Tuesday, 12 July 2011

“Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire: Deluxe Edition” by THE KINKS (June 2011 Universal/Sanctuary 2CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"…We Thought Our World Would Never Change…"

Better than the previous 2004 single CD issue - along with the gains - there are some minor omissions too on this long-awaited KINKS Deluxe Edition of 1969's "Arthur..." 

So here are the intimate details for "Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire: Deluxe Edition" by THE KINKS - a 2CD Reissue and Remaster released 20 June 2011 in the UK on Universal/Sanctuary 273 227-4 (Barcode 602527322742). It breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (78:24 minutes):
1. Victoria
2. Yes Sir, No Sir
3. Some Mother’s Son
4. Drivin’
5. Brainwashed
6. Australia
7. Shangri La
8. Mr. Churchill Says
9. She’s Bought A Hat Like Princess Maria
10. Young And Innocent Days
11. Nothing To Say
12. Arthur
Tracks 1 to 12 are the MONO version of the LP "Arthur Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire" released 10 October 1969 in the UK on Pye Records NPL 18317 (no Mono version was released in the USA – only Stereo – see Disc 2)

Track 13 is "Plastic Man" – the non-album Mono A-side of a UK 7” single released 29 March 1969 on Pye Records 7N.17724 ("King Kong" from "Village Green…" is its B-side)
Track 14 is "This Man He Weeps Tonight" – the Mono non-album B-side of a UK 7” single released 12 September 1969 on Pye Records 7N.17812 (the mono A-side is "Shangri La" from the album)
Track 15 is "Mindless Child Of Motherhood" - the Mono non-album B-side of a UK 7" single released 20 June 1969 on Pye Records 7N.17776. The A-side is the album track "Drivin'" – the B-side is credited as Kinks featuring Dave Davies
Track 16 is "Creeping Jean" – credited to Dave Davies, it’s the Mono B-side of a UK 7” single released 17 January 1969 on Pye Records 7N.17678 – it’s A-side is Track 18 – the non-album "Hold My Hand"
Track 17 is "Lincoln County" – credited to Dave Davies, it’s the Mono A-side of a UK 7” single released 20 August 1968 on Pye Records 7N.17514 – it’s B-side is the non-album "There’s No Life Without Love" which is 'not' on here – it’s only available on the 2004 single CD version of "Something Else" 
Track 18 is "Hold My Hand" – see Track 16
Tracks 19 to 21 are "Victoria", "Mr. Churchill Says" and "Arthur" – December 1969 studio recordings with further overdubs, mixing and editing – broadcast by the BBC in December 1969 on the 'Dave Lee Travis' show on Radio One

Disc 2 (79:48 minutes):
Tracks 1 to 12 are the STEREO version of the LP - Pye Records NSPL 18317 in the UK and Reprise Records RS 6366 in the USA (same tracks as Disc 1)

Track 13 is "Plastic Man" – a Stereo take released in 1969 on a Dutch LP called "Star Parade" on SR International 79343
Track 14 is "This Man He Weeps Tonight" – a Stereo take originally released 25 January 1973 in the USA on "The Great Lost Kinks Album" on Reprise Records MS 2127
Track 15 is "Drivin'" – Previously Unreleased Stereo Alternate Mix from an Acetate
Track 16 is "Mindless Child Of Motherhood" – as per Track 14
Track 17 is "Hold My Hand" – as per Track 13
Track 18 is "Lincoln County" – a Previously Unreleased Stereo Mix
Track 19 is "Mr. Shoemaker's Daughter" – Stereo, a Previously Unreleased Mix
Track 20 is "Mr. Reporter" – Stereo, a Previously Unreleased Remix
Track 21 is "Shangri La" – Stereo, a Previously Unreleased Backing Track

The 24-page booklet is as tastefully laid out as the "Face To Face" and "Something Else" issues – they all have the same generic look. The liners notes this time are again by noted writer PETER DOGGETT (Record Collector magazine) but with contributions from Ray Davies, Dave Davies and Mick Avory of the band. There’s photos of the UK album artwork including the legendarily rare 'Queen Victoria' insert that only came with original copies. There’s lovely colour repros of rare Euro and US 7" single picture sleeves, trade adverts, newspaper clippings, memorabilia, lyrics to all the songs and there’s even input from fan sites etc. The breakdown of the tracks is very well done too - what came from what and why. Both of the discs are also themed - the CDs reflect the light blue and black colouring of the original UK Pye Records LP label - with Side 1 pictured beneath the see-through tray of CD1 and Side 2 beneath the tray of CD2 - all nice touches.

ANDREW SANDOVAL, DAN HERSCH (of Digiprep and Rhino fame) and ANDY PEARCE carried out the remasters - and the sound quality is exceptionally good. The STEREO mix in particular is STUNNING – leaping out of the speakers in a way it never did before - beautifully clear. And for American fans who’ve only ever grown up with the Stereo mix on Reprise Records, the MONO variant on Disc 1 will come as a brutal shock. It makes a lot of the songs somehow bleaker, more focused – it’s hard to describe, but I like it. In fact - as with "Face To Face" and "Something Else" - the difference between the MONO and STEREO variants is acute, but never more so than here. Some prefer the stark power of the MONO mix – others the spread of the STEREO version - but this is definitely one of those 'Deluxe Editions' that actually benefits from the presence of both. They’re different beasts for sure - but equally admirable.

To the record itself – somehow "Arthur…" seemed to sense that the Sixties were coming to a close, but not on a high note. A lot of the lyrics aren’t so much acidic as ponderous as to what the future was going to bring – "…Now I’ve got children, I’m going grey…" from "Nothing To Say" (lyrics above also) or "I see the lines across your face - Time has gone and nothing can replace - Those great, so great - Young and innocent days…" from the slightly sad "Young And Innocent Days" (a band favourite).  The zippy album opener "Victoria" is fabulous as is the layered "Drivin'" – very Kinks – very good. "Shangri La" is pretty yet biting, while the lyrics to "Mr. Churchill Says" now sound ever so slightly disrespectful and even revolutionary. The guitars on the finisher "Arthur" are so clear too… 

Niggles – couple of B-sides left off (but they’re available elsewhere if you really want them) and I find these new card-digipaks easy to dent and mark without the outer plastic wrap that was on all initial Deluxe Editions. But these are minor points - at a whopping 42 tracks and with full playing times on both discs, there’s genuinely very little to moan about.

To sum up - a superb new remaster on both mixes, properly upgraded packaging and liner notes and extra tracks that actually warrant the title 'bonus'. Recommended like Princess Marina's hat…


Dr. Fuse said...

Re: Mistah Chah-Chill Says:
Slightly disrespectful?

KennS said...

Arthur was the first record album I ever bought, so I have a deep attachment to it. Well, it looks like I'll have to buy the deluxe edition of Arthur and get rid of the single disc Sanctuary version, which sounds great to me.

I've read a lot of your reviews on Amazon and it's getting to the point where I may not be able to afford to do so much longer, because I'll be out on the street for all the $ I've spent.

I do have a question for you. I was looking at your reviews sometime last year and could have sworn that you reviewed a single CD Atlantic or Stax 60's R&B compilation that had added a considerable number of tracks to the original LP version. It was also available at a budget price. For the life of me I can't remember the title or find it on Amazon.

Did you review a title like this or maybe you know what it is. I'd appreciate whatever help you might provide.

Thank you and keep up the great reviews.

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