Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ray Davies -- Working Man's Cafe (2008)

Ray Davies -- Working Man’s Cafe (New West/Ammal):

The Kink-meister’s second proper solo album finds him settling into his social commentator troubadour mode much more comfortably. The question is, how appealing do you find Davies when he mixes a mid-‘70s Kinks sound with a more trad talking blues folk approach?

For me, although Davies has been a brilliant lyricist, his best lyrics have been married to some of the most resonating music in pop music history. On this collection, one mid-tempo number blurs into another, while Davies pontificates in a relaxed manner.

On some songs, there are melodies that harken back to his salad days, such as "Peace In Our Time" and "Working Man’s Cafe". However, some of these songs sound like the music came from Mark Knopfler’s cutting room floor -- lazy mellow blues that meanders. Numbers like "Vietnam Cowboys" and "The Voodoo Walk".

This meandering is consistent with lyrics that are mostly mediocre. Davies is simply not a very interesting social commentator. For the most part, he catalogs things that are wrong in this world, but he doesn’t really have any opinions about things, other than they aren’t so great right now.

This couplet from "Hymn For A New Age" typifies Davies’ inability to really say anything: "But I believe I need something to look up to/I believe I wanna pray but don’t know what to." Hey Ray, call me when you’ve figured it out.

Basically, this album is better than the worst Kinks stuff on RCA in the ‘70s, but not quite up to the standard of the Arista stuff that followed (Misfits and Sleepwalker). It sounds pleasant, and a few tracks are really nice, but this is far from Davies at his best.

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