11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2008
Format: Audio CD
There is no need to go into great details here, suffice to say that Ray Davies has produced a classic album where every track is musically strong, has something to say about the world, and displays the artists' singular style with romance, a social conscience, and, of course, a sense of humor. If you loved the great Kinks' albums (Lola, Arthur, Village Green, Muswell Hillbillies) you will recognize the touches that Ray used then and re-explores on Workingman's Cafe. It's not a retread, it's an artist going in many musical directions, but never forgetting to be true to himelf. In this age of Attention Deficit Disorder and single tracks, one of the masters has asked us to listen for 45 minutes, if you chose to stay focused you'll enjoy the ride and be that much wiser for it. Ray's cd is a grand slam homer that is still in flight.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2008
Format: Audio CDVerified Purchase
Few singer songwriters have the ability to truly look beyond their own perimeters. In contrast, Mr. Davies has the rare skill to consistently craft infectious, thoughtful and insightful songs about the human condition at large. While the mediocrity of mankind has not escaped him, the critical observations in his music are constructed within the context of compassion and humor. With age and wisdom, he may now view particular aspects of life with some resignation...but never bitterness.
"Working Man's Cafe" is a strong follow up to his superb, meticulous first true solo effort "Other Peoples Lives" released in 2006. I have been listening to the import version of WMC for a few months now but also purchased the U.S. release because it contains two additional excellent new songs as well as alternate versions of other tracks. The music on this collection feels quite visceral and spontaneous. It would be well suited for live performances. The sound is clearly 21st century, yet there are scattered shards within that make one reminiscent of the classic Kinks albums such as "Arthur" and "Something Else". This CD is smooth listening from start to finish and your favorites are likely to shift with time. Vocally Ray Davies is as strong as ever and much attention has been given to the sound quality and arrangements. The title cut along with: "Imaginary Man", Vietnam Cowboys and especially "In a Moment" get honorable mention but all the songs are memorable in their own way. Uninitiated listeners not familiar with this performer's body of work should find this collection very enjoyable even if they lack the proclivity to ruminate over the lyrics like some of us might.
I will always remember the Kinks with great appreciation and fondness even with the occasional uneveness of some of their albums. With this second impressive solo effort; Ray Davies has fortified his stature as a valued independent artist in his own right. I no longer lament for a Kinks reunion...but instead...only hope this performer maintains his zest for life and music so we can continue to be so royally entertained for many more years to come.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2007
Format: MP3 Music
he's back and it couldn't happen fast enough for me. there is nothing tentative about this collection. ray has found his footing and everything here is confident and fun. working with ray kennedy in nashville (again) he has crafted a collection with strong songwriting and some truly fine playing. there's something for everyone here. i've always found it difficult to separate ray from his band but there's really no need to. this reminds me of a kinks record, only with a fatter production. great songwriting.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on June 17, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Getting shot by muggers in New Orleans unexpectedly drove Davies back to the studio.
It seems incredible that a songwriter as respected and acclaimed as Davies should only be releasing his second solo record in 2007.
That said, "Working Man's Café" is not likely to disappoint generations of Davies fans.
Lyrically speaking, all his trademark wry and sardonic observations on life are present. As one of rock music's most lauded social commentators Ray peppers the majority of these new songs with nicely-honed and bang up-to-date assessments of the world as he sees it today: a conflicted, contradictory and globalized shopping centre mired in double standards and creeping 'Americanisation'.
You only have to listen to "Waterloo Sunset" to realise that Ray Davies has always had a tendency to wrap his disillusionment in the flag of nostalgia. He hankers for the past on this new album too, but with a brusqueness which would have embarrassed his younger self - before finally dragging himself back towards something approaching contentment.
The album captures Davies's revulsion with Tony Blair's Britain, his relocation to New Orleans, and the reflections on mortality which followed his shooting in the Crescent City (after chasing a mugger). Some of the material is mined directly from his experience.
This could be judged as the grumpy old man of The Kinks indulging in some nostalgia-driven baby-boomer whingeing.
Instead, Davies, who remains an engaging and energetic performer at 64, pinpoints the concerns of the moment from the perspective of a man who has seen England and the world beyond it change almost beyond recognition... and as far as Ray is concerned, not for the better.
The sprawling "Morphine Song", with its boisterous horn section, describes the trauma of the emergency room. Other themes, such as the encroachment of corporate power, are more familiar. "Vietnam Cowboys" rails at globalisation, on "You're Asking Me" Ray sounds genuinely peeved and rocks out accordingly, but the signature whimsical and wistful touches in his voice and music means he never slips into the angry old rocker cliché.
