My interest is piqued when artists decide to re-do their music, especially if the original versions of their songs are near perfect. Why mess with perfection? When a man as revered as Ray Davies starts fiddling with his catalog, the question begs to be asked: has the artist reached the dregs at the bottom of the creative cup? Has he become bored, returning to past glories to fuss and fidget and fix what is not broken?
It was a bold move adding a choir to sing on such classics as "Celluloid Heroes" and six songs from the Village Green Preservation Society album; and in some respects, this is a worthwhile project. There are some wonderful musical moments where Highgate’s Crouch End Chorus adds a majestic touch to the familiar material. The slower songs especially benefit from this treatment, the sweeping, soaring choral voices embellishing the well-crafted tunes. "Days and Village Green" originally from Village Green Preservation Society, "Celluloid Heroes" from Everybody’s In Showbiz and "Working Man Cafe" from Davies’ solo release of the same name are lovely and well worth a listen, but it is the a cappella version of "See My Friends" where Davies really shines. It is a dark lullaby, a ghostly whisper drifting through a moonlit field.
What does not impress are Davies'attempts to rock. The backbeat, the wailing guitars and choral oohs and ahhhs make me wonder if Davies’ eventual plan is for his songs to light up the Great White Way. "Picture Book" - complete with painfully hokey “Scooby dooby doos” from the choir-would not be out of place in a Broadway (or West End) revue entitled, perhaps Kinks! The Musical. Neither would "You Really Got Me" or "All Day and All Of the Night." The choral arrangement here is overbearing and pretty darn silly.
Hokum notwithstanding, the good outweighs the bad and Kinks fans will want to hear how the master has tinkered with these gems. But next time, Ray, please do what you do best and serve up some brand new classics.