Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stray Ray's: 10 Great 60's Ray Davies Covers

It's incredibly hard to pick just 10 60's Ray Davie's compositions.  He was such a prolific songwriter in the 60's that there are a host of numbers he provided to willing artists and of course his own band, The Kinks.  I tried very hard to balance my choices with tracks that The Kinks never recorded with versions by other artists of tunes that The Kinks also did and also tried very hard to choose more obscure numbers (omitting more well known numbers like "Dandy" or The Thought's brilliant but often discussed "All Night Stand"). I also restricted my selections to tracks that were on YouTube, as many of them have never been reissued or complied anywhere I thought it both prudent and fair to link them to YouTube in the hopes of turning some of you onto some new music without adopting the stereotypical haughty attitude of record collectors unwillingness the share with those not "in the know".  Enjoy.

1. FIVE'S COMPANY-"Session Man"  U.K. Pye 7N 17199 1966
One of the crown jewels of The Kink's "Face To Face" LP is this little ode to the session musician.  With most Kinks tracks from this period it's hard to decide whether it was meant as an observation or a dry tongue in cheek swipe at the likes of Jimmy Page and the "5th Kink" Nicky Hopkins, I'd like to think the former!  This cover was released in November 1966, one month after the Kinks version appeared on the LP. This version differs from the original thanks for a faster pace and a more enthusiastic sounding backing (complete with harpsichord, no doubt played by a session man).


2. MICK & MALCOLM-"Big Black Smoke" U.K. Piccadilly 7N.35372 1967
This March '67 45 was previously released by The Kinks as the flip side to "Dead End Street" in November 1966.  I've no idea who Mick & Malcolm were, but the accent on the lead vocalist sounds Irish.  This version has a more upbeat feel too it, something at odds with the track's gritty subject matter, accented by strings, organ and what sounds like a banjo being plucked for the main riff. It's not nearly as good as the original but gets marks for making a decent job of it.


3. THE CASCADES-"I Bet You Won't Stay" U.K. Liberty LIB 55822 1965/ U.S. Liberty 55822 1965
Rarity time here kids.  This track, to my knowledge, was never released by any other artists than one hit wonders The Cascades ("Rhythm Of The Rain").  By the time this track had rolled around (August 1965) the band had been through a number of line up changes and obviously a genre change too.  The harmonies are pure Beach Boys influence behind a layer of some solid Hal Blaine style drumming and harpsichord with a decidedly "folk rock" feel too it.  Believe it or not it all works and is easily one of my fave Ray tracks that went unrecorded by The Kinks.


 4. LEAPY LEE-"King Of The Whole Wide World" U.K. Decca F 12369 1966
Leapy Lee, scourge of the used 45 bin with his boring M.O.R. near U.S. hit "Little Arrows" on the Decca label, bah! The Kinks actually backed Mr. Lee for this, his second 45 and it was produced Mr. Ray Davies himself!  the number is somber but accented by a rousing chorus (perhaps it's Rasa Davies supplying the backing vocals on it) punctuated by some nice clanging guitars (ala "The World Keeps Going Round" or "Where Have All The Good Times Gone"). Released in March of 1966 it sank without a trace.


Scan c/o http://www.45cat.com/

5. LOS CINCOS-"Most Exclusive Residence For Sale" U.K. Phillips BF 1525 1966
Yet another "Face to Face" LP cut also released in November '66 after the album.  It has been stated that this record featured a young Albert Hammond but I've yet to confirm that.  I was under the impression that Los Cincos, were part of the brief Iberian invasion of the U.K. in '66-'67 (with Los Bravos, Los Iberos, Los Brincos etc), but perhaps I'm wrong.  The number is unique thanks to some cheezy but cool brass bits that replace the originals "ba ba ba.." parts that accent each line that have an almost "South of the border" feel to them.


Scan c/o http://www.45cat.com/

6. BOBBY RYDELL-"When I See That Girl Of Mine" U.S. Capitol 5513 1965/U.K. Capitol CL 15424 1965
Simultaneously released in both the U.K. and the U.S. in November 1965 this single by Philadelphia's one time teen idol actually beat The Kink's version (on their third LP "Kontroversy") to a release by a matter of days.  By then Rydell's career was all but finished as far as the hit parade was concerned, one of many casualties from the British Invasion.  This is a VERY rocking version and to Rydell's credit it works, no doubt aided in some part by the stellar musical production (dig the blistering guitar work at the very end).  I'll admit The Kinks original is at times, tepid, for me and this cover punches it up a notch with more energy and a no expenses spared arrangement.


7. MO & STEVE-"Oh What A Day It's Gonna Be" U.K. Pye 7N 17175 1966
This somber September 1966 track leans in a decidedly M.O.R direction and sounds like it would've been better suited for more the likes of David & Jonathan .  It's lush orchestration (c/o Johnny Harris) adds to it all, not most folks cup of tea but I dig it because it's a perfect bookend to other down trodden '66 R.D. tracks like "Rainy Day In June" and "Too Much On My Mind"


8. BARRY FANTONI-"Little Man In A Little Box" U.K. Fontana TF 707 1966
Barry was a friend of Ray's in the 60's. He wrote for "Private Eye" magazine, hosted the brief but brilliant U.K. 60's pop music TV program "A Whole Scene Going" and starred in the Michael York/Susan George Swinging London drama "Strange Affair". In between all that his pal furnished him with a track that no one else has ever recorded. Released in may of '66 it's a cracking little tune with it's dirge like quality and cynical lyrics about a guy who is treated like a wind up toy. Fantoni's vocals are almost flat, sort of Sonny Bono-esque (in fact he looked at bit like Sonny too!), but it works on this track. Listen for Ray's voice in the bridge!


Scan c/o http://www.45cat.com/

 9. THE MAJORITY-"A Little Bit Of Sunlight" U.K. Decca F12271 1965
This October 1965 offering was the second of eight singles issued on the Decca label by this U.K. 5 piece who did records that were of a more harmony pop vein (and famous for their scathing B-side "One Third").  Once again we have a track here that Ray wrote that no one else tackled.  It's bright, sunny disposition works well for the group given their penchant for sunshiney pop numbers, what better than a cheery tune about sun light!  It's also an interesting slice of Ray's cheery side, something that would vanish by the year's end as things got darker and more (perhaps) personally introspective.


10. THE BEAT KINGS-"Waterloo Sunset" German Tempo 4287 1967
Here's an interesting German cover from an E.P. of cover versions of UK and US tracks. It's fairly uninteresting at first as its pretty much a note for note cover but it's done so well and the distorted guitar that creeps in halfway through is an uplifting surprise and hey you don't hear many 60's German covers of Ray Davies tunes!



Monkey said...

What a fantastic piece. Just been through and played them them all. Thanks a lot. Hurrah for Ray.

michael said...

the list is most well informative as it includes songs never recorded by the band. I do have original copies of the L Lea,B Fantoni and Cascades singles,but I still haven't found the Mo and Steve one. I would appