Ray Davies Other People's Lives

There’s something a little scary about musicians who continue to make music until late into their lives — it rarely ever lives up to the music of their glory days. But every now and again, someone manages to really surprise you and Ray Davies does just that with the first solo album of his long and storied career. On Other People’s Lives, Davies hasn’t taken the easy way out. This is a remarkably challenging album that delivers both highs and lows, yet it sounds like a natural extension of his time in the the Kinks. It definitely isn’t just another Kinks album though, even if there are some moments of whimsy that they were known for later in their career. Maybe if Blur had kept going along the Parklife pathway, they might have sounded like this, but they could never match Davies’ knack for writing perfectly observed songs. The main problem with the album is that the songs are simply too long. As someone who has spent a sizeable amount of his career writing glorious pop songs, he should have known better than to stretch some of the songs beyond four minutes, let alone six. Fortunately his lyrics are as sharp as they ever were, and as long as he’s singing the songs are compelling enough to forgive most things. Other People’s Lives is not always an optimistic album, but it will hopefully help cement Ray Davies’ position as one of England greatest songwriters, an accolade that he tends to get overlooked for. (V2)