Ray Davies - See My Friends
There comes a time in many artists’ musical careers where they gather together a few fellow musos for a spot of musical backslapping and bonhomie, usually to celebrate one or the other's failure to meet a rock and roll end. Mr Kinks Ray Davies is still with us, bless, and the calibre of the acts that he persuaded to join him on See My Friends's reworking of Kinks classics says much about the regard he is held within the industry.
Davies' back catalogue is especially timeless, so more than most this project runs the risk of paling beside the treasured originals. It seems clear that Davies was aware of the risk and has generally let each song bear the stamp of his collaborators, meaning the results are generally different enough from the originals not to sound like a pastiche, but also vary wildly as a result - and therein lies the problem at the heart of this release. Few people will enjoy every track on offer but, equally, most will find at least a couple of songs they really like. This is an album that you’ll want to dip into now and then but it’s not one you’re likely to play in its entirety on any regular basis.
There are certainly some fine moments: the version of ‘Waterloo Sunset’ with Jackson Browne is stunning and Metallica’s take on ‘You Really Got Me’ is tremendous fun and probably the pick of the bunch. Opener ‘Better Things’ with Bruce Springsteen, doesn’t work at all and is followed by ‘Celluloid Heroes’, with Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora, which is completely taken over by Bon Jovi and bears few hallmarks of Davies’ input. It's a grim beginning but he makes amends with the fine closer - ‘All Day And All Of The Night / Destroyer’ with Billy Corgan is surprisingly, and insanely, wonderful.
For what was one of the most-anticipated releases of the year, for this reviewer at least, the whole package has come as something of a disappointment. Davies’ friends may have impeccable pedigrees but he might have been better to limit his selection to fewer, choicer acts. What chance a Davies/Metallica mini-album?