Ray Davies “See My Friends”

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#347 in the Series) is Ray Davies, See My Friends.

The pantheon of rock’s elder statesmen for me includes Eric Clapton, Billy Joel, Elton John, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Ray Davies.  There are others, but these are the AARP members that when they put out a new album, I will make it a point to check out their new work.  Of this group, Billy Joel has not put out anything new since 1993.  That’s right folks, the “Piano Man”, has not put out an album of new material in 18 years. Elton is Elton, and Paul is Paul, that is both of them can do no wrong.   They keep their respective fingers on the pulse of the current music scene, put out good, well written albums, and are universally admired by the music community.  Rod Stewart, on the other hand, seems to be releasing records with the same frantic pace that he releases super models.  Thankfully, for his sake anyway, his choice of ex-wives is better than his choice of music releases.  In 2006, he released an album called Still the Same: Great Rock Classics of all Time. Apparently I’m missing something here, since “Everything I Own”, by the band Bread, is neither a classic song nor a rock song.  And then there is his Great American Songbook series (seven releases in the last 8 years, including a live album), which seems to be a pure money grab, and 2009’s Soulbook which is only OK, better than the rest of the swill he has been generating, but still only OK.  Then there is Eric Clapton, whose “bromance” with J.J. Cale has been like kryptonite to his guitar licks.  Eric gets a pass though when he by-passes the laid back grooves of his later works and jams with the fine guitar players that are part of his rolling “Crossroads” guitar festival every year.  The DVD releases of this event are excellent, and the talented axe players that turn out are the best in the business, including Buddy Guy, Mark Knopfler, John Mayer, Jonny Lang, Derek Trucks, and many more.  So Eric, you may no longer be God, but I still consider you a minor diety.

Which brings us to the man of the hour, Ray Davies of the Kinks, and his excellent new release See My Friends.   The Kinks have never really broken up, however they have not released a studio album since Phobia in 1993, and To The Bone, in 1994, which featured acoustic stripped-down version of classic Kinks songs.

The Kinks were essentially a back-up band for Davies anyway, with only the occasional song writing contribution from his brother, Dave, lead guitar player for the group.  (The brothers are currently feuding, with differing opinions on Dave’s influence on the band, seeming to be a source of acrimony between the two brothers.)  With no record deal,  Ray Davies set out on his own, finding himself a niche in the Singer/Songwriter genre, releasing the excellent, Other People’s Lives in 2006, and the even better, Working Man’s Cafe , in 2007.

Ray Davies’ newest release, See my Friends, takes classic Kink’s songs, pairs them up with contemporary as well as iconic artists, and crosses genres, to deliver an album that will be loved by Kinks fans, and will bring new listeners to some of the best rock & roll songs ever written.

The songs come across not as duets, without the “I take this verse, you take the next one”  style, that seems to be common with projects such as this, but rather sounds more like the contributors are part of the actual band.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than the song, “Days”.   A fantastic song, it is only enhanced by the harmonies and vocals that Mumford & Sons provide.   This song version could have been released as a new Mumford & Sons song featuring Dave Davies, in 2011 and no one would have been the wiser.

The Mumford & Sons collaboration is only one of the many hip partnerships on this album.  There is the obligatory Springsteen appearance, of course, on “Better Things”, and the much less obvious rendition of “You Really Got Me” with Metallica providing the snarly vocals and the heavy guitar riffs.  It actually works. Bon Jovi makes an appearance on “Celluloid Heroes”, and Lucinda Williams sounds like, well, Lucinda Williams, on “Long Way From Home” which is a good thing, and is a perfect example of the even-handed production of this record, emphasizing the attributes of the guest artists and letting the songs speak for themselves.  My favorite song on the album is “Waterloo Sunset” featuring Jackson Browne.  One of my favorite songs covered by two of my favorite artists, what could be better?

At the end of the day, I think I am no longer rooting for a Kinks reunion. Rock needs a good sibling rivalry the likes we haven’t seen since Noel Gallagher of Oasis famously heckled his brother Liam, during an appearance on Saturday Night Live.  Let’s hope that since Ray made this record with virtually everyone BUT his brother, that Dave will consider this, a brother on brother crime, so heinous that he will stop making overtures about getting the band back together.

May the solo Ray Davies live long and prosper!!

— Walt Falconer

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Track listing

  1. “Better Things” – Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen
  2. “Celluloid Heroes” – Ray Davies, Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora
  3. “Days/This Time Tomorrow” – Ray Davies and Mumford & Sons
  4. “A Long Way From Home” – Ray Davies, Lucinda Williams and The 88
  5. “You Really Got Me” – Ray Davies and Metallica
  6. “Lola” – Ray Davies and Paloma Faith
  7. “Waterloo Sunset” – Ray Davies and Jackson Browne
  8. “Till the End of the Day” – Ray Davies, Alex Chilton and The 88
  9. “Dead End Street” – Ray Davies and Amy Macdonald
  10. “See My Friends” – Ray Davies and Spoon
  11. “This Is Where I Belong” – Ray Davies and Black Francis
  12. “David Watts” – Ray Davies and The 88
  13. “Tired of Waiting for You” – Ray Davies and Gary Lightbody
  14. “All Day And All Of The Night/Destroyer” – Ray Davies and Billy Corgan

Personnel

  • Seye Adelekan – Guitar
  • Samuel Agard –  Drums
  • Black Francis – Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
  • Jon Bon Jovi – Vocals
  • Jackson Browne  –  Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
  • Alex Chilton – Vocals
  • Felicia Collins –  Guitar, Guitar (12 String Acoustic), Vocals (Background)
  • Billy Corgan – Guitar, Vocals
  • Ian Cotterill – Conga
  • Britt Daniel – Guitar, Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
  • Ray Davies  – Composer, Guitar, Guitar (Acoustic), Producer, Quotation Author, Vocals
  • Ted Dwane – Double Bass, Vocals (Background)
  • Jim Eno –  Drums, Percussion
  • Paloma Faith – Vocals
  • Anton Fig – Drums
  • Ian Gibbons – Keyboards, Piano
  • Andrea Goldsworthy – Bass
  • Kirk Hammett – Guitar, Guitar (Rhythm), Vocals (Background)
  • Eric Harvey – Keyboards
  • James Hetfield –  Guitar (Rhythm), Vocals
  • Will Lee – Bass, Vocals (Background)
  • Gary Lightbody  – Guitar (Acoustic), Vocals
  • Ben Lovett – Piano, Vocals (Background)
  • Sid McGinnis – Guitar
  • Adam Merrin – Keyboards, Organ, Piano
  • Marcus Mumford – Drums, Guitar (Acoustic), Percussion, Vocals
  • Dick Nolan – Guitar (Bass)
  • Todd O’Keefe – Guitar (Bass), Vocals (Background)
  • Dominic Pipkin – Keyboards
  • Rob Pope – Bass
  • Richie Sambora –  Guitar (Electric), Vocals (Background)
  • Paul Shaffer – Harmonium, Organ, Piano, Vocals (Background)
  • Bill Shanley – Guitar, Guitar (Baritone)
  • Keith Slettendahl – Guitar, Vocals (Background)
  • Bruce Springsteen – Guitar, Vocals
  • Robert Trujillo – Guitar (Bass), Vocals (Background)
  • Mark Tulin – Guitar (Bass)
  • Lars Ulrich – Drums, Vocals (Background)
  • Ben Waters – Piano
  • Lucinda Williams – Vocals
  • Damon Wilson – Drums
  • Marshall Winston – Banjo, Vocals (Background)
  • Anthony Zimmitti – Drums, Percussion

Links

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Posted by Larry Carta


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