Working Man's Cafe

Ray Davies

New West Records, 2008

REVIEW BY: Mark Kadzielawa


I’ve been listening to this album, Ray Davies’ second studio album in three years, for the period of last few weeks, and with each listen, it’s only getting better.  I was quite excited after Davies’ solo debut, Other People’s Lives, but this new album is far more addictive, or perhaps I just overplayed the last one.  Either way, his latest, Working Man’s Café, is a great album to own and listen to. 

The songs are, as always, very catchy, and often the arrangements are clever.  Davies is one of those excellent songwriters whose style is easily recognizable, something he cultivated as founder, lead singer and songwriter of the legendary The Kinks. There are notes and signatures that just spell his name, and in an age in which music has become so faceless and impersonal, such skills are to be treasured.  my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Despite the music being very good, it’s the lyrics that really capture the listener’s attention.  Davies has a way with words when it comes to a social commentary.  Whether it’s his or someone else’s point of view, each song always offers this morale, not to mention that brilliant British wit and sarcasm of his. Overall, the lyrics are very down to earth; some literally resemble a conversation I would have at a bar with someone I’ve just met.

 It’s hard to pick what my favorites are as they often change as I discover something new that I didn’t pick out during the last listen.  Also, I detect a lot of personal experiences being written about here.  Songs such as “Angola” are very close to home to Davies as he refers to his being shot trying to stop a mugger in New Orleans. Meanwhile, “No One Listen” is a fantastic stab at the growing bureaucracy and the dead end it offers to an average citizen.  The excellent “Vietnam Cowboys” portrays the current situation in 2008 and where it may be in years to come. “One More Time” and “The Real World” focus on the harsh realities of life that do not seem to be getting any better despite the  lessons learned from our mistakes. On the other hand, the great message of how to life your life to its fullest when things are less than great around you is a poignant, more uplifting theme of this album, and overall, there are a lot of catchy lines throughout that stay with you long after you’ve put the record away (which is never for long.)

Some say Davies should bring The Kinks back, and rightfully -- it would be great to see the old band back.  On the other hand, if he continues to release great albums like Working Man’s Café, then his being a solo artist is absolutely justified; the excellence of this music is universal.

Rating: A

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© 2008 Mark Kadzielawa and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.