Sunday, September 20, 2015

CD Review: Dave Davies' Rippin' Up New York City (2015)

Dave Davies' Rippin' Up New York City
Late last year, former Kinks guitarist Dave Davies released the critically-acclaimed solo album Rippin’ Up Time. The album was Davies’ follow-up to 2013’s equally esteemed effort I Will Be Me (itself Davies’ first album in six years, and his second since a life-threatening stroke), and the new LP dealt with themes of time and mortality with fond reminiscences of the past and one eye to the future.

A short tour followed the release of Rippin’ Up Time, with an appearance at the City Winery in the ‘Big Apple’ caught on tape and released on disc as Rippin’ Up New York City. While not the most raucous live album you’ll ever hear – what do you expect from a rocker nearing 70? – Davies nevertheless displays more energy and vitality in these performances than musicians half his age.

Dave Davies’ Rippin’ Up New York City

Rippin’ Up New York City offers up fifteen actual songs (and a brief album-opening intro), comprising an inspired mix of Davies’ originals and classic gems from the deep Kinks catalog. Davies is fronting a band that includes former Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken, an underrated timekeeper by any measure, as well as second guitarist Jonathan Lea, bassist Tom Currier, and backing vocalist Rebecca G., Wilson. Altogether, it’s a lean rock ‘n’ roll machine Davies takes to the stage and they deliver in spades.

The live set opens with the muscular title track from Davies’ recent solo album, “Rippin’ Up Time” benefitting from the powerful Diken/Currier rhythm section, which lays down a meaty groove, upon which Davies embroiders his raw, blistering squalls of guitar. The six-string cacophony that takes over the anarchic arrangement makes for a heady brew of sound and fury, Davies only spitting out occasional lyrics, preferring to let his guitar do the talking. A vintage Kinks track, “I’m Not Like Anybody Else,” rides a similar silver rail to oblivion, displaying every bit as much piss and vinegar as the album-opener, albeit with more order brought to the instrumental chaos, Davies interpreting his brother’s angst-ridden lyrics with defiant anguish, wailing guitars, and crashing instrumentation.

Death of A Clown

Davies is also quite capable of showing his gentler side, as proven by the wan pseudo-ballad “Suzannah’s Still Alive,” delivered with more sonic bluster than the original, but with similar wistful vocals floating above a jangling soundtrack. The nostalgia-tinged “Front Room” and “King of Karaoke,” both from Rippin’ Up Time, provided that album’s heart and soul, and they work their similar magic in a live setting. The former is a fond remembrance of growing up in post-war England, folkish lyrics blanketed by whimsical instrumentation and fluid guitar solos. The former is a more traditional, Kinks-styled rocker with a strong melody providing a foundation for Davies’ reminiscent lyrics, which reference everybody from his former band and the Beatles to Elvis Presley and Jimi Hendrix. Bolstered by exotic, flamenco-styled guitar and flowing rhythms, the song is as elegant as it is mournful.

Davies’ “Death of A Clown” was one of the Kinks’ most underrated of hits, the song a musically-complex wonder that echoes British dancehall music while showing flashes of psychedelic pop and Dave’s dark-hued lyrics. It’s performed here with a break for audience participation, which doesn’t detract from the song’s joyous celebration. Davies and crew close out Rippin’ Up New York City with a pair of bona fide classics. “All Day and All Of The Night” and “You Really Got Me” are British Invasion royalty, both songs major Kinks hits that relied on Davies’ flamethrower fretwork – jagged, distorted riffs and dangerous power chords that did as much to launch a thousand and one garage-rock bands as the Beatles ever did. Performed here, nearly 50 years later, neither song has lost any of their charm, and Davies does them both proud.

The Reverend’s Bottom Line

Dave Davies’ Rippin’ Up New York City offers up an energetic mix of the guitarist’s solo work (including the three best songs from Rippin’ Up Time) and Kinks favorites as well as a handful of his obscure solo tracks (“Creepin’ Jean,” “I Need You”) and long-lost Kinks’ songs (“Strangers,” “Where Have All The Good Times Gone”). Davies’ talented backing band is up for the challenge, offering a solid backdrop for Davies’ electrifying, exciting fretwork. Davies’ isn’t the best vocalist in the world of rock music, but he makes up for it with verve and charisma, and Rippin’ Up New York City is as entertaining a live album as you’ve heard in a long, long time. Grade: B+ (Red River Entertainment, released September 4, 2015)

Related Content: Dave Davies' Rippin' Up Time CD review

Buy the CD from Dave Davies' Rippin Up New York City: Live at the City Winery


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Tis groovier. I envy you mec!