Ray Davies- Other People's Lives (V2)
review by Jim Clark

Track Listing

1. Things Are Gonna Change
2. After the Fall
3. Next Door Neighbor
4. All She Wrote
5. Creatures Of Little Faith
6. Run Away From Time
7. The Tourist
8. Is There Life After Breakfast
9. The Getaway
10. Other People’s Lives
11. Stand Up Comic
12. Over My Head
13. Thanksgiving Day



It’s hard to think that Ray Davies, the man responsible for some of the finest songs in rock and roll history as leader of the Kinks, is only now getting around to releasing his first proper solo album.

In his prime, Davies was a songwriting equal with peers like Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards and Townshend. And when Paul McCartney was writing second rate pop songs with Michael Jackson, the Stones were redoing the same riffs over and over and Townsend was battling serious addiction problems (though still writing some decent material) in the early 80’s, Davies composed the brilliant and biting Give The People What They Want and nostalgic State Of Confusion albums. Now that the Kinks have been inactive for a decade, Davies has spent much of that time composing songs that are on his solo album, Other People’s Lives.

Happily, the songwriting on Other People’s Lives is still at the very high level that has come to be expected from Davies. Not quite in the same league as his best from the late 60’s, these tunes are quite strong nonetheless. “Next Door Neighbor” has some of the whimsy from his tunes of old, telling the tale of some eccentric neighbors. “After The Fall” is a lovely song that says that no matter how bad things get, there’s always another day. “So I fell on my ass/Now I’m feeling the pain/But the feeling will pass/And so will the shame” Davies sings, taking a bad situation one may find themselves in and turning it into an optimistic one, something Davies has done very well throughout his writing career.

But Davies tackles some dark subjects as well. Mistrust is looked at with “Creatures Of Little Faith,” where the song starts with the killer line, “You caught me with my pants down/But I was only taking a shower/Still you looked for the evidence/Like the smell of perfume or lipstick on my collar.” And the title track, done flamenco style and with sultry female backing vocals, looks at tabloid journalism. One of the disc’s finest moments.

But for me, “Stand Up Comic” is the standout on Other People’s Lives as Davies delivers a brilliant lyric, feeling that while we’ve never had much style or manners, “the little bit that was was all that we had, now the clown does a belch and we all belch back.” With some aggressive music, this song hits the mark splendidly.

The gospel flavored “Thanksgiving Day,” released as a single last November, closes out the disc with some lovely Hammond playing from Davies and another great, albeit sad and lonely lyric. An excellent way to close the disc.

If Other People’s Lives has a problem, it’s that a lot of the tracks early on tread the same water musically. The lyrics are up to Davies high standard on these tunes, but different arrangements or quite simply, a better song order probably would have suited this release better. Thankfully, the second half of the disc is much better sequenced and more varied musically.

Other People’s Lives has one other problem. Anything that Davies writes is inevitably going to be compared to the Kinks. While Ray Davies was the brains of the Kinks, his brother Dave was the muscle, providing power chords and heavy guitar riffs. And there are points on Other People's Lives that scream out for Dave's guitar or yelping background vocals.

Hopefully, Dave Davies will fully recover from the massive stroke that nearly ended his life a few years ago and the brothers Davies can once again work together. But until then, Ray has produced a record that is a more than worthy addition to his magnificent writing canon.

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