Release Date: Apr 5, 2011
Record label: Decca
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Hard Rock
The highlight of this collaborative set is "Days/This Time Tomorrow," a medley of Kinks classics. Done pub-chorale-style with banjo and upright piano, it pairs Ray Davies with Mumford & Sons, tipsy folk rockers who share with Davies a profound Englishness. For every dud (the world needs no more "You Really Got Me" covers), there are three gems (Spoon's title cut, Jackson Browne's "Waterloo Sunset," Black Francis' "This Is Where I Belong").
A tribute album starring the man of honor himself, who also curated the whole affair, See My Friends is a bit of a curious creature. Certainly, Ray Davies' influence is so pervasive he could rope in a number of heavy hitters from a number of different generations. Jackson Browne and Bruce Springsteen sign up for duets; Metallica backs the legend on a rip through “You Really Got Me,” while Spoon offers suitably spacy support on “See My Friends”; Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora harmonize on a languid “Celluloid Heroes,” and Black Francis comes in to sing “This Is Where I Belong,” a song he covered with gusto some 16 years earlier.
Finally, it's Ray Davies's turn to make the elder-statesmen-collaborates-with-star-admirers album. See My Friends sees him plunder his back catalogue, with generally pleasurable results. Though Bruce Springsteen's gruff bark is an uncomfortable fit with Davies's camp quaver, they recast Better Things as a Byrdsy ramble that's an improvement on the original's clumping new wave.
Ray Davies is not above getting involved in his own tributes. When the compilation of Kinks covers This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies & the Kinks was released in 2002, Mr. Davies himself provided the liner notes, detailing each track while having not heard almost any of them. I say “almost” because he actually sang on the last track, a duet of “Waterloo Sunset” with Damon Albarn.
Ray Davies is an arsehole. At least that's what his brother Dave claims, although anybody who's shelled out for Ray's latest album will probably end up agreeing with the sentiment. After revisiting his back catalogue a couple of years ago on The Kinks Choral Collection, he's at it again, now taking the tribute album approach, as the lucrative nostalgia market has to be tapped into somehow and what with the tensions between Ray and Dave it doesn't look like a Kinks reunion is going to happen any time soon.
Davies has been in a retrospective mood of late: In 2009, the legendary Kinks frontman released a set of choral covers, and here he redoes his early hits alongside pals like Bruce Springsteen, Billy Corgan, and Spoon. Hearing Metallica roar through ”You Really Got Me”? Definitely a hoot. The high point of See My Friends, though, is Davies’ duet on ” ‘Til the End of Day” with a fellow power-pop icon: the late Alex Chilton.
These all-star gatherings are more fun for the artists than the listener. Paul Whitelaw 2010 Following on from 2009’s The Kinks Choral Collection, on which Ray Davies rearranged his back catalogue with the Crouch End Festival Chorus, See My Friends finds him sifting through his songbook once again, only this time he’s brought Bon Jovi along. Yes, it’s a duets album, of the type that veteran artists produce when they’ve nothing left to prove.
In the wake of a kooky Kinks-themed collaboration with fellow North Londoners in the Crouch End Festival Chorus, everyone’s favorite Muswell Hillbilly and songwriter’s songwriter Ray Davies puts the durability of his seemingly indestructible compositions on the line again: this time with a totally unnecessary but somehow appropriate collection of duets with an absurdly varied, multi-generational clique of hand-picked guest collaborators on See My Friends. Of course, these sorts of dubious late-career moves by rock’s elder statesmen often seem like a safe luxury cruise into the warm tropical waters of retirement, with the artist basking in the glow of prior achievements far away from the demands of creativity. But after toiling some 46 years in the music biz and penning some of history’s most literate pop songs, if anyone has earned the right to a little self-indulgence and pointless musical slacking, it’s Ray Davies.
Square-peg/round-hole pairings of the Kinkster and guests seldom jell as duets (Bruce Springsteen), but covers from Lucinda Williams ("Long Way From Home") and Jackson Browne ("Waterloo Sunset") make for choice B-sides. Genuine thrills include Big Star Alex Chilton ("'Til the End of the Day") and Mumford & Sons' rolling banjo under Davies on "Days/This Time Tomorrow." Spoon-ing: "See My Friends." .