"Face to Face", the 1966 record by The Kinks should have sounded juvenile and soft on its release, unveiled into a climate where The Beatles' sonically groundbreaking Revolver and Dylan's surreal and sprawling Blonde on Blonde inhabited. Yet, it doesn't, it is the album that perfectly marks the moment where The Kinks ceased to be a bluesy, Mersybeat group and began to make the transition into whimsical, melodic and quintessentially British social critics.
Of course "Face to Face" still features the rockier Kinks, the almost carbon-copied early Beatlesy 'Party Line' which showcases the best of the band's former persona with suitable Fab Four harmonies accompanying the track, and it sounds great, but explore the album further and this is the sound of a band on the cusp of progression. 'Dandy', Ray Davies' scathing commentary on the charming demeanour of a sixties Romeo, is a character study that is chock full of humour and sarcasm, and a definite influence on future bands that would focus on the eccentric characters that make up British society, The Jam and Blur, anyone? 'Session Man' follows a similar formula and is Davies' ode to those unsung assistants that contribute to a band's sound, those 'who aren't paid to think, just play' and somehow manages to be haunting, whimsical and majestic simultaneously. "Face to Face" is undoubtedly the record where Ray Davies found his lyrical edge and explored his deeply-ingrained fascination with Britain.
Davies' lyrical genius on this record surely proves that he is very much overlooked on any list of important 60s musical contributors. Yes, Lennon had the wit, Morrison had the sex appeal and Dylan had the outsider image but Davies had the warmth and chirpiness that neither of these men had. Just listen to 'House in the Country', Davies is making a powerful statement on the aristocracy but he's revelling in the joyous nature of his music, he doesn't take himself too seriously. This appears to be The Kinks ethos; a catchy melody and humorous lyrics delivered with a smile. Dave Davies' expert guitar is showcased on 'Holiday in Waikiki' which prevents his brother from reaping all of the credit for the album's joyous and charming nature and it is Pete Quaife's descending bass guitar on classic Kinks track 'Sunny Afternoon' that forces the memory of the track into the mind of anyone that hears it.
So, a pretty important and flawless album, but what of the new additional tracks for the deluxe edition? It's just more of the same really. 'Dead End Street' continues Davies' new-found obsession with wry social commentary and kitchen-sink drama, 'This Is Where I Belong', a patriotic celebration and 'Big Black Smoke', an exploration of the class system. "Face to Face" shows The Kinks at the beginning of their love affair with British eccentricity and nostalgia that would completely flourish on their next two releases "Something Else" and "The Village Green Preservation Society" which oddly still sounds as fresh today as it did in 1966. No, this isn't a record that prides itself on experimentation or intensely poetic meanderings like their contemporaries; it is the first product of The Kinks embracing their new identity and image, where Ray Davies' true song writing talent is revealed. A deluxe edition for a truly deserving musical achievement.