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The Kinks- The Kinks at the BBC (Album Review)

Available as both a limited-edition six-disc box set and a two-CD collection (listed, left), this ambitious undertaking traces the marriage of two great British institutions over the space of 30 years.

Expanding upon studio sessions and live recordings previously available on BBC Sessions: 1964-77 and the epic Picture Book box set, it’s the first time that every surviving Kinks performance has been officially compiled from the BBC archive..

Discs one and two, which chronicle their evolution from raucous proto-punks to sly social satirists, also provide fascinating insight into the rapid maturation, not only of Ray Davies’ remarkable craft, but also of pop as it was in the process of inventing itself.

The sheer number of sessions and – by turn stilted and hilarious – studio interviews with the likes of genial Saturday Club host Brian Matthew illustrate the astonishing, non-stop pressure that the biggest 60s bands were under. This was era when, if you hadn’t had a hit in six months, you were considered passé. No wonder Ray sounds exhausted.

Discs three and four focus on their unfairly overlooked 70s work, when the hits had indeed dried up, but their cult remained healthy. Compiling John Peel sessions and two rapturously received live performances (one, for The Old Grey Whistle Test, can also be viewed on the stellar bonus DVD), they provide vital evidence of a band that never lost confidence in their unique, eccentric character, despite wider indifference.

The 80s are represented on the DVD only (their final Top of the Pops appearance, performing freak hit Come Dancing), leaving disc five to mop up one last BBC session from 1994, and a slew of unnecessary off-air bootleg recordings of dubious quality.

Nevertheless, this is a completist’s dream, sharply remastered by redoubtable reissue producer Andrew Sandoval, and beautifully packaged in the style of a vintage issue of Radio Times, complete with illustrated hard-bound booklet and informative liner notes from music journalist and author Peter Doggett.

It’s a vast, revealing monument to the genius of Ray Davies and one of the greatest British bands of all time.