- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2005

Ray Davies

Thanksgiving Day

V2 Records

Hard as it may be to believe, British rock veteran Ray Davies has never released a bona fide solo album, unless you count the soundtrack he wrote for the 1985 film “Return to Waterloo” and 1998’s live retrospective, “The Storyteller.” Moreover, it has been 12 years since the last Kinks album.

Technically, Mr. Davies still hasn’t gone solo: “Other People’s Lives” won’t be out until next year. Nevertheless, the EP “Thanksgiving Day” is an immensely enjoyable teaser. (All proceeds will go toward music education programs in New Orleans.)

The holiday-timed title track is a Wilson Pickett-style rocker with a midtempo groove and an amiably soulful horn section. It touches down like a ghost on bittersweet Thanksgiving dinner tables, including that of a widower missing his wife and a spinster longing for kisses “all over her American face.” Thematically, the song is more lonely than celebratory, which is too bad. It would be nice to hear it as part of the seasonal canon.

Those expecting an American-themed song cycle, given Mr. Davies’ penchant for writing around a single concept, will be flown across the pond for the bulk of this EP. “Yours Truly Confused N10” — it and “Thanksgiving Day” are the two new compositions here — was written as a letter to the editor from a reactionary Brit.

“Do-gooders and reformers lead our nation to defeat/while murderers and terrorists get compassionate release,” bleats Mr. Davies’ fed-up-with-it-all narrator, who, one imagines, would benefit from conservative talk radio if he lived in the United States. Despite a catchy south-of-the-border rhythm, “Yours Truly” is probably the weakest of the four tunes here, with a brass section that sounds like “Tequila” in Vegas.

“London Song” is more like it: blackly funny and half-rapped by Mr. Davies as a mordant tour guide of the titular city. He name-drops “great Londoners” such as William Black and Charles Dickens — “and don’t forget the Kray twins.” (For the uninitiated, that’s Ronnie and Reggie, the notoriously trendy East End gangsters of the 1960s.)

Before he revisits the title track (a slightly cozier remix), Mr. Davies serves up the countrified “Storyteller.” It, like an earlier mix of “London Song,” first appeared on “The Storyteller,” the 1998 album that coincided with Mr. Davies’ appearance on the VH1 music network’s songwriter series, which he is credited with creating. The song never reveals the contents of a story passed on from a friend, who in turn heard it from a “wandering vagabond.”

The point of the story, apparently, is in the telling and hearing, not the details. It’s a bit of a letdown. Mr. Davies excels at details. This, after all, is the raconteur who told one of the greatest stories of rock history — that of a skinny, unwitting dude who almost fell for a certain burly trannie by the name of Lola, he/she of the “dark brown voice.”

In more ways than one, then, “Thanksgiving Day” does a great job of whetting our appetite for “Other People’s Lives.”

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