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Ray Davies: The Storyteller

However much he continues to influence others—the current crop of Brit-pop favorites owes as much to him as it does to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones—Ray Davies has seen The Kinks' career dry up, at least in terms of the creation of new music. Fortunately, Davies himself hasn't been dormant. In addition to his unusual 1994 autobiography X-Ray, The Kinks released To The Bone, a double-disc set of live, pared-down classics, in 1996. Though backed by different musicians than usual, Davies' ongoing "Storyteller" tour is roughly a combination of the two, recounting his formative years and the early days of the band by combining songs and stories. The new The Storyteller is a recorded version of the show, culled from several appearances. An articulate narrator with a great ear for translating his music into smaller-scale arrangements, Davies is engaging as both a singer and a storyteller. Beginning with the story of his birth in working-class London, Davies concludes by detailing the recording session that produced "You Really Got Me," the song that made the band members' careers and changed music history in the process. He stops along the way to recount his early experiences with music—first as an admirer and then as a performer—that are always linked to his busy, vibrant family. A few sections lag, the one new studio cut ("London Town") is atrocious, and there's scarcely a hint of the long-standing animosity between Davies and his brother Dave, suggesting that a good story sometimes takes precedence over a strict adherence to facts. But overall, The Storyteller is an otherwise excellent, unique record. Davies may be living off past glories, but he's doing so in such a creative and entertaining way that it doesn't matter.


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