Rippin’ Up New York City Live: Live At The Winery NYC By Dave Davies

November 5, 2016

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Dave Davies is one of those rock and roll survivors. He spent nearly three tumultuous decades as the lead guitarist for The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Kinks. In 1964 he created one of the most famous guitar riffs in rock and roll history with his opening chords to “”you Really Got Me.” He is now fully recovered from a major stroke that left him unable to play the guitar and sing for a while. Proof of his survival is his new live album, Rippin’ Up New York City.

He and his backing band of guitarist Jonathan Lea, drummer Dennis Diken, bassist/keyboardist Tom Currier, and backing vocalist Rebecca Wilson played two shows at the New York City Winery, November 24 and 25, 2014, and the tape was running.

The 15 tracks are both powerful and intimate as he moves back and forth from electric rockers to sensitive acoustic pieces.

The concert, and the CD, was constructed well as they build toward a trio of Kinks songs finale. “Where Have All The Good Times Gone,” “All Day And All Of The Night,” and “You Really Got Me” are explosive and quickly show why Davies has influenced two generations of guitarists.

He reaches back to the beginning of his solo career for a smooth rendition of 1967’s “Death Of A Clown.” While his solo output may be more reserved than much of the music of the Kinks; songs such as “Creepin’ Jean,”  “Suzannahs Still Alive,” “Flowers In The Rain,” “Livin’ On A Thin Line,” and “Rippin’ Up Time” have some bite beneath the textures

Davies has completely recovered since his medical issues as his technical ability on the guitar remain excellent. The sound is clean with a good mix between the band and audience.

It’s good to have Dave Davies back in circulation. He will be touring on the east coast of the United States during October. If Rippin’ It Up In New York City is any indication, it may be a good time to catch a true legend in action.


Phobia by The Kinks

August 19, 2012

The Kinks released their 23rd and last studio album, March 29, 1993. Three years later Dave and Ray Davies folded the tent as the band dissolved. Whether they realized at the time that this was their last album is unknown but it joined one of the better, if under-appreciated, discographies of music in rock history.

Phobia is one of those albums that has grown on me. Maybe I’m a tad nostalgic because it’s the last Kinks album to date and the Davies brothers have shown no inclination of creating another, but who knows.

Ray Davies had covered many of the topics contained here in the past but here, they took on some darker tones. Politics and social complaints shared the stage with some personal observations. Many of the tracks fit together well and formed a more cohesive feel than some of their recent albums. Yes, there were a few clunkers and at 16 tracks spread over 76 minutes, I can’t help but think it would have been a stronger album had three or so tracks been eliminated.

The two Dave Davies tracks are opposites, quality-wise. “It’s Alright (Don’t Think About It)” struggled to be average but “Close to the Wire” is one of those songs that make you wish Dave had been more active as a songwriter. His guitar playing and lyrical ability had aged well and they were on display here.

The album started well. Ray Davies always had strong views about life. “Wall of Fire” found him turning his critical attention toward the environment. It may have been a little harsh, even for Ray, but it was powerful. “Drift Away” was another song of escape, a theme he had explored often through his music. Of course for Ray Davies, there was no escape.

“Still Searching” was philosophical and wistful. In some ways there was always hope that he would find what he was looking for but on the other hand, I don’t think he would have been nearly as interesting musically had he done so.

The album got more spotty after its strong beginning. “Hatred (A Duet)” explored Ray’s relationship with his brother. I have always been amazed how he was able to take the ordinary and examine things that most people just ignored and passed by. “Only A Dream,” “Don’t,” “Babies,“ and “Somebody Stole My Car” found him on firm ground.

I wish “Surviving” could have been the last track, as it would have provided a fitting conclusion to the band’s recording career. It was an introspective song from Ray Davies, one of rock music’s ultimate survivors.

Phobia was The Kinks’ swan song. It may not have been the equal of some of their classic albums, but it was solid and presented some of the strengths of the band well. Who knows, maybe Ray and Dave Davies have one more grand farewell opus in them but until that day, Phobia will have to do.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Phobia on Blogcritics.


UK Jive by The Kinks

August 11, 2012

The 1980s were winding down and so was the career of the Kinks. The Kinks were about to be inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and they preceded that event with the release of one of the weaker albums of their career.

I don’t think any Kinks album was really terrible, as every release had at least a few good tunes to recommend it and a rabid fan base to praise it. Having said that, UK Jive struggled mightily to be average.

The album was not musically cohesive. Ray Davies had covered just about every topic and musical style his fertile mind could invent. A number of the tracks found him repeating himself, and sometimes brilliantly so, but the element of surprise was missing, which may be the most telling criticism of the release.

All was not lost, however. The title track was an amalgamation of styles, such as doo-wop and power rock, that fit together nicely. The song was eight years in the making as it had been left off two previous releases. The title may have been out of date at the time but the music has held up well.

“Entertainment” was the kind of Ray Davies composition that gets inside your head by its inventiveness and unpredictability. Entertainment for Ray Davies was rape, murder, and other sundry thoughts from the dark side of existence, which he wraps up into an excellent rocker.