Probably the most radio-friendly offering is the sweetly catchy "In A Moment" which veers towards a southern soul feel with bluesy guitar, organ and electric piano chugging blissfully in the background as Ray gets things of his chest and shows he's still got plenty of great hooks up his sleeve.
There are glimpses of personal demons on "Imaginary Man" as Ray searches for life's meaning.
The beautifully sung closer, "The Real World", isn't strictly autobiographical, but it does explore the wanderlust which took Davies to Louisiana, before concluding that travel doesn't necessarily cure a lost soul.
Best of all is the pensive title track, with an Estuary-accented Davies complaining about the creeping Americanisation of England, loans, equity relief, mortgages and internet cafes, before locating his identity in a working man's café. "In case you forgot who I am", he sings, "I'm a kid with a greasy spoon firmly held in my hand". The melancholy track will likely inspire nostalgia for old Kinks tunes.
Full of brisk, occasionally noisy rock, it's a great gust of an album that affirms Davies's enduring talent.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2008
Format: Audio CD
A somewhat unique opportunity presented itself the other day. I had to drive roughly three and half hours to see my son off for his third rotation in Iraq. No one accompanied me and so I was able to listen to Ray Davies' Working Man's Café in its entirety with little or no interruption.
By the end of the day, I have come away quite joyous over the album and its content. As you might expect from any Kinks and/or Ray Davies set of songs - really one and the same, I guess - the message is of an intensely personal nature. It's one man's view of the world and its events. However, at the same time, because of Mr. Davies' amazing, transcendent ability to view both the one and the whole at the same time, it is a work that will resonate with almost anyone.
And, coming, as it does, in the midst of what could well be a profound sea-change in the body politic of the United States, it is eerily prescient that this album is quite likely the least English of any that Davies or the band has done with only two or three songs addressing that little island across the pond. But, despite the US-centricness of the album, Mr. Davies still mourns and rails against those wishing to destroy "little shops, china cups and virginity." But, this time many of the attacks are directed against entities far more tangible and, in point of fact, much more risky. Davies takes on - as he has many times in the past - the duel-headed leviathan of corporate disdain and bureaucracy.
The former is addressed in the first cut, a melodic tirade about the movement of jobs offshore and portrayed against a backdrop of New Orleans. It could have just as well been an attack on the Queen Mary II having to be built in France. There are also other references to lost jobs and lost dreams on other cuts. The latter is addressed across three songs and it is here that Davies delves into his personal life in the greatest depth.
I think we are all aware of the fact that Davies was shot in the wake of a robbery attempt. The story - perhaps at first amusing [Ray Davies chasing a bandit who had stolen a girlfriend's purse] - became a bit more serious and dire as Davies' hospital stay extended. In these songs - not really a song-cycle but linked thematically - we learn of pain; a possible addiction to morphine, the failure of law enforcement to capture the perpetrator and how someone - through no fault of their own - can be mishandled by the American equivalent of those "men in gray." It's pretty deep stuff to be covered in a pop album, but also quite emblematic of where the American dream resides in the early 21st Century.
And, as with any Davies-written album, there is a love song of sorts. `Peace in Our Time' must be listened to both for its weariness with conflict and its sense of just how important it is to have someone. After hearing it, I was compelled to dig out `Animal' and marvel in the similarity of context. Sometimes, I guess, it takes time - with its opportunity to look back - to decide winning isn't everythomg.
For me, the only piece that didn't work was `Voodoo Walk,' a John Fogerty clone that seemed to offer little but a claustrophobic view of confinement; perhaps another song related to Davies' hospitalization.
To my mind, Working Man's Café fits into the pantheon with Village Green Preservation Society, Muswell Hillbillies, and Lola vs Powerman and the Moneygoround for works that are emotional bridges.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Working Man's Cafe is the Great Ray Davies' second brilliant recording in the past three years. I bought the import last year when it was released in the UK and I consider it the best album of 2007, and this is on the heels of Other People's Lives, which was the best album of 2006! All the tracks are great, and Cowboys in Vietnam and No One Listens To Me sound like they're lost Kinks classics. Let's hope that Kinks reunion tour happens this year. At least Ray, the king Kink, is back and as good as ever with these two great records.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2008
Format: Audio CD
Listening to a new album from Ray Davies is for me very much like receiving a postcard from an old friend.
"How've I been? Oh you know, under the weather a bit, got shot in New Orleans but got through that rough patch. The hospital didn't bill my insurance right and I got hung up in bureaucracy for months, in fact as I'm writing this I am on hold while Miss Bright and Perky looks for my file. So...have you seen the news lately? I just can't believe what I'm hearing these days..."
Obviously that's me taking creative liberty with the subject matter, but that's how it feels after a few listens. Conversational. Ray letting you, me, all of us into his world for a bit for a friendly chat and a cup of tea.
