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LEOPARDS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Kansas City Slickers (Moon) 1977
Magic Still Exists (Voxx) 1988

On first listen, you'd swear that the 1977 indie album from Kansas City, Kansas is Muswell Hillbillies-era Kinks — and on second and third listen, as well. This talented foursome not only perfectly re-creates the Kinks' klassic sound (complete with a spot-on Ray Davies vocal impression by main Leopard Dennis Pash), they also turn out originals that subtly rewrite various Kinks tunes without ever resorting to obvious lifts. Genius.

By the time the Leopards got around to releasing another album more than a decade later, the Kinks had a lower profile than ever, which makes Magic Still Exists a most welcome arrival. On its opening track, the hyper "Block Party," the band threatens to stake out a style of its own; after that, Pash and friends get back to business, sounding as wonderfully Kinky as ever. Here's hoping they do it again in 1999.

[Ira Robbins / Scott Schinder]