Written by Fantasma el Rey
Ray Davies legendary cofounder of The Kinks is back with his new solo release Working Man’s Café. Sticking with a country/blues rock sound throughout the disc, Ray hits hard as he jumps, skips, and swings into twelve tracks about life and modern day themes. The mastery of his songwriting skill has not diminished with the passing of time. Ray’s tunes are observant and strike a chord in the mind and heart without being whinny or sappy, losing none of their drive.
The rocking opening track “Vietnam Cowboys” sets the lyrical and musical palette of the album. Ray points out the “economic meltdown” and dilemmas hitting the nation and the world with lyrics like “Take the culture right to the third world,” “Mass production in Saigon/ while auto workers laid off in Cleveland,” and “Cowboys in Vietnam/ making their movies.”
“No One Listen” is a tune along the same lines, expressing that no one is around to listen anymore as “everything’s goin’ wild.” All those people who you’re told would listen to the concerns of the “little guy getting kicked around,” from preachers to local government, are nowhere to be found. Ray goes on to note that he’s in the system and that his case will be reviewed in a few years. So now instead of telling the National Guard he might as well tell winos, same difference as government I suppose.
A number of songs are laments for days gone by. “Working Man’s Cafe” is about the disappearance of just that. Long ago the working man, who had a small shop on the corner, selling apples and pears, where you can now get “designer pants,” would be comfortable in the town shopping center and could find easy conversation at the local café and not one that offers the internet. “Imaginary Man” can be seen as a look back at either two people no longer as close as they once were or one person who can’t see himself in a reflection anymore, during those times when you seem so far from who you were or who you thought you are.
“One More Time” takes a look at how things fade and why true love is so hard to find but keeping to the theme of the album, the story goes deeper. It tells of “economic vultures,” corporate tax breaks and profits going somewhere but not to the people, a telling song of the heart and how landscape around us change and become more urban.
“You’re Asking Me” is a cool tune with a light ‘60s psychedelic feel that has Ray sounding off a bit about folks asking him for advice: “No point asking me because I haven’t got a clue,” “Don’t make me responsible for you living your life,” and “I could just as easily go tell a lie, couldn’t I.” Basically he’s telling folks to “get a life” and live it for yourself. On the other hand there is “Peace In Our Time,” which finds Ray spouting unconditional love and peace, “All we deserve is some peace in our time”
Ray Davies’ cool, calculated, unpolished vocals shine on Working Man’s Café. He gets his points across with out sounding weak or false; at times his voice is quite tough, making this CD even more enjoyable. It is definitely a CD that can be played over and over again with its catchy tunes and thoughtful, at times stinging lyrics. Listen to what Ray has to say and you can find some thing to connect to or agree with. That’s his gift to the world, songs that everyday people can understand, from his straight rockers (“Vietnam Cowboys,” “The Voodoo Walk”) to his slower tunes (“Imaginary Man”) and the jazzy, swinger “Morphine Song,” he speaks in a language that you can understand. It’s easy to see how other British heroes of the common man such as Joe Strummer draw influence from Ray’s past masters.