Saturday, December 4, 2010

In Appreciation of: Ray Davies

Karen: Have you ever heard a song that just seemed to somehow flip a switch inside of you, as if the proverbial light bulb went on over your head and you realized that you were hearing perfection? That's how I felt the first time I heard "Waterloo Sunset" by the Kinks -with lyrics by Ray Davies.

Karen: "Waterloo Sunset" may be the most beautiful pop song ever recorded. It's sweet but not cloying, it's lush but not over-produced; it just works. The music and the lyrics combine for a real experience. You can project yourself into this song, into the lives of Terry and Julie, see that dirty old river... Davies tells a story and pulls you along. 

Karen: I've come to really appreciate Davies as a songwriter. I've always liked the Kinks, but it was only in recent years that I began to pay attention to Davies and his work. He might be the best lyricist in all of rock. I know, what about Lennon and McCartney? Dylan? Well, I'd put Davies up there with them any day.

Karen: When I was going through a rough patch a couple of years ago, this song, "Better Things", was a spiritual crutch for me. I don't know how many times I listened to it.

"Here's hoping all the days ahead
Won't be as bitter as the ones behind you.

Be an optimist instead,

And somehow happiness will find you.
Forget what happened yesterday,
know that better things are on the way
. "

Karen: Davies has the ability to transport the listener any place, any time, and instantly impart a mood. "Celluloid Heroes" is a sad, thoughtful tune, about the often tragic fates of those who become 'stars'. 

"You can see all the stars as you walk down Hollywood Boulevard, Some that you recognize, some that you've hardly even heard of,
People who worked and suffered and struggled for fame,

Some who succeeded and some who suffered in vain."

Karen: It's hard to offer up just a handful of songs when there are so many that could be discussed here. I've only heard a small portion of Davies' recent solo work, so I can't say much about it, other than I've liked what I've heard. The songs "Things are Gonna Change", "Other People's Lives", and "Stand Up Comic" from his Other People's Lives album from 2006 are all great examples of Davies gifts as a storyteller and cultural commentator. Particularly with "Stand Up Comic", Davies laments the loss of good manners that seems prevalent today. In many songs, Davies yearns for a simpler life, where people and their social connections are the focal point of life. He mourns a bit for the loss of that world; yet he can also be surprisingly optimistic.

Karen: Davies could also write some rousing good rock songs too.


Simon B ( formerly cerebus660 ) said...

Couldn't agree more about Waterloo Sunset - pop perfection! And Better Things is a bit of a lost classic. When I was in a band we used to cover You've Really Got Me - love that riff!

Anonymous said...

LOve this blog, love the Kinks, too.

My fave album is Lola vs. Powerman... great top to bottom-- Powerman (great rocker, great title), contenders, strangers, this time, back in line, apeman...just a classic album.

As with the Stones, IMHO the 70s stuff was the best.

Apparently, ray was planning a tour with a choir, but it was cancelled do to illness.

I could go on and on with Kink-y love.......well, that sounded gross.


Joseph said...

The Kinks seem to be so under-appreciated by everyone except for big music lovers (meaning that casual music fans remember little past Lola and Come Dancing).

The version of 'Better Things' you have embedded sounds like it's straight from vinyl - is it true?

Thanks for the GREAT blog - I always check in.

Karen said...

Glad you all enjoyed our little musical diversion. Joseph, I'm not sure if that recording of Better Things is off the original vinyl or not -my ear is not that finely tuned! But it sure sounded good.


Fred W. Hill said...

Oh, yeah, the Kinks are one of all time favorite bands! I didn't really get into them in a big way until I was in my early 20s, but after latching onto Kinks Kronikles, a treasure trove of fantastic songs, I was seriously hooked. I'd certainly rank Ray Davies among the best tunesmiths to emerge in the '60s, and even Dave Davies came up with a few klassiks, particularly Death of a Clown and Mindless Child of Motherhood.

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