June 2006

Ray Davies - Other People’s Lives
V2 Records 63881-27285-2
Format: CD
Released: 2006

by Joseph Taylor

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ***1/2

"This is not the whole story," Ray Davies begins the liner notes to his first solo disc, Other People’s Lives, "It’s part of it." Indeed, Davies makes no mention on the disc about the gunshot wound he received during a mugging in New Orleans in 2004, or his brother Dave’s stroke that same year. Davies admits that aspects of some of the characters he writes about might have something in common with him, but he hedges. We’ve seen some of these people in Davies’ songs before, whether it is the suburbanite in "Next Door Neighbor" or the performer in "Stand Up Comic." Davies has always been a mature and sympathetic chronicler of people’s lives, but with age, he seems to be looking for hope and faith.

That is not to say that Other People’s Lives is short on caustic wit or a drop or two of cynicism. The title track goes after the tabloid press, and it is by no small measure of Davies’ talents as a lyricist that he’s able to pull some humor and wisdom from such an overworked subject. The biggest pleasure of the disc comes from the realization that Davies can still write such memorable songs -- Other People’s Lives has coherence and consistency that later Kinks records lacked. The recording, which Davies did at his own Konk Studios, could probably be a little livelier, but the guitars have plenty of bite, and small, clever touches, such as the Vox organ on "The Tourist," come through.

Whether Ray Davies is singing about himself may be open to speculation, but Other People’s Lives contains some moments of truth we can all understand.