, but also compiled for the completist. In the course of reviewing it, I listen repeatedly. Yes, these are good songs but “Lola,” “Powerman,” and “Apeman” combine for 10 of 33 songs in the set, and 7 of 18 on disc one. For musicians interested in the craft, the varied mixes are great but it’s really overloaded with the same hits. The bonus material compliments the original record but it doesn’t enhance it.
If you don’t already have a copy of this record, the deluxe edition is a good place to start. The remaster sounds great and it gives fans a little something extra to go with it and that’s probably what you should expect, given the different packages and price points for the reissue. For completists, this is probably something you’ll rip to your hard drive and listen to selectively, but mostly archive with the rest of your Kinks collection.
Also available in the following formats:
• Limited Edition, Deluxe 10” Slipcased book pack (containing 60 page book, 3 X CDs, 2 X 7” singles, 4 X color prints)
• 1LP Gatefold
• 2CD Hardback Book
• 1CD Softpack
• HD Digital
• D2C Limited Edition Exclusives (free with boxset orders): 7” Single, Enamel pin badge
8.5 / 10
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