Tuesday, November 9, 2010

But He Don't Need No Friends


Whereas I had no qualms about possibly hurting Eric Clapton's feelings with my less than favorable review of his last piece of crap, I'm feeling guilty just thinking about what I'd like to say about the new Ray Davies release, "See My Friends," a collection of Kinks' classics, misguidedly reworked as passionless duets with a roster of super and not so superstars Ray calls his "friends." (So Ray, had Lars Ulrich over for a game of snooker lately?)

Davies' last two solo releases, "Other People's Lives" and "Working Man's Cafe" were both beyond wonderful, and though "The Kinks Choral Collection" sounded like a bad idea early on, I quite liked the finished product.  My problem with "See My Friends" mostly lies with the friends, and with the fact that nothing here is better than or even remotely more interesting than the original versions.

Bruce Springsteen sounds as if he had never heard "Better Things" prior to "take 1" of the recording. The liberties he takes with the melody are unpleasant.

Jon Bon Jovi sounds like Jethro Bodine with his hilarious phrasing on "Celluloid Heroes."

"Air-vree baddies uh draymer/air-vree baddies a star-wuh."

Normally I would stand-up for Metallica and their special brand of heavy metal. I mean, just how badly can you screw up "You Really Got Me?" It's like not knowing how to make toast. But I have been put off by these guys since James Hetfield's brainless reading of "All Day & All Of The Night" at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame concerts last year, where he sang, "All day/and all of the NIGHT TIME/all day and all of the NIGHT TIME." And besides, if you look at the video, Ray looks absolutely bored and put off as well. Why are they here?

It's great to hear the sorely missed Alex Chilton on "Till The End Of The Day," one song here that has some soul. But, the call and answer between Ray & Jackson Browne on the verses of "Waterloo Sunset," probably Davies' greatest song and definitely in my top 5 favorite songs of all time, seems tossed off, as if all involved settled on their very first idea. Plus, the overall arrangement is just dismal.

Other guests here include Lucinda Williams (not bad), Mumford & Sons (another one of the better entries), Gary Lightbody and Paloma Faith (ooh boy), and Black Francis & Billy Corgan (two of the more annoying personalities in rock and roll).

Why? How? Those are my questions.

My request of Eric Clapton to "stop making records" lit a fire under many, as if Eric was actually going to listen to me. I'm not harboring the same ill-feelings about Ray Davies. Clapton has been letting me down for years. Ray has rarely let me down. But, what upsets me most about "See My Friends" is what appears to sound like, at least to my ears, something half-assed, like just maybe Ray wanted nothing to do with this. Of course, that may not be true at all, considering he just revisited his catalog with a choir on his prior release. But on that "Choral Collection," you hear something from within. "See My Friends," which came out last week in the U.K. and has been curiously bumped until Spring of 2011 in the U.S., sounds like a forced experiment; no better than Natalie Cole being electronically paired with her dead father on one of his hits.


the sandwich life said...

Good lord....I love Ray Davies but this really sounds incredibly unappealing....

Christine said...

"There's a little yellow man in my head."

"...as if Eric was really going to listen to me." So funny! I love that.

Sal Nunziato said...


steves said...

Yikes! And FWIW...he looks none to pleased with the results on that cover photo as well.

unkerz said...

Well...I really can't disagree with you can I.

Toodler said...

Hilarious... I enjoy your writing Sal, and I see your point here, even before I hear it. Ray, come back!

Anonymous said...

As unctuous as tribute albums can be, at least the originating artist can claim he or she had nothing to do with the finished product...duet albums....deadly.

Anonymous said...

I am a devotee of Mr. Davies, but fear not. I am not checking in to dispute your argument.
When I first head of this collaboration album I became excited. I was under the impression it was going to be Ray writing and performing new material with other artists. When I learned it was just another re-working of overheard and overplayed Kinks tracks, my interest plummeted.
It entered into the red when I saw Bon Jovi was involved.
There are some quality moments The 88 and Mumford and Sons sound like they love the material. But Better Things with Bruce is sickening. That bit with them repeating Follow and Following on top of each other sounds like they're shoving each other away from the mic.
Celluloid Heroes sounded criminal on paper, hearing it is worthy of the death penalty. The Jersey Boys cuts are the sorriest on the album and some of that can be explained by the backing band being Paul Shaffer and the CBS Bore-chestra.
The French version has 2 extra cuts that are worthy of hearing. Victoria with Mandu Diao. And Moments. an obscure Kinks track with Belgian chantuer Arno.
Ray wrote and starred in a musical based on his song Come Dancing that played a couple of years back in London's West End. I heard the songs. 22 new ones, and they were amazing. If he only put those out, without any of these friends, we'd be marveling at this genius songwriter still coming through after all these years.
He seems to be aiming to please the casual fan as opposed to the die-hards who have stood beside him for decades.


William S. Repsher said...

If you're wondering why Dave wasn't in on this project:


Anonymous said...

Last night I stepped out into the chilly Virginia night; in one hand, I was holding a leash attached to a crazed dog, bent on imitating a 50 lb pinball (Ellie had been confined to the boring bowels of our home for far too many hours.)

In the other hand, I was clutching an aged I-pod. The new Ray Davies, "See My Friends," album was ready for close inspection - headphones in place, the first track rolled into the vast, empty space between my ears. "Better Things" is a terrific later entry in the annals of Ray's catalog still has relatively fresh legs.

I've really enjoyed many of the various "Better Things," covers, Dar Williams currently being my favorite.

As a native of the very town that boasts the original E Street, Belmar, New Jersey, I was one year behind Bruce in high school. If you said that I've been a lifelong member of the Bruce Springsteen militia, you'd be right.

With that being stated, what I heard the second Bruce's voice chimed in on "See My Friends," first cut, "Better Things," was all the evidence I needed had I been asked to sit on a rock and roll jury to try "See My Friends."

My ruling would have been that Bruce is every bit as guilty of the murder of that song as the man who give it birth.

One by one the songs of "See My Friends," polluted the already condemned property between my ears, disturbing the tranquility of a beautiful night.

Sorry, Ray, but this effort gets not one letter grade, but two: a "p" and a "u."

Ray, they can't all be gems, but you had to smell this one coming from the very first chord recorded for this album.

Jeff McKee
Richmond, Virginia

Shteeve said...

Aw, Sal, you are unfortunately so right. This may be the single most disappointing album I've heard in the past few years. I love the Kinks, loved Ray's solo stuff, and thought I would be happy with anything new - even re-recordings - he's share in the twilight of his days. WRONG! These versions are mostly so bad, they've ruined the originals for me for the forseaable future. AWFUL! :-(

Brian McKernan said...

Point taken about Bon Jovi and The Boss. I'm surprised that nobody has commented on the refreshingly hopeful performance of either Amy MacDonald (Dead End Street) or Paloma Faith (Lola).