As if to confirm his status as an “Elder Statesman of Rock” status, Ray Davies has turned in his second album of reworkings and collaborations of Kinks songs. Like 2009’s Kinks Choral Collection, See My Friends feels like a tokenistic record. The inevitable question is this: does anyone need t re-record songs by The Kinks?
The answer is a resounding “no”, but you can’t deny his effort here. Some of the covers add extra dimensions to Davies’ songs, and they transcend the nostalgic boundaries that the original recordings can invoke. Springsteen’s ‘Better Things’, for example, feels like a Tom Petty number and the sentiment of the song’s chorus: “I hope tomorrow you find better things/ I know tomorrow you’ll find better things” is classic Springsteen. Similarly impressive is Lucinda William’s excellent version of ‘Long Way from Home’. Williams and Davies remove the song from the piano-led, English folk-tinged original and turn it into a rough n’ ready, alt. Country ballad, complete with Hammond organ. William’s voice, full of character, and Davies’ harmonies give the impression that, whatever the style, it’s a great song.
Also particularly successful are Mumford & Sons’ medley of ‘Days /, This Time, Tomorrow’, Paloma Faith’s ‘Lola’, Amy MacDonald’s ‘Dead End Street’ and Spoon’s ‘See My Friends’. In all cases, the artists covering the songs understand the essence of the songs, managing as they do to add interesting angles and context. They strip the songs of any ’60s nostalgia and play the songs for their feel, more than anything.
Less successful are Jon Bon Jovi & Richie Sambora’s audacious and overblown ‘Celluloid Heroes’ and the cringe worthy medley of ‘All Day And All of the Night/Destroyer’, complete with Billy Corgan’s insufferable, sneering vocals, which add little and take more from a classic song. Particularly unsuccessful is Metallica’s ‘You Really Got Me’. It’s nothing more than an exercise in styling a song as heavy metal as possible.
A mixed bag then. The uninitiated should first look to those classic Kinks records- Face to Face, Something Else by the Kinks and The Kinks are the Village Preservation Green Preservation Society- before arriving at this tokenistic cash- in.