Other People's Lives

Other People's Lives

by Ray Davies

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It's hard to believe that this is the first time in more than four decades of performing that the Kinks' driving force has issued a solo album of new material -- but the sharpness and spikiness contained in the grooves of Other Peoples' Lives makes the wait seem worthwhile. After a few years of creative drifting, Davies has, at 61,See more details below


It's hard to believe that this is the first time in more than four decades of performing that the Kinks' driving force has issued a solo album of new material -- but the sharpness and spikiness contained in the grooves of Other Peoples' Lives makes the wait seem worthwhile. After a few years of creative drifting, Davies has, at 61, reconnected with the spirit of what many consider to be the Kinks' most fulfilling period: namely, the social observation-laden folk-rock of albums such as 1968's The Village Green Preservation Society. On the acid-tongued "Stand Up Comic," he takes aim at the increasingly crass nature of pop culture with dead-on lines like "A well spoken hero of yesteryear walks out on stage and they all shout queer." And while there's a fair amount of his usual wistful reminiscing -- "Next Door Neighbour," for instance, chuckles softly about the foibles of working-class blokes of yore -- Davies cuts surprisingly close to the bone on a number of tracks. Sometimes that means baring his own scars, as he does on the dark, minor-chord-driven "All She Wrote," which chronicles the crumbling of one of his own relationships. Just as intriguingly, the approach also results in some naked positivism, as on "Thanksgiving Day," which finds Davies looking for the uniquely American holiday's inner "Waterloo Sunset" -- and doing a yeoman job of finding it, considering his outsider's perspective. Long thought of as the quintessential Brit rocker, Davies sounds more like a citizen of the world than ever -- and that's a guise he wears exceedingly well.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Most artists don't wait until they're nearly 62 to deliver their first official solo album, but Ray Davies has never been predictable. As a matter of fact, Davies is the quintessential rock contrarian, doggedly following his path, sometimes to the detriment of his own art or career. This obstinate nature extends to the very sound of his solo debut Other People's Lives, a shiny, simmered-in-the-studio album where each song creeps on just a little longer than necessary. This 2006 effort sounds roughly 16 years out of time -- sonically, it could comfortably function as the follow-up to 1989's UK Jive -- and its slickness may keep some listeners at a distance, particularly if they're craving a stripped-down, back-to-basics comeback along the lines of Dylan's Love and Theft or the Stones' A Bigger Bang. But such a bare-bones effort isn't in Davies's nature -- ever since the early '70s, he's kept things clean and glistening on the surface while being prickly underneath. This may not suit the tastes of fans pining for a return to Village Green, but behind that smooth production are a set of songs that reveal that Davies has returned to form as a rich, idiosyncratic pop songwriter. As he states in his wonderful liner notes -- where he details the recording circumstances for each cut, plus the album at large -- Other People's Lives is no concept album, but there are themes that hold it together. Davies tackles mortality and, one of his favorite themes, domesticity, head-on here, and his wit and wry critical eye remain intact. As an album, Other People's Lives may occasionally lag in momentum, but song for song, this is his strongest set of material since Low Budget, but a better comparison may be Misfits. Like that 1978 gem, this record doesn't rock hard and has a distinct writerly bent, as Davies presents a collection of narratives and character sketches that play like short stories. If there's a sense of creeping mortality here, there's also little fear (and there's no rumination over his shooting in New Orleans, either, since all the material was written before that incident). There's humor, irony, earned sentimentality and knowing, careful observations, all wrapped up in meticulously crafted words and music. There are hints of the Kinks -- "Is There Life After Breakfast?" lopes along like an outtake from Everybody's in Show-Biz, the absurd "Stand Up Comic" recalls the vaudevillian hard rock of the late '70s -- but there's nothing written as a conscious emulation of his past; instead, he's returning to his strengths and finding new wrinkles within his signature style. And if there are no flat-out knockouts here, there's not a bad song here, either, and each tune seems stronger with repeated plays. Most of all, Ray Davies sounds engaged as a writer and musician in a way that he hasn't in years, and that doesn't just make for a strong comeback, but it makes listeners realize what they've all missed since he's been away for 13 years (or perhaps longer, given the disconnect on latter-day Kinks records). Here's hoping that Other People's Lives kicks off a latter-day renaissance for the singer/songwriter, since it's proof that while many try to emulate him, there's no substitute for the crankiest, funniest songwriter in pop.

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Product Details

Release Date:
V2 North America

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Ray Davies   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bass,Harmonica,Piano,Hammond Organ,Vocals,Mellotron
John Beecham   Horn
Steve Bolton   Guitar
Laurie Latham   Cymbals,Tambourine
Milton McDonald   Guitar
Dick Nolan   Bass,Choir, Chorus
Nick Payn   Horn,Tenor Saxophone
Martin Salvador Rex   Choir, Chorus
Andrew Scarth   Horn Engineer
Norman Watt-Roy   Bass
David Temple   Trumpet
Mike Cotton   Horn
Martin Davies   Choir, Chorus
Dylan Howe   Drums
Isabel Fructuoso   Vocals
Phil Veacock   Saxophone
Dave Swift   Bass
Serge Krebs   Choir, Chorus,Loops
Matthew Winch   Trumpet
Toby Baron   Drums
Alida Giusti   Choir, Chorus
Linda McBride   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Ray Davies   Arranger,Composer,Producer,Engineer,Writer,Remixing,Audio Production
Phil Bodger   overdub engineer
Laurie Latham   Engineer
Bob Ludwig   Mastering
B.J. Ben Mason   overdub engineer
Martin Salvador Rex   Engineer
Andrew Scarth   Engineer,overdub engineer
Lawrence Watson   Portrait Photography
Adrian Hall   Engineer
Serge Krebs   Sound Effects,Remixing
Graham Dominy   Engineer

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