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.