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    Ray Davies

    Other People's Lives Working Man's Cafe

    Other People's Lives 8 ( 2006 )
    Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After) / After the Fall / Next Door Neighbour / All She Wrote / Creatures of Little Faith / Run Away From Time / The Tourist / Is There Life After Breakfast? / The Getaway (Lonesome Train) / Other People's Lives / Stand Up Comic / Over My Head

    It's taken him long enough, but at last we have solo Ray Davies material proper to enjoy. So, without his brother Dave and without The Kinks legendary name, Can Ray live upto expectations? The short answer is in the affirmative, yes. The opening song alone should be enough to convince the doubters. Without sounding either modern or old, what it does sound like, appropriately perhaps, is the more restrained side of Damon Albarn. Not that this is the master learning from the pupil, but it's nice to have the album kick off in fine, catchy fashion. Moving on, we quickly reach a classic Davies set of lyrics with the tale of Mr Jones in 'Next Door Neighbour'. For those worried, 'Other People's Lives' is full of songs that sound like genuine Ray Davies songs, rather than the mis-guided heavy metal of latter day Kinks. You wanted guitars though? Well, 'All She Wrote' has plenty of them, in addition to very impressive drum work from Dylan Howe. Anyway, what else could you want? You wanted a typically quirky Ray Davies classic? We've even got one of those! 'Stand Up Comic' is hilarious lyrically, complete with audience reaction. It's got a cheeky type of melody, music hall thing going on. Structured well, sang well. Better than half of Blur's entire career if we must make stupid comparisons, which is what that comparison is. Why did I make it? Well, it's possible people have stumbled here from The Kinks page, Blur fans, quite unaware of Ray Davies. For you guys, he's the one that Damon cribbed most of his ideas from!

    The title track sounds like a Kinks song to these ears. What I mean by that isn't that it sounds like it was recorded in 1967, but if it had been, it's easy to imagine the song itself being upto scratch. Oh, OH! 'Life After Breakfast' is superb. Sorry, forgot about this one for a moment. This joins 'Stand Up Comic' in the classic stakes. Just the title alone is almost enough, let alone frustratingly brief bursts of guitar that sound like they are straight out of 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion'. A frustration I do have with parts of the album is the tempo. Certain songs plod along in mid-tempo fashion whereas a little urgency would have done them the world of good. Having said that, the majority of the songs themselves are absolutely finely constructed with great lyrics throughout, as we might expect. I'm going to end with something a little silly. Ray? You've made a promising debut. Here's to a long career!

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    Working Man's Cafe ( 2007 )
    Vietnam Cowboys / You're Asking Me / Working Mans Café / Morphine Song / In A Moment / Peace In Our Time / No One Listen / Imaginary Man / One More Time / The Voodoo Walk / Hymn for a New Age / The Real World

    His lyrics are still absolutely wonderful, his voice still has that syrupy quality. Ray Davies at sixty-something years old still has much to offer, on this, only his second ever solo LP. He's relocated to New Orleans, so there's less typically English offerings here and occasionally, 'Working Man's Cafe' harks back to The Kinks maligned early Seventies work. The playing from the session-musicians is competent and slick, overly so, perhaps - yet 'Working Man's Cafe' is a very pleasing listen, all in all. 'Other Peoples Lives' was good, excellent even on occasion, but too many songs had a mid-tempo plod and the sound of the LP was a little polished, at least, compared to this offering. There really is no reason you couldn't slap the title Kinks on this one and have it sitting proudly among The Kinks albums you keep, and listen to, and cherish. 'Peace In Our Time' deserves a special mention, with a title like that from a sixty year old, you'd expect some dated idealistic soppy piece of.... well, you get the drift. Instead, we have rather fine groovy bass playing, slicing and slashing guitar playing and an inspired Ray Davies actually making you think. By the way, one and a half million copies of 'Working Man's Cafe' were given away free with the Daily Mail. One and a half million British music fans can listen to a Ray Davies album and realise he's not dead and that he deserves some credit, alongside the still in our papers Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney.

    'Morphine Song' sounds like it's from 1970, in the best possible way. Backing vocals recreate The Kinks, Ray's lyrics are wonderful and his voice in amazingly great shape. 'He's got a perfect mullet hanging down his back', sings Ray. This is all written in wake of Ray getting shot in New Orleans. He turns the experience around and here is one of the very finest Ray Davies songs, Kinks or no Kinks. Really, it's amazing to have something quite so good, akin to Paul writing a Beatles quality rocker or The Stones writing another 'Gimmie Shelter'. Hyperbole? Well, Kinks fans will appreciate Ray never sells records, has always been underappreciated and will understand when they hear 'Morphine Song' that it has all the finest Davies aspects. Like 'Morphine Song', 'You're Asking Me' has these Kinks type backing vocals - it appears there is a female voice in there, it works very well. Another highlight before I go? Ah, go on, then. The closing 'The Real World' is a quality ballad, again with fine lyrics that really are so much better than 9 out of 10 other lyricists out there. Ray Davies has still got it.

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    Readers Comments

    GAZZA Edinburgh
    Getting this free with the times on sunday was a bonus but youve overegged the score in your excitement . Rays still can still pen a good lyric and his voice holds up fairly well (sounding very bowie in places) . The problem here is that his obsession with globalisation and the internet generation he comes off sounding like one of the grumpy old men from the tv show , especially married to music played by what sounds like a band youd hear at a local wedding reception . Theirs a handful of decent songs (especially the title track) but this isnt the corker thats being suggested .

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    this page last updated 13/7/08

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