This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies and The Kinks
So if you find yourself out and about this weekend near a record store, and you are tempted to duck in and browse the bargain bin (as I am wont to do), here's one of those great tribute CDs that you should definitely pick up:
This Is Where I Belong: Songs of Ray Davies and The Kinks (2002, Rykodisc) is an excellent little collection of covers by many artists that I enjoy. The variety of folks selected to contribute to this CD serve to illuminate the literate and consistently superb songwriting of Ray Davies, regardless of the musical lens you choose.
The great Pete Townshend is quoted as saying: "The Kinks were . . . quintessentially English. I always think that Ray Davies should one day be Poet Laureate. He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for Pop writing that influenced me from the very, very, very beginning."
It's a treat to read the liner notes, as they are written by Davies himself; join him as he talks about his recollections of each song, when it was written, who it was written for. He also muses on the artists covering the songs with interesting results ("I haven't eaten a lambchop since 1975 but I really miss the mint sauce.")
1. "Better Things" - Fountains Of Wayne
(Davies writes, "Who is Wayne, I wonder?")
2. "Starstruck" - Steve Forbert
3. "Stop Your Sobbing" - Jonathan Richman
(a ha! In a recent interchange I had about Jonathan Richman, I knew I had seen his name somewhere very recently. This is spirited rendition from Jonathan; Davies shares, "I nearly produced The Modern Lovers years ago, but unfortunately our schedule did not allow it. I hope Jonathan Richman has forgiven me.")
4. "No Return" - Bebel Gilberto
(an interesting flamenco-tinged interpretation; Davies writes, "'No Return' with Bebel Gilberto is quite ironic because I certainly wrote the song with her mother in mind to sing it.")
5. "A Well Respected Man" - Josh Rouse
6. "Victoria" - Cracker
7. "Who'll Be The Next In Line" - Queens Of The Stone Age
8. "Big Sky" - Matthew Sweet
9. "Art Lover" - Lambchop
10. "Picture Book" - Bill Lloyd & Tommy Womack
11. "Muswell Hillbilly" - Tom O'Brien
12. "Get Back In Line" - The Minus 5
13. "'Til The End Of The Day" - Fastball
14. "This Is Where I Belong" - Ron Sexsmith
(Davies writes: "I did get a sneak preview of [this track] and hearing it helped me rediscover it for myself.")
15. "Fancy" - Yo La Tengo
16. "Waterloo Sunset" - Ray Davies & Damon Albarn (of Blur)
The Yo La Tengo track is a completely new invention, the Josh Rouse tune has that sly smoothness to it that I love about him, and the Lambchop (needs no mint sauce) version of "Art Lover" is fuzzy and melodic and extremely enjoyable. Matthew Sweet turns in an expansive cover of "Big Sky," and Cracker rocks on "Victoria," a la their best Kerosene Hat-era material. Overall this is a solid, quality album (and highlights really the best of the tribute album genre -- how adventurous and diverse it can be).
As Davies also says in the notes: "Some of you may be discovering these tracks for the first time. In a way, as I listen to it I will be re-discovering part of myself."