As if to confirm his status as an “Elder Statesman of Rock” status, Ray Davies has turned in his second album of reworkings and collaborations of Kinks songs. Like 2009’s Kinks Choral Collection, See My Friends feels rather tokenistic. The inevitable question is this: Do Kinks songs need to be re-recorded?
The answer is a resounding “no”, but you can’t deny his effort here. Some of the covers add extra dimensions to Davies’ songs and they transcend the nostalgic boundaries that the original recordings can invoke. Springsteen’s ‘Better Things’, for example, feels like a Tom Petty number and the sentiment of the song’s chorus: “I hope tomorrow you find better things/ I know tomorrow you’ll find better things” is pure Springsteen. Similarly impressive is Lucinda William’s excellent version of ‘Long Way from Home’. Williams and Davies remove the song from the piano-led, English folk-tinged original and turn it into a rough n’ ready, alt. country ballad, complete with Hammond organ. William’s voice, full of character, and Davies’ harmonies give impression that, whatever the style, it’s a great song.
Also particularly successful are Mumford & Sons’ medley of ‘Days / This Time Tomorrow’, Paloma Faith’s ‘Lola’, Amy MacDonald’s ‘Dead End Street’ and Spoon’s ‘See My Friends’. In all cases, they understand the essence of the respective songs and they manage to add interesting angles and context. They strip the songs of any ’60s nostalgia and play the songs for their feel, more than anything.
Less successful are Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora’s audacious and overblown ‘Celluloid Heroes’ and the cringe worthy medley of ‘All Day And All of the Night/Destroyer’, complete with Billy Corgan’s insufferable, sneering vocals, which add little and take more from a classic song. Particularly unsuccessful is Metallica’s ‘You Really Got Me’. It’s nothing more than an exercise in styling a song as heavy metal as possible.
A mixed bag then. The uninitiated should first look to those classic Kinks records, Face to Face, Something Else by the Kinks and The Kinks are the Village Preservation Green Preservation Society before arriving to this tokenistic cash- in.