Later CD issues are superior to the original release as they contain two Dave Davies-written bonus tracks which, when combined with his last track on the original release, make for three fairly good songs in a row. The poignant “Dear Margaret,” the hard-rocking “Bright Lights,” and the six minute “Perfect Strangers,” which explores one night stands, combine for about 12 minutes of solid music.

On the other hand, “Aggravation” is a six minute diatribe against modern society, an area Ray Davies had explored better in the late ’60s, ’70s, and early ’80s. “How Do I Get Close” was a weak attempt at fitting in with the music of the time period. “Now and Then” was Ray yearning for a better world, another topic he had explored better in the past. “Down All the Days (Till 1992),” “Looney Balloon,” “War Is Over,” and “What Are We Doing” find the band adrift and never quite coming together.

As the ’90s dawned the music world was changing and the Kinks were being left behind. UK Jive was not one of their better efforts. If you want to spend some time enjoying the music of the Kinks, there are a number of better albums to visit.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – UK Jive on Blogcritics.


The Kinks At The BBC by The Kinks

July 26, 2012

The Kinks have opened their vaults and those of the BBC (British Broadcasting Company) with the upcoming August 13 release of a massive five CD plus one DVD box set. The Kinks at the BBC gathers together all 24 of their performances for the BBC network beginning September 7, 1961, and ending October 8, 1994. The bonus DVD contains performances from Top Of The Pops, The Old Grey Whistle Text, and a number of assorted concert appearances. When all is said and done, it adds up to 190 different tracks.

Just about every major British music artist, and hundreds of minor and obscure ones as well, appeared on the BBC. The Kinks material is a treasure trove of live performances, in-studio session work, unreleased tracks, and interviews, many of which have not seen the light of day since their original broadcast. The sound quality varies depending on the equipment used at the various sessions. Also, the BBC erased a number of their older broadcasts shortly after they were first aired and this set fills in some gaps with material that was recorded by fans at the time. All in all, it is far superior in quality and quantity to the previously released BBC Sessions: 1964-1967, the 35 track compilation which was issued during 2001. Note that this set will also be released as a two-CD set that, while not as extensive, is a lot cheaper.

This is an essential release for any fan of The Kinks as it traces the history of the band from a unique perspective. Their well-known material combines with deep album cuts and obscurities to create an interesting musical timeline.

The oldest tracks are four songs, plus three interviews, from their September, 1964 performance at the Playhouse Theater in London. “Cadillac,” “I’m a Lover Not a Fighter,” “Little Queenie,” and the ever-present ”You Really Got Me” present the band at the beginning of their career. I don’t know if there was any studio wizardry to enhance the sound (this would happen on a consistent basis with the BBC music series) but “You Really Got Me” just may be the best version of the song I have heard. The tempo is a little faster than usual, the bass is more upfront in the mix, and the vocals are extremely clear. In fact, many of their early studio albums suffered from a muddy sound but that is not the case on many of the same songs presented here.

One of the highlights of the set is their 19-song, 1977 Christmas concert from the famous Rainbow Theatre, which appears in both audio and video format. It catches the band during the middle part of their career as songs like “Sleepwalker,” “Death Of A Clown,” “Slum Kids,” “Celluloid Heroes,” and “Alcohol” share space with many of their big hits.

The newest material was from a 1994 session recorded at the Maida Vale Studio. “Phobia,” “Over The Edge,” “Wall Of Fire,” and a revisiting of “Till The End Of The Day” find The Kinks in late-career hard rock mode. “Phobia” is about as hard as The Kinks ever rocked as Dave Davies just takes off with his guitar solos.

The several dozen video tracks create a chronicle of the band as The Kinks and their music mature before your eyes. While many of their well-known hits are presented several times, it is the deeper cuts that really make the disc worthwhile. Songs such as “Virgin Soldiers” (1972), “Muswell Hillbillies” (1971), “Village Green Preservation Society” (1973), and “Scattered” (1993) are examples of the band presenting some of their more sophisticated material live. They even crank up a version of “Good Golly Miss Molly.

The Kinks are sometimes an overlooked band from the British Invasion era, but their catalogue of material is just about the equal of most of their contemporaries. The Kinks at the BBC is an essential release in the band’s long history as it resurrects dozens of long unavailable tracks.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – The Kinks at the BBC [5-CD/1-DVD Box Set] on Blogcritics.


Think Visual by The Kinks

July 24, 2012

Sometimes I’m not sure how much thought and effort The Kinks put into their Think Visual album. They had just signed with the MCA Label and so, for better or worse, had to produce an album. What emerged was an average release, saved somewhat by several good songs.

The Kinks had been cranking out albums with a great deal of regularity for almost a quarter century, and the creative well may have been a little dry at this point in time. They were also trying to update their sound to make their music commercially appealing during the second half of the 1980s and seemed to have gotten a little stuck between eras.

