Friday, March 19, 2021

Kinks 21: Celluloid Heroes

After six challenging albums, critically and commercially, RCA did not renew the Kinks’ contract, and let them scamper off to greener pastures. Naturally, the label made sure to cash in immediately with a hits album.
Of course, the band didn’t really have any hits to speak of save one, so the title The Kinks’ Greatest — Celluloid Heroes was subjective, save the track that inspired it. True to form, the label put minimal effort into the packaging, giving no information as to the albums that spawned the tracks, and failing to identify any live or single versions, of which there were a few. (On the back cover, some song titles are asterisked, for reasons we have yet to determine.)
That said, the album does take several songs out of their specific contexts, giving them the chance to be heard simply as songs and not as plot points in a concept album. “Everybody’s A Star (Starmaker)” rocks, and it’s the single edit, so it makes its point quick, in time for “Sitting In My Hotel” to provide the downside to the proposition. A live version of “Here Comes Yet Another Day” is a surprise, complete with horn section and backup singers; this segues neatly to the live “Holiday” from Everybody’s In Show-Biz. “Muswell Hillbilly” picks up the pace before “Celluloid Heroes” gets the lighters going.
“20th Century Man” drops us back on Muswell Hill, and “Sitting In The Midday Sun” and “One Of The Survivors” offer two of the better tunes from the first Preservation act, the latter in a unique mix with a different verse. “Alcohol” and “Skin & Bone” are previously released live versions, and as nice as “(A) Face In The Crowd” is, it ends the set on a downer.
When the band’s catalog was upgraded at the turn of the century, Celluloid Heroes was overhauled with a different track listing, substituting studio versions for live versions and album tracks for single edits, adding even songs to fill the CD’s capacity but cutting others. Only “Alcohol” appeared in its live incarnation. If anything, it seemed designed to give equal time to each of the RCA albums, unlike the LP. In the streaming era, however, the title has reverted to that original sequence, preserving the live “Here Comes Another Day” that has appeared nowhere else, as well as the alternate “One Of The Survivors”. Either version of the album only underscores how spotty this period was for those who aren’t already converted.

The Kinks The Kinks’ Greatest — Celluloid Heroes (1976)—3
The Kinks
Celluloid Heroes (2001)—3

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