Tuesday, 20 November 2007

To Hit, or not to Hit?

I think I need a bit of help here, guys. It’s these infernal ‘Best Of’ compilations and I don’t know what to do about it and it’s driving me nuts!

But let’s start at the beginning. To my eternal shame, I own no albums by those purveyors of quintessential English whimsy, The Kinks, except a late 1970s vinyl copy of, oh dear, I can hardly bear to say it…20 Golden Greats on the Ronco label (now there’s a great 70s brand for you). But I’d like to replace it with a CD, and what I’ve been toying with recently is not buying a replacement ‘Best Of’ but a copy of their 1967 effort, ‘Something Else by the Kinks’ as it contains their best ever single ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and is recommended heartily by those who review it (not always a good indicator but let’s go with it for the moment).

But here’s the problem. On the one hand, whilst original albums (without those annoying ‘Bonus’ tracks), have a certain completeness about them, which means that the content works as a collective whole - a piece of art reflecting a given moment in time, they don’t have all the hits on them, do they? What they do have is a period consistency, which means that listening to them makes sense. You have an understanding of the time and place of their creation and each track has a relationship with every other. The downside is that there is bound to be a variation of quality otherwise every track would end up on a ‘Best Of’.

On the other hand, ‘Hits’ compilations do have all the hits on them but they always feel like a disjointed mess and I don’t tend to play them very often. Even if the tracks are ordered chronologically (which many aren’t) there is no sense of ‘creation’ about it. Hearing a couple of tracks from say, Sgt Pepper, jostling for position with other earlier or later works on a Beatles compilation does not give you a clear sense of 1960s psychedelia as expressed by the original album, does it? I’m sorry, I’m not expressing myself very well here, but I hope you understand what I mean?

I suppose what it comes down to is this: do I buy a hits collection or a period piece?

Really, I’d like all the hits as well as the period pieces but do not intend to buy the entire Kinks’ back catalogue to achieve it. In fact, this would not work in practice, as in the 60s singles did not always appear on albums. Which brings us back to the ‘Best Of’. Oh God! Perhaps I’ll just buy both.


Jayne Ferst said...

You expressed that very well, and in fact put into words exactly how I feel about original albums - I think this sentence sums it up:

You have an understanding of the time and place of their creation and each track has a relationship with every other.

Greatest Hits are in a way like a quick fix - I guess it depends how much of that band you want to own/discover. Looking at my music it appears unless it is The Beatles; most albums I own are 'greatest hits' type collections. However I do buy original albums if I totally love one song on there by the artist, such as Steve Wonder's Superstition, that was good enough for me to buy the album Talking Book. And I am more likely to buy original albums in vinyl, and greatest hit type things on CD, maybe because I take more time and get more pleasure from listening to records than I do quickly slotting a CD in J’s car (whether he likes it or not!).

But I do know what you mean about getting a greater understanding of the songs and era from original albums, it is probably why I can wax lyrical about The Beatles but stumble on others. It's a bit of a kudos thing as well, owning original albums.

So with your Kinks dilema, I would prob buy the CD Greatest Hits (which I have!) for the car, and then the LP with Waterloo Sunset. Good thing Christmas is a-coming, eh?!

musicobsessive said...

Thanks for your advice, although there seems to be a bit of hedge sitting in there somewhere! From replies to date the score stands at:
Hits 1.5
Period 0.5

TR1-Guy said...

Buy both! You've stated it's essentially the one album you want as your "period" purchase, and you have to have the Kinks' hits too, they were just too good to pass on. Belive it or not, certain groups like the Beatles, I have the original albums and some of the hits releases (Like "One") just so I can hear the hits. There are days I'm in the mood to listen to the entire "Dark Side of the Moon" album, and other days I just want to listen to "Us and Them" on a hits package.

I vote both, which skews your polling a bit... :)

musicobsessive said...

Latest score:
Hits 2
Period 1

Looks like I'm going to have to buy the Hits doesn't it? (Do Ronco still exist??)
Thanks for the advice. The trouble is I don't really need much encouragement to buy more CDs - that's always been my problem!

Adrian said...

It's been a long time since I've seen what's available on CD. One of my favourite box vinyl sets ever was a kollection of the Kinks komplete on Pye.

The klassic Kinks (ok, enough with the ks) material, made them a marvellous albums band - with Arthur, Muswell Hillbillies, the Village Green albums, right up to - whatever it was with "I am a creator, inventor and innovator, I observe the people..." - was that "Everybody's a Star?" Even the double set Celluloid Heroes seems of an whole. Ray Davies' writing and vision makes those albums special in their entirety.