The rock was a little lighter than most of their recent releases. The music did not have a cohesive feel, which was not helped by the varying quality of the material.

The Dave Davies creations traveled in separate directions. “Rock ‘n” Roll Cities” was a personal lyrical journey I did not want to take very often as it just dragged along. On the other hand, I found “Wish You Were A Child” charming and poignant.

The Ray Davies material was a mixed bag. The best of the lot was “Lost And Found,” which was a classic love ballad. It had drama, beauty, and a melodic nature and remains one of those somewhat forgotten but brilliant songs that Ray Davies would issue every now and then.

“Working At The Factory” was the album’s first track and found Davies on familiar ground as he criticized the music industry within a rock setting. “The Video Shop” was Davies looking at the ordinary and making it interesting. Today, given the topic, it is quaint and nostalgic. The title track was another critical look at the industry and, while he had traveled this particular road often, the guitar work by brother Dave made the track palatable.

Think Visual was not a brilliant but a middling effort by The Kinks. No doubt some aficionados of the band will consider it a worthy release, but if you want to explore their music, there are a lot of better and more creative albums that deserve your attention. In the final analysis, despite several good songs, it was a workmanlike album that is only for the hard core fan.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Think Visual on Blogcritics.


Word Of Mouth by The Kinks

July 12, 2012

The career of The Kinks had reached the three decade mark when they returned with their Word Of Mouth album during November of 1984.

It was a solid, if not spectacular album of rock and roll. It seems as if Ray Davies was trying to create a commercially successful album by conforming to some of the musical trends of the era. He basically assembled an album of potential singles, none of which became hits. Still, a number of the songs were catchy, contained a little wit, and featured some fine guitar play.

It was a rare Kinks album where many of the highlights centered on brother Dave Davies rather than Ray. It seemed as if just about every Kinks album contained a hidden gem. In this case it was Dave’s “Living on a Thin Line,” which was a ballad of rare beauty. Even the lyrics of the poor and middle class being overwhelmed by the rich continues to resonate. His other composition, “Guilty,” contained one of the better lead vocals of his career. When you add in his riffing on the title track and the catchy guitar phrasing of “Do It Again,” you have an album that highlights many of the musical strong points of the often overlooked Davies brother.

The best of the Ray Davies concoctions was “Sold Me Out,” which would have fit in well with the punk movement. It was a song that just blasted out of the speakers. “Do It Again” should have been a hit single, as its catchy musical nature was perfect radio fare at the time and the tune remained in your mind for days. “Good Day” displayed the wit and sardonic nature of Ray, as the song was about anything but a good day. “Going Solo” was his philosophical musing about aging and empty nest syndrome. One could only wish for an update over a quarter of a century later.

On the other hand, “Missing Persons” struggled to be just an average song, and such tracks as “Too Hot,” “Summer’s Gone,” and “Massive Reductions” sort of disappear from memory after a couple of listens.

Word Of Mouth was one of those albums that probably deserved a little more respect than it has received. Given the brilliance of many albums in The Kinks catalog, Word Of Mouth has disappeared into the netherworld of their family of releases. Every once in a while, however, it deserves a listen especially for the Dave Davies contributions.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – Word of Mouth on Blogcritics.


State Of Confusion by The Kinks

July 11, 2012

State Of Confusion was an album that Ray Davies and The Kinks got just about right. It was more diversified lyrically and musically than many of their releases. Davies biting humor and sarcastic wit were out in full force which was always welcome. It was not as bonecrunching as their previous release, Give The People What They Want, but it was still an album of solid rock and roll.

The most popular and memorable track from the album was the hit single “Come Dancing.” This radio friendly tune was perfect listening fare during the early 1980s. It was a rare Kinks song that used Ian Gibbons keyboards rather than Dave Davies guitar as the underlying lead instrument. It may not have had the raw appeal of their 1960s hits, but it was a smooth song. If Ray Davies had planned to record a popular song, then here he succeeded well.

Every Kinks album seems to have included one somewhat forgotten classic. This time it was “Clichés of the World (B Movie)” Ray Davies was examining life as only he could, as he had the unique ability to see the obvious. Here he looked at life within the context of a movie and not a great movie at that.

The title song was written in the middle of life crises for Ray Davies. His marriage had fallen apart and his brother Dave was literally fighting on stage with his friend, longtime Kinks’ drummer Mick Avory. He put all of that angst into this hard rock song.

It was an album of consistently superior music. “Definite May” humorously criticized the ills of society over a simple bass and drum beat. ”Heart Of Gold” was about growing up as Dave Davies guitar moves front and center. “Don’t Forget To Dance” was a ballad with sermonic advice. “Young Conservatives” compared the younger generation of the 1980s to that of the ’60s. It remains an interesting look at the era from 30 years later.

State Of Confusion was a good example of Ray Davies looking at the common things of life and building his songs upon those observations. The album remains an excellent example of the Kinks style and sound.

Article first published as Music Review: The Kinks – State Of Confusion on Blogcritics.