CD Review of Other People's Lives by Ray Davies

Music Home / Entertainment Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

Buy your copy from Ray Davies:
Other People's Lives
starstarstarhalf starno star Label: V2
Released: 2006
Buy from

I’m not sure why this is being touted as “Ray Davies’ first solo album.” Doesn’t anyone remember the soundtrack to “Return to Waterloo”? On the front of the cover the name RAY DAVIES is emblazoned at the top. But perhaps since members of the Kinks played on it, it cannot be touted as a solo album. And besides, there wasn’t much to keep that release afloat besides the great title track. Whether or not it was a good movie, I have no idea, as I picked the thing up used years ago and never saw the film. The album itself was released on Arista, so you can take that for whatever it’s worth.

So here we are with Other People’s Lives, the latest from the head Kink. It’s been interesting to watch the Kinks’ and Davies’ career all these years. Every so often a new album will pop up and the inevitable comparisons to the old days come crashing through. Well, you can’t have the days of Something Else back, just like you can’t have the days of “You Really Got Me,” “Lola,” “Come Dancing,” or even “Do It Again” back, either. But it doesn’t matter, really, as Ray Davies has always been one of those singular talents whose songwriting continues to shine over most folks. But perhaps the larger question is can anyone relate to Davies’ new stuff who hasn’t been a fan for however long? Can the kids who discover “All Day And All Of The Night” this year be able to groove to this album just as easily?

Who knows? Davies has always done things according to his own visions of life and the world at large. The garage thump may be long gone, but the cynicism and wit still remain. This is evident enough through the foreboding sigh Davies elicits during the first moments of the opening track “Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After).” Once more, Ray looks at the situations around him with the eyes of an aging citizen (something he’s been doing since the days of “Dedicated Follower of Fashion”) who’s not sure what to expect next but knows those good old traditions are possibly worth holding onto.

It’s that same taste of biting humor we’ve loved from Davies over the years at the fore once again. What else could you expect from him other than such catchy sentiments as “Creatures of Little Faith” and “Is There Life after Breakfast?” Ray has always been about the Everyman, writing about his mundane trials and tribulations in daily life, and doing so, he has made much more of a case for that style of songwriting than, say, Bruce Springsteen, whose overblown vignettes make you want to stay away as far from Jersey as possible. With Davies, the doldrums of English life seem eccentrically attractive. You come away from his songs thinking it would be interesting to meet these characters and drink a pint with them.

So for the most part, Other People’s Lives is a good dose of classic Ray Davies. The music is accessible as ever, with “Next Door Neighbor” and “Stand Up Comic” being especially grand. But like so many post-glory days Kinks affairs, this one seems just a little too long perhaps, which might be a funny thing to say about a 13 track album in this day and age. But after sitting down and listening to the entire album, you kind of feel like you’ve read a bit of a lengthy book. Hell, the same thing plagued even classic Kinks albums like Arthur, so it’s just the way it is with Ray Davies. Nevertheless, this album is a most welcome comeback, and proof that Davies is still relevant and interesting as he enters his early 60’s. That’s more than can be said for many of his peers still turning out the product on a much more regular basis. Yes, that means you, Mick and Keef.

~Jason Thompson