Note-perfect liner notes: garnering an embarrassment of riches and a treasure trove of tidbits from album commentaries and remarks...
Everybody’s a star, according to Ray Davies. But in the Kinks tribute album See My Friends, no matter the caliber of the Davies-enlisted collaborator — most that you recognize, a few you may hardly even heard of — it’s the songs that shine the brightest.
And in the Kinks’ 32-year career beginning in the mid-‘60s British Invasion, it’s Davies’ influential songcraft – widely encompassed in and a catalyst for such varying styles as pop, power-chord hard rock (thanks too to lead guitarist brother Dave), British music hall, rock opera, concept albums, poignant social satires, and arena rock – that no doubt became the main draw for an array of artists clamoring to be included in this current song-centered project.
Offering his services as curator and contributor, Ray, as one of rock’s most insightful, witty, and literate songwriters — Pete Townshend believes “He invented a new kind of poetry and a new kind of language for pop writing…” — implements See My Friends’ well-structured liner notes to comment upon the “Then” of each of the 14 melodic gems and all-out rockers, ranging from monster hits to more obscure album tracks, from “Lola” to “A Long Way from Home.” In the “Now” half of the equation, we see his friends in a better light, as Davies explains the how of the hook-up with each song’s recording cohort, a roster that includes Bruce Springsteen, Alex Chilton, Lucinda Williams, Black Francis, Metallica, Mumford & Sons, Jackson Browne, Paloma Faith, Billy Corgan, and Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora.
It’s also illuminating not only for the tidbits you pick up along the way – Davies and Paul Weller wrote some songs together 20 years ago but Ray “can’t find the demos anywhere”! – but also for the meticulous insight some seemingly disparate artists have into each other’s work history. It’s a bit heartening, for instance, to know that, stirred by Mumford & Sons choosing to do “This Time Tomorrow,” Davies “always gets pleasantly surprised when people pick little-known songs.”
The whole project got rolling in the summer of 2009, when Davies chose to record a version of "Till The End Of The Day" with the late Alex Chilton, who had recorded it with Big Star for Third/Sister Lovers, issued in 1978. The idea of collaborating with more artists was then further sparked as opportunity kept knocking: Davies performed "You Really Got Me" and "All Day And All Of The Night," with Metallica in New York City at the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary party in October 2009, and more occasions cropped up and studio time arranged as he kept encountering other "chord progres-she-ons and top mu-sish-eans." And not just his friends, but their best friends too.