Ray Davies: Working Man's Cafe (V2/Shock)

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Ray Davies: Morphine Song
Ray Davies: Working Man's Cafe (V2/Shock)

Ray Davies -- formerly of the Kinks (see tag to an Essential Elsewhere Kinks album) -- has had a busy time of it lately: in late 2003 the great English songwriter (of Englishness) was awarded an OBE, a week later he was shot in the leg in New Orleans, his Other People's Lives solo album in 2006 was much praised (it also comes with insightful liner notes on the songs), and now this new one in rapid succession.

As always, Davies is a great observer but here also turns his attention to broader issues: globalisation in the brittle rocker Vietnam Cowboys, the loss of identity using the old-style cafe in the title track as the metaphor ("everywhere I go it looks like America . . . improving our surroundings as we go, changing our roots and culture") and the failure of technology to meet human needs (No One Listens).

Morphine Song is about his experience in hospital ("the marching band plays along, plays a Morphine song in the charity ward") and the characters around him.

Davies is in great voice and age certainly hasn't diminished his anger at the frustrations of life, whether that be institutions or the pains of a relationship.

And in You're Asking Me he fires off a broadside in lyrics that could have come from a punk: "if you're asking me don't take my advice, and don't make me responsible for you living your life".

The ballads are here too (the soaring and reflective Imaginary Man, the equally backward looking One More Time) but he also pulls in influences from New Orleans for the soul-funk of The Voodoo Walk.

At a time when many of his former peers have taken out their slippers or are on the oldies circuit playing their old hits Ray Davies is still out there trying and, at his best here, writing as well as ever.

There's a complete transcript of a Ray Davies interview about this album and more (see tag).

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