by / March 28th, 2011 /

Ray Davies – See My Friends

 3/5 Rating

(Universal Records)

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.

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  • Ray Davies is one of the underrated pioneers and best lyricists in rock. Brother Dave is an equally innovative guitarist. Let’s hope these two brothers can put their differences behind them and get back to business.

    I recently posted on my Rockaeology blog at how Ray stood up to Pye Records right at the beginning when producers tried to dictate how “You Really Got Me” should sound. Ray said, “I’d leave the music business first because I’d never write another song like it.” A brilliant musician who always went by what was creative, not commercial.

  • robbie

    There was a great documentary on tv before Christmas to promote this album. It was called ‘Imaginary Man’ (was on either BBC or Channel 4). Well worth looking up.

  • Ray Davies is one of the best pioneers and lyricist in rock songs. There was a vast documentary on tie sooner than Christmas to support this photo album. Thanks!

  • Philip

    Hi fellas, thanks for your comments.

    @Jensen Lee: Yep, no question he’s a songwriting great. For its pure consistency, his output during the 60’s could stand alongside anything by Dylan, Young and Springsteen in their respective “glory” decades. Re:’You Really Got Me’, you can’t replicate the sound of Dave Davies’ amp; an amp that was kicked in by brother Ray during a scrap in the studio during recording. Along with the first two Stooges records, that guitar riff invented punk rock and you won’t meet a guitarist anywhere in the world who didn’t wish he/she had written that riff.

    @ Robbie + David Poul: The documentary was directed by Julian Temple, who has also made documentaries on Sex Pistols (‘The Filth and the Fury’) and Joe Strummer (‘The Future is Unwritten’). His work is excellent. I saw ‘Imaginary Man’, too, on the telly. You really got the idea in the documentary that his true muse, during the sixties, was north London and that those songs couldn’t have been written anywhere else.