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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Ray Davies, Raveonettes and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, February 18, 2008

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Ray Davies, “Working Man’s Cafe” (Ammal/New West) ***

After all these years — nearly 45 — it’s hard to believe that Kinks leader Ray Davies is only on his second solo album. But after an impressive “first” outing (not counting previous soundtrack work) with 2006’s “Other People’s Lives,” Davies digs even deeper on “Working Man’s Cafe,” maintaining the searing wit and strident social observations that have made him one of rock ’n’ roll’s most potent, and even important, commentators. This is also the most “American” of Davies’ recordings on which he drops any sense of U.K. jive and draws on a residential tenure in New Orleans earlier this decade. “Vietnam Cowboys” bursts forward with a gritty shuffle and ruminations about the effect of the globalized economy on these shores. “Hymn For a New Age” is an Americana-styled anthem calling for spiritual overhaul, while “Imaginary Man” has a rootsy richness that echoes Muscle Shoals, “In a Moment” mines a swampy soul-rock groove and “Morphine Song,” which tracks the aftermath of being shot during a mugging in 2004, brings in the brass band in true Crescent City tradition. There’s plenty of “Working Man’s Cafe” that does not hew to geographic standards, however, but rather couches Davies’ viewpoints in fully drawn, carefully crafted arrangements that bring a soaring quality to the likes of “Peace in Our Time,” “The Real World” and “One More Time.” The net result is smart, personal and potent, the reasons Davies remains a “Well Respected Man” this deep into his career.


The Raveonettes, “Lust Lust Lust” (Vice) **1/2

The sunny pop sheen of the Danish duo’s 2005 effort, “Pretty in Black,” becomes a past concern just seconds into its fourth album, as the fuzzy guitars and dry urban groove of “Aly, Walk With Me” usher in a lo-fi, minimalist sonic sojourn that’s deceptively lush — and a little spooky, recalling the likes of the Velvet Underground and My Bloody Valentine. The soundscape and dark lyricism is as nightmarish as it is romantic, with a range of emotions from “Lust’s” ambivalence to the regrets and recriminations of “Expelled From Love” and “You Want the Candy’s” treatise on sex as a “dirty treat.” Give it a little time, and “Lust ...” will seduce you into coming back for more.


American Music Club, “Golden Age” (Merge) — The long-lived “quiet rock” group introduces a new rhythm section on its ninth album.

Bell X1, “Flock” (Yep Roc) — The much buzzed-about Irish rockers bring hit these shores after conquering their homeland.

Chris Cagle, “My Life is a Country Song” (Capitol Nashville) — The hard rocking country artist laces 11 new songs onto his fourth album.

A Cursive Memory, “Changes” (Vagrant) — Debut album from the Los Angeles modern rock quartet whose oldest member is 20 years old.

Mike Doughty, “Golden Delicious” (ATO) — The Soul Coughing frontman’s latest album was produced by Semisonic’s Dan Wilson.

Bob Frank, “Red Neck, Blue Collar” (Memphis International) — Folk music in the classic sense from the Oakland, Calif.-based singersongwriter.

Jim Jones, “Harlem’s American Gangster” (Koch) — The New York rapper delivers a mixtape as the prelude to a new album he plans to release this summer.

Kingdom of Sorrow, “Kingdom of Sorrow”

(Relapse) — Debut release by the new side project from Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta and Down/Crowbar guitarist Kirk Windstein.

Kula Shaker, “Strange Folks” (Cooking Vinyl) — The tripped-out British rockers return with their third album after a six-year break.

Jim Lauderdale, “Honey Songs” (Yep Rock) — The Grammy-winning country and bluegrass artist recorded his latest with a group of “dream players” hailing from the ranks of Elvis Presley’s band, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, the Crickets and Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.

Gary Louris “Vagabonds” (Rykodisc) — The solo debut by the Jayhawks leader and Golden Smog principal.

Nick Lowe, “Jesus of Cool” (Yep Rock) — Lowe’s best-known album gets a 30th anniversary re-issue, adding a variety of bonus tracks including the original version of “Cruel to be Kind.”

Allison Moorer, “Mockingbird” (New Line) — The singer, who’s now married to Steve Earle, covers songs by Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Patti Smith, her sister Shelby Lynne and others on this 12-track set.

Morcheeba, “Dive Deep” (Ultra) — The sixth album from the British trip-hop duo features the usual array of lowprofile but hip guest vocalists such as Judie Tzuke, Thomas Dybdahl, Manda and Cool Calm Pete.

Seven Mary Three, “Day & Nightdriving” (Bellum) — The Virginia rockers recorded their sixth album before signing a new label deal, which they dubbed a “liberating” experience.

Donita Sparks & the Stellar Moments,” “Transmiticate” (Redeye) — The first solo album from the former frontwoman for the groundbreaking female rock troupe L7.

Paul Thorn, “Long Way From Tupelo” (Perpetual Osbcurity) — The singer-songwriter, boxer, painter and sky diver from Mississippi turns out his latest batch of songs — including one about going seven rounds with Roberto Duran.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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