Thursday, March 02, 2006

Ray Davies - Other People's Lives (V2, 2006)

It's had to believe Kinks front-man and legendary songwriter Ray Davies had never released a solo album, unless you count some soundtrack work or a VH1 Storytellers CD that was mostly Kinks music. It's also fascinating that the more things change the more they stay the same. Ray Davies still writes songs about the winners and losers of life, the state of Bloddy Olde England, and he's still a genius. Surviving a gunshot wound, his brother's heartbreaking stroke and the score of can't miss boy bands that have clogged the music press - he puts them all in their place. Let the big dog eat, this disc is really special.

Blasting out of the speakers "Things are Gonna Change" is perhaps the prototype Davies song, a tale of a hard fought life, and someone who was resolute in not giving in. "Is There Life After Breakfast" and "After the Fall Is Over" follows this quest for redemption while "Next Door Neighbor" is a classic Davies song about the life of the "little guy" and their trials and tribulations throughout life. While many of the songs fall back into a mid-tempo groove, it is the deep richness of the lyrics that keep the music on edge and never falling back into sentimentality or narcissism.

"Other People's Lives" is Van Morrison style anti-paparazzi rant that takes the media to task for their love of smut and lack of ethics. For the impact that his sojourn in New Orleans had on Davies, it's interesting that there is only one song about that star-crossed city on this album, but it's a good one. "The Tourist" looks at the city through the eyes of a visitor, and is a slice-of-life snapshot that takes us on a trip through the city from behind Ray Davies eyes. While it may have taken many a year for his first solo album to be released, it was certainly worth the wait. This is a wonderful album and one of the finest examples of a great musician aging with grace and wisdom.

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