Ray Davies - guitar, lead vocals; Dave Davies - lead guitar, harmonica, vocals; John Gosling - piano, keyboards; John Dalton - bass; Mick Avory - drums; Alan Holmes - flute, saxophone; Davy Jones - saxophone; Michael Cotton - trumpet; John Beecham - trombone
Songwriter, bandleader, social critic, poet, and humorist all apply to Kinks frontman Ray Davies. Unlike other British Invasion-era bandleaders, he didn't seem comfortable as a frontman. He wasn't cute like The Beatles or cocky like the Stones. The band's sound was also different. Much less rooted in American music, The Kinks had a more overtly English sound. Davies often sang in a shy, insecure voice over some of the wildest and rawest music anybody had ever heard. Davies' songwriting rapidly developed and soon enough his anthems of unrequited love transformed into beautiful pop songs teaming with vivid imagery. Unfortunately, during those key years of 1965 through 1969, The Kinks were not permitted to enter the United States. Due to a union dispute that caused this sad state of affairs, The Kinks never got the American exposure so critical to commercial success at that time. Regardless, The Kinks were crafting some of the most beautiful rock songs ever recorded during these years, many featuring melodies that were as impressive as anything being recorded at the time. Just as the American banishment was lifted, the band hit big with the sexually ambiguous "Lola" and an album that attacked the music industry and record companies at a time when the punk generation was still in diapers. The Kinks entered the 1970s with the loose, drunken approach adopted by many groups of the era, but unlike contemporaries like the Faces, Davies's lyrics often revealed a more mature confusion and sadness amidst his hedonistic fun. In 1972, the Kink's released the double album Everybody's in Show-Biz, consisting of half studio tracks and half live recordings. The studio recordings were thematically focused on an Englishmen's adventures on the American road, while the live portion featured The Kinks, augmented by a horn section, enjoying themselves on stage, a real-time representation of the life described in the studio recordings.
The band, with the horn section in tow, returned to America in the latter part of 1972 to promote the album. This concert, recorded at the State University of New York captures The Kinks in loose, but fine form, with Davies joking with the audience in a stage persona that is both satirical and highly entertaining. In addition to several classic hits, this performance features a wealth of material from Everybody's In Show-biz, clearly showcasing Ray Davies's weariness, cynicism, and humor about life as a rock and roll star.
The recording begins in progress with "Top Of The Pops," one of Ray's classic commentaries on the recording industry. Next up is "You're Looking Fine," performed here as a medley containing the classic 1950s hits, "Little Queenie," "Shakin' All Over" and "Be Bop A Lu La." Raw and loose, one can tell the group is in fine form and enjoying themselves. During the "Shakin' All Over" sequence within this opening piece, Dave's savage guitar riffing recalls The Who's legendary Live At Leeds version of the song. Next Ray engages the audience to sing along during three of the group's classic hits, "Sunny Afternoon," "A Well Respected Man," and "Lola." The next half hour or so is devoted exclusively to material featured on Everybody's In Show-biz, beginning with Davies's greatest ballad of this period, "Celluloid Heroes." This bittersweet rumination on dead Hollywood screen icons, vividly displays his melancholic longing for a simpler time. Davies's vocal is particular touching on this number as he wishes his life were like a movie, "because celluloid heroes never feel any pain / And celluloid heroes never really die." Next up, The Kinks pound out the road rockers, "Here Comes Yet Another Day" and "Brainwashed." Following a short campy "Mr. Wonderful," the band applies this campiness to two "Muswell Hillbillies" tracks that were also featured on the live portion of Everybody's In Showbiz. The barrelhouse rocker, "Alcohol," complete with New Orleans style horn arrangements and "Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues," are engaging romps down the path to self-destruction. The former (incomplete, but included as an outtake here) contains a humorous monologue from Ray, before the group launches into their celebration of drunkenness. Unfortunately, the tail end of the set went unrecorded, but what is captured exudes a sense of loose, ragged fun, showcasing the antics of a frontman who had turned stage fright into a way of life.