It’s that time of year!
Years ago, a fine series of hybrid stereo-only SACDs were
released featuring a large chunk of The Kinks’ back catalog, paricularly the
RCA and Arista Records era (early 1970s into the 1980s). Generally well
assembled with nice Digipak sleeves and informative booklets, the SACDs got
lost in the sauce among the multi-channel sound hoopla of the period. To answer
why, there is no one reason but here are some possibilities:
Most SACDs featured 5.1 surround remixes as well as high res
AND conventional stereo CD layers. Some consumers were confused by stereo-only
SACDs; the labels did a mediocre job explaining this and providing rationale
why anyone should buy them. Some discs even had mis-information on the back
covers indicating that there MIGHT be
a surround mix on the disc — even I was confused on this at one point!
Apart from a select group of press folks and uber audiophiles,
few people at the time had players that could decode SACDs.
Adding insult to injury were the millions of youthful
Playstation3 owners who clearly weren’t lining up to play The Kinks music on
their SACD-ready gaming machines.
So, sadly, many of these fine Kinks discs came and went, and
were soon replaced in the store shelves with more conventional CDs.
Being a huge Kinks fan, I have been collecting the SACDs and
have not been disappointed. Most sound stellar — especially considering that
most of the original RCA Dynaflex LP pressings were awful. The sonic upgrade is
significant and one may not even want to bother keeping the original LP
pressings (I admit that other than to look at the album art, I won’t bother
playing mine anymore).
You can download the
Kinks albums as high res 96-hHz/24-bit FLAC files from HDTracks; they sound
near identical to the SACDs.
1978’s Misfits sounds remarkable and could even
become a demo-worthy recording to show off your system. Glorious in all its
classic FM radio splendor, big strummy acoustic guitars, raw fat electric
guitar tones (probably from Dave Davies’ Les Paul), big drums ‘n percussion
touches, swirly keyboards and synthesizers soar. Both the SACD and the HDTracks
downloads sound equally fab; they even sound better than my Swedish LP pressing
(which I’m only keeping at this point due to it’s unusual gatefold edition).
Details like drummer Mick Avory’s reverb-laden monster Tom Tom hits on the
title track are just spectacular; you can feel the air being pushed out of your
speakers from Avory’s kick drum hits. “Rock and Roll Fantasy” is a revelation
as Ray Davies’ unusual quazi-reggae acoustic guitar rhythms percolate inside
while brother Dave Davies’ electric guitar fills ping-pong back and forth
between the speakers — details are fairly buried on LP.
1973’s Preservation Act 1 shines in high res:
the glorious choral opening of “Morning Song” gives way to the
dreamlike lullabye melody hummed by Ray Davies, recorded in a close mic’d sort
of manner that makes it sound like he’s singing right in your ear. The
acoustic/electric guitar army which follows on “Daylight” sounds like
a dream compared to the old Dynaflex LP pressings.
Of the three albums
I decided to compare for this article, only Soap
Opera (from 1975) sounds a little boxy — but then, the original was never
super dynamic. Nonetheless, it remains a guilty pleasure.
You can get these
and many other Kinks albums at HDTracks.com. Or go to Amazon and do a search
for “kinks, hybrid, sacd” and you’ll find a bunch up there for
sale. Either way, you’ll be getting some
great mid-period Kinks music sounding better than ever.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector
who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer
electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including
DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. Mark has written for EQ
Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com,
Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com.
He is also a musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows
such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is
currently rolling out a new musical he’s written. www.smotroff.com.