Kinks’ Masterful ‘Show-Biz’ LP Gets a 2nd Act

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Showbiz LP Cover (PRNewsFoto/Legacy Recordings)

The Kinks
Everybody’s in Show-Biz (Legacy Edition)
(Legacy Recordings)
In A Word: Kink-ilicious

The Kinks had brought proto-Americana to old London Towne on 1971’s Muswell Hillbillies after Ray Davies had defined what it meant to be oh so veddy British in song and spirit with crystalline clarity and beauty on such delightful albums as The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968) and Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) (1969). Then in 1972 they returned to America after a four-year touring ban by the American Federation of Musicians (for reasons that still remain unclear).

Cue track one: Here comes a new dawn/Here comes a new day….

New day indeed. Davies turned his sharp songwriting pen to the United States here and there on this album. The Kinks would follow Everybody’s in Show-Biz with concept albums like Preservation Act 1 and Act 2 and Soap Opera. By the 1980s they became a U.S. arena rock band as befitted their iconic British Invasion status.

Related: Ray Davies gets Knighted

The original Show-Biz found The Kinks in a period of transition in ’72, and combined studio cuts with live tracks from their tour earlier in that year. Organist John Gosling, whose Hammond B3 trills open the album, had already started filling out the band’s sound on the Lola Versus Powerman on the Moneygoround Vol. 1 album in 1970. A horn section was added to the touring group. The original release served as a delightful Kinks Kompendium for us Yanks who would happily be hearing much more from the Brothers Davies & Co. here in The Colonies in the years to follow.

There are many reasons to own and treasure this album, both its first incarnation and now expanded version. First and foremost among them is the title song, one of the glittering gems from the treasure chest that is the Ray Davies song catalog. It’s an eloquent, touching and at times witty while also bittersweet rumination on fame, something Davies has always expressed mixed feelings about. It melds melancholia with nostalgia as it also serves as a backhanded tribute and at the same time offers a cautionary tale. It’s a song I can listen to forever and never grow tired of, and always be affected by.

“Sitting in My Hotel” – a minor Davies masterpiece – expresses similar feelings within one subdominant theme (among a number) of this collection: Life on the road as The Kinks return to America. “Maximum Consumption” makes a horn-punctuated commentary on American food consumerism as fuel for touring (with subtle yet shimmering Dave Davies slide guitar), and “Motorway” (food is the worst in the world) bears a British title yet applies Stateside as it clips along like tires rolling on the pavement. Ray’s food fetish also was found on the original album’s studio tracks on “Hot Potatoes,” where the connection between edibles and love is explored.

The traveler’s loneliness and alienation gets its brief from both Ray (on his melancholic “Sitting in My Hotel,” yet another minor masterpiece) and Dave (who penned the more upbeat “You Don’t Know My Name,” laced with more slide guitars and not one just but two flute solos). Souls in motion float through an imaginary outer space on “Supersonic Rocket Ship,” buoyed by lilting steel drums that reflect a Kinks Kalypso phase that was also part of this album and era for the band.

Related: Will The Kinks Reunite? (take two)

The Caribbean also washes up on the first disc’s concert tracks with a short snippet of the huge Harry Belafonte hit “Banana Boat Song,” which would become a regular goofball feature of Kinks shows in the years to follow. Food gets served up again on “Skin And Bone,” one of five live tracks drawn from Muswell Hillbillies, implying that The Kinks were not averse to plugging their most recent releases, also with numbers from Lola (the wry “Top of the Pops”) and ’69’s Arthur (the searing “Brainwashed’). Ray also gets all show-bizzy and taps his English Music Hall roots on the pre-rock pop standards “Mr. Wonderful” and “Baby Face.”

Kinks 1972 promo shot

The Kinks in 1972

The first CD now ends as the second vinyl disc did back when with a 1:42 tease of just the chorus of “Lola,” the fourth (at #9) of the only five U.S. Top 10 hits by the Kinks. (Ray would also toy with concert audiences in much the same way by playing bits of “You Really Got Me,” which one might say is missing from the live numbers here if what is played weren’t so largely wonderful.)

The 17 tracks added for the Legacy Edition round out and enhance the profile of The Kinks circa 1973. We get another Ray Davies gem in a verdant live rendition of “Get Back in Line,” one which many missed when it came out on Lola…. It’s Ray’s song for the common and laboring man, a la Lennon’s “Working Class Hero,” but rather than a mordant sharpen-the-razor-blades-and-pour-a-warm-bath rumination it’s a stirring call to do as the title advises and trudge on through life.

Related: Ray & Dave Davies Perform Together

We also get full and rich in-concert renditions of past high points cum hits with “‘Til the End of the Day” and the always delicious “Sunny Afternoon.” Plus not redundant alternate live takes of “Muswell Hillbilly,” “Alcohol,” “Acute Paranoid Schizophrenic Blues” and “Holiday” from the Muswell album (plus that release’s “Have a Cuppa Tea” and “Complicated Life”), even better than the other ones on disc one, good as they are, and different, reminding us of the glory days of rock concerts when the way the songs were delivered and the experience could change from night to night (rather than today’s rote set lists).

We also get a wonderful never-before-released Ray Davies studio number “History,” brother Dave doing his “Long Tall Shorty” thing live, and alternate takes on “Supersonic Rocket Ship” and “Unreal Reality.” The expanded set wraps up with a lyric-less backing track titled “Sophisticated Lady” that would later be fleshed out as “Money Talks” on Preservation Act 2.

All told, the significance of this collection can be found in how it becomes more than the sum of its parts, while at the same time so many of its parts are notable – like, say, Dave’s searing guitar work on the live take of “You’re Looking Fine” (from 66’s Face to Face), which proves him one of classic rock’s sadly unsung six-string heroes – ironically, as he did come up with perhaps the quintessential rock riff on “You Really Got Me.” The oft-battling Ray and Dave were even getting along – at one point the former introduces the later in a slight mock Italian accent as “a real good-a-friend of mine” – and this album is certainly a showcase for their also underrated brotherly harmonies.

Everybody’s in Show-Biz may have caught The Kinks in transition, but it also captures the band in one of its primes. And this expanded reissue does what such releases are supposed to do: reiterate and double-down on an act’s greatness, bringing greater glory to the legacy of a band who, from the British Invasion on right up to their final 1994 release – the also largely (must I say it yet again?) unheralded live collection To The Bone, one of the favorite albums of this near-lifelong Kinks Konvert. Rock music would have been so much less without them, and not nearly as fun or deeply touching or…. God Save The Kinks!

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Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson

Rob Patterson began writing about music in 1976. Since his first published record review in Crawdaddy he has contributed to numerous national popular music magazines such as Creem, Musician, Circus, Spin, Request, Tower Pulse!, CD Review, Acoustic Guitar, Harp and many others along with major country music, consumer audio, musical instrument and studio recording magazines plus international publications New Musical Express and Country Music People in the U.K. From 1977 to '84 he wrote a nationally syndicated music column as well as stories for Newspaper Enterprises Association/United Feature Syndicate that ran in more than 400 daily newspapers across the nation. His work has also appeared in many weekly newspapers, onlinepublications like Salon.com and The Huffington Post, such books as the Rolling Stone Record Guide & Revised Record Guide, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History and The Year In Rock, 1980-81, plus liner notes for 20 album releases.
Rob Patterson
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