Like a number of his peers from the general era that gave rise to The Kinks, Ray Davies appears to be having a late-career resurgence of sorts (the peers that jump to mind include Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Solomon Burke and Robert Plant to name a few - that's esteemed company). For Ray Davies, this doesn't entail a major shift in approach or purpose. This is a record loaded with keen observations and sly wit, but also humor and a certain lightness that made even the darkest Kinks songs approachable. It's this quality that made Ray Davies one of the most unique and singular talents of his, or any, era.
At his best (as represented here on this disc), Ray Davies writes songs that are truly about something. Be it such weighty topics as globalization ("Vietnam Cowboys"), a personal experience with the health care industry and a possible near-death experience ("Morphine Song") or the simple enjoyment of twilight ("In A Moment"), each of these songs tells a story that is both compelling and relatable. Somehow, this aging, almost-borderline-retired British popster seems to have his finger on the pulse of our times. By sticking to his tried-and-true outsider's perspective, Davies reveals himself as actively engaged with the world around him yet still confused by human follies.
There are those (some of whom wrote reviews on this page) who attempt to compare this disc to Arthur, Village Green and other Kinks classics to show how it comes up short (and thus deserves a lower-than-5-star rating). I have loved those classic albums too and no, this doesn't take their place nor is it meant to. This is the product of another era and time, and is a logical extension of some of those themes with a more personal touch. Ray neatly sums up his past and present in the following lyric from "Imaginary Man":
"Walked down to Preservation Hall
looking for the old trad band
it was just a momentary glance
I saw my reflection in the glass
watched as the world went flashing past
I knew the face but I could not tell
why I couldn't recognize myself"
It's typical Ray Davies - cynical yet nostalgic, lovingly remembering days gone by but realizing that they can never be again. This is an album imbued with legitimate heart and soul, wearing its big, wise and at times populist heart on its sleeve. To knock it because it isn't exactly the same as what came before is to miss the very point of the entire project.
As a final note, I hope Ray Davies continues to create more brilliant music like this in the coming years. My mailbox feels awfully empty without his postcards...
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on May 19, 2008
Format: Audio CD
I decided to give this CD over 50 listens before writing my review. The good news is it never got boring over the course of 50 plus listens. The not so good news is I'm convinced (unlike many of the reviewers on this site) this is not quite as good as the previous Other People's Lives. That in itself is not a bad thing, but I do think there has been a tendancy to overrate this effort in comparision.
I miss the diversity of OPL. The songs on Working Man's Cafe at times seem underdeveloped and lyrically weak. This diminishes an otherwise beautiful song like One More Time. The lyrical subtlety of Davies seems to have been replaced by heavy handedness. On songs like Vietnam Cowboys it works brilliantly. This song demonstrates all the Davies strengths of memorable melody combined with social commentary that is both serious and humerous.
Some of the ballads are really strong on this CD highlighted by the closer, The Real World. Other songs such as In A Moment, Imaginary Man, Your Asking Me and Hymm For A New Age provide repeated listening pleasure. The "deluxe" version offers 2 worthwhile bonus tracks, Wrong Side of the Law and I, The Victim.
I would definitely recommend this CD, but still would choose Other People's Lives first if you had to make a choice. Its hard not to give the nod to a CD that contains one of Davies best songs ever, Over My Head. Overall production and musicianship is outstanding throughout Working Man's Cafe. Nonetheless, it would still be interesting to hear some of Davies' new songs in more of a Kinks context.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 26, 2009
Format: Audio CD
Great album by a great artist. I wish there were more real artist in the music industry that could actually write songs. Ray Davies is truly an artist that is and has been timeless. Anything he has done or is doing is worth buying. He is also worth seeing live. Amazing performer. GOD BLESS THE KINKS & RAY DAVIES
on June 18, 2008
Format: Audio CD
This is a really great disc from Ray Davies. When it was first released I read a couple of local reviews which said it was just ok, so I was a bit apprenhensive before I put my money down. But I'm glad I did!
There are some great songs here (some among the best Ray has ever written).Its hard to nominate the favourites; its easier to nominate the lesser tracks which in my opinion are "No One Listen" and "Hymn for a New Age". The rest are really great but I guess the stand outs are "One More Time", "In a Moment",Morphine Song", Working Men's Cafe" and Vietnam Cowboys".
I saw Ray in concert recently and he did a couple of songs from this CD and the rest were his old Kinks material. One of the older songs he did was the great "20th Century Man" which induced me to go out and buy "Muswell Hillbillies" as I had never heard the complete album before.
Now I'm going to upset a few Kinks fans here but I think "Working Men's Cafe" is better than "Muswell Hillbillies"!!
So ignore the nay-sayers and buy this CD. It's now made we interested in picking up "Other Peoples Lives".