Ray Davies: See My Friends

See My Friends

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Almost 50 years after English rock band The Kinks first took to the stage, former frontman Ray Davies (now 66 years old) has released what some might see as his “victory lap” album. Entitled See My Friends, Davies’ latest record finds him re-rendering Kinks classics alongside scads of notable musicians such as Jackson Browne, Billy Corgan and Lucinda Williams. It’s not quite a greatest hits disc and not quite a tribute album, but rather some Frankensteinian conglomeration of the two. It’s also really very good.

In large part, See My Friends works because of the guest talents’ song selection (or “casting,” as Davies calls it in the liner notes). Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora fit perfectly on 1972′s “Celluloid Heroes;” it might have found a home on one of Bon Jovi‘s solo records. Snow Patrol‘s Gary Lightbody brings his gentle sensibilities to “Tired of Waiting,” finding new life in one of the Kinks’ earliest singles. And I don’t know if Bruce Springsteen could’ve found a song that better encapsulates his philosophy than “Better Things.” “I hope tomorrow you find better things” — the Boss has been saying that for years, though perhaps never so directly.

A couple explanations might do here: perhaps Davies can write a song so excellently that any talented individual can find a way to make it their own. Or maybe Davies “cast” these songs with certain appropriate artists in mind; after all, “This is Where I Belong” sounds at least a little like a Pixies song already. Most likely, though, Ray just has talented associates. Any way about it, the song choices on this album work perfectly almost without exception. It leads to stunning variety and a very satisfying listen.

Few records are without a bit of a drawback. I personally have a hard time taking Metallica seriously any more; it almost sounds like singer James Hetfield’s doing a parody of himself on “You Really Got Me.” I also wonder if a better track for Spoon might’ve been chosen than “See My Friends” — I don’t know what that famed pop quartet can bring to the song’s faux-Eastern vibe. In neither case, though, are the resulting songs bad. They may not stand up to the strongest cuts on the album (and there are many), but fans of Metallica, Spoon or any of these other bands will probably derive some enjoyment from hearing the collaborations nonetheless.

Victory lap record or not, See My Friends proves that Davies is a skilled songwriter well worth tributing. Although I mentioned that the joy of this disc lies mostly in the performers it features, there’s definitely something to be said for a songwriter whose work sounds like it simultaneously belongs to Bruce Springsteen, Mumford & Sons, Amy MacDonald and a whole bunch of others. If you like the Kinks or any of the artists featured here, See My Friends is worth your time and your money.

See My Friends Tracklist:

01. Better Things – ft. Bruce Springsteen
02. Celluloid Heroes – ft. Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora
03. Days/This Time Tomorrow – ft. Mumford & Sons
04. Long Way From Home – ft. Lucinda Williams & The 88
05. You Really Got Me – ft. Metallica
06. Lola – ft. Paloma Faith
07. Waterloo Sunset – ft. Jackson Browne
08. ‘Til the End of the Day – ft. Alex Chilton & The 88
09. Dead End Street – ft. Amy MacDonald
10. See My Friends – ft. Spoon
11. This is Where I Belong – ft. Black Francis
12. David Watts – ft. The 88s
13. Tired of Waiting – ft. Gary Lightbody
14. All Day and All of the Night/Destroyer – ft. Billy Corgan

tags: ray davies, see my friends, the kinks

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