That said, I've had my share of the Canadian equivalent of Ronco collections. The Pickwick label even!

Bottom line, with pre-Superman era Kinks, there is no wrong choice. You will be happy whatever you purchase. I'd say the hits compilations are a simpler decision - choose which has "Waterloo Sunset" with the most other faves. Choosing a Kinks period piece album - now, that could keep you musing 'til past Christmas!

musicobsessive said...

Pickwick!! Now there's a label to conjure with. Luckily I have a clear conscience and can say, hand on heart, that I never owned any of their product.
Looks like another vote for the hits. That makes it, let me see...
Hits 3
Period 1

Looks like there's no way back for Period. Oh well, I feel a buying splurge coming on. I'd better make it both...at least!
Thanks for stopping by, Adrian.

Charlie said...

"Celluloid Heroes" Is one of the greatest songs ever written.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Charlie. Looks like I'm going to have to do what I set out not to do and will probably end up buying everything! Damn! It's hard being a music obsessive. Oh well, where's my Amazon shorcut...

Jennifer K said...

Dear Music Obsessive,

First, thank's for stopping by my blog. I really appreciate your comment. Your blog looks amazing, and I will have to take time to read it.

...and after reading this blog post, I'm glad I'm not the only one who wonders if she should buy the Greatest Hits packages or hunt high and low for each and every album.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Jennifer. Thanks for your kind words. Until I penned this post I hadn't really appreciated what a universal problem this hits business is! Perhaps we all ought to start a club. But then, as Groucho (I think) once said, I'd never join a club that would me as a member!

Alternatively, perhaps record companies could introduce a rule whereby, if you own a Greatest Hits for more than 12 months you can exchange it for a complete back catalogue?!

Jayne Ferst said...

Looking back at my comment, there is not only a hedge within but a fence for me to sit on! Have you decided yet? I quite like your record company rule of swapping Hits for back catalogues after a year. Makes perfect sense!

musicobsessive said...

Oh well, looks like the final assessment is: buy everything. Don't you just love the consumer society!
I have already ordered 'Something Else...' I just need to decide whether to buy a Hits package or go for a USB turntable and convert many of my vinyl LPs to MP3 files.

Alan said...

Buy a USB turntable and digitise your vinyl - it will take up so much time that you won't need to buy new CDs for years to come. In the long run you may even save money (but I doubt it).

As for the original question on the Kinks, are you sure that "Waterloo Sunset" was ever initially meant to be on "Something Else by the Kinks" or was it included by Pye to make the album more attractive? The single was issued many months before the album and a 13th track on a 1967 album looks a little strange, or maybe my cynicism is getting worse.

musicobsessive said...

Thanks Alan
I may just go down the USB route as I have so much stuff on vinyl that is not on CD (or iTunes) and I'm missing it.

As to the inclusion of 'Waterloo Sunset'- this is a tricky one. The CD copy I now own includes a load of designated 'Bonus Tracks' but WS is not one of them! This means that either it was part of the original LP or it was added many years ago on a re-release (1970s?). But your cyno-meter could be on to something here. 13 tracks does sound suspicious and as I have stated not all singles ended up on LPs in the 1960s.

Does anybody else know whether WS was part of the original set list for 'Something Else by the Kinks'? Answers to this blog, please.

TR1-Guy said...

Ah, yes, the all-mighty USB pre-amp! This fun little device and the subsequent audio editing software that they come with (I have a Pinnacle Systems unit with WaveLab Lite) will keep you busy for UNTOLD hours and hours. You will not shave or eat. Your family will ask you questions and you will merely reply with a grunt. Talk about obsessive... I then found if you take the time to convert that precious vinyl, iTunes or Rhino or (insert company name) will release that album on CD. I have done it about 5 times now and every time, within a month, the album shows up on download or CD. Give a try and see for yourself! Also, get out your Disc Cleaners (remember those?) and a TON of blank CDs as you'll want the newly captured tunes in the car or on the home stereo. Good luck! :)

musicobsessive said...

Is that the same feeling you get when you have just bid mega-money to get hold of a long deleted CD on ebay only to find that it is then re-released on a budget label with extra tracks within the month? (Shoot the Moon, Judie Tzuke - thanks for that EMI!)
I have been warned!