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Album review: Ray Davies' 'See My Friends'

April 5, 2011 |  1:20 pm

Davies This all-star collaboration constitutes something of a victory lap for the Kinks' esteemed frontman and chief songwriter. His catalog is as revered among his peers as those of Lennon-McCartney or Jagger-Richards, even though Davies never garnered the same degree of popular acclaim.

That's likely because he's often been more interested in exploring the dimensions of ordinary lives rather than the exploits of the extraordinary.

He teams with Bruce Springsteen on the disarmingly touching “Better Days,” and adroitly merges “Days” and “This Time Tomorrow” with England's energetically rootsy Mumford & Sons. Davies' role as proto-hard rocker comes to the fore in his pairings with Metallica for a surprisingly compact rendition of “You Really Got Me,” and with Billy Corgan on thrashers “All Day and All Of the Night” and “Destroyer.”

The most soulful results arise in his duets with women: an exquisitely bluesy “Long Way From Home” with Lucinda Williams, a great bit of lead vocal role-swapping with Paloma Faith in “Lola” and “Dead End Street” with the brassy Amy McDonald.

The valedictory nature of this project is a mixed blessing, representing as it does Davies’ second retrospective effort in a row, after 2009's “The Kinks Choral Collection.”

The performers on this one likely count it among their career highlights, but those who have kept up with the quality of Davies' output in recent years may well be more interested in what he has yet to say rather than revisiting what he's already said so beautifully.

— Randy Lewis

Ray Davies
“See My Friends”
(Decca)
Three stars

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