Friday, April 1, 2011

Ray Davies has friends. A lot of friends.

Ray Davies - "See My Friends"
Decca Records
-out April 5
3.5 / 5

In the interest of full disclosure, let's get something out of the way: The Kinks > The Beatles any day of the week (honestly). But seeing a collaboration this big almost evokes those ginormous humanitarian causes celebs sang about in the 80s; also, Davies hasn't penned a new one here. Coming off of 2006's brilliant "Other People's Lives" (and the excellent follow-up, 2008's "Working Man's Cafe"), one has to admit "See My Friends" looks like a creative rest for one of rock's (and punk's) most influential songwriters. What it boils down to is this: the album is something of a mixed bag. The lows: Paloma Faith tries too hard on "Lola," and Metallica, though cool-sounding, don't really add much more to "You Really Got Me" than Van Halen already did (though: imagine what Karen O would do on this track). To be expected from a reprise album. The surprise is the freshness that some of these musicians bring to the songs: Mumford and Sons sing "Days/ This Time Tomorrow," tearing it out as if it were one of their originals; Amy McDonald is so perfect on "Dead End Street," we argue this recording's perhaps better than the original; and Jackson Browne adds '"stunning" to the description of the already gorgeous "Waterloo Sunset." The verdict? Davies fans shouldn't fear buying a cheesy "greatest hits" revamp; that is to say, it should tide them (us included) over until the next original. New listeners have a good place to start on the Kinks library, but we're going to suggest picking up "...Are the Village Green Preservation Society" and "Lola" before this one. Still fun, still recommended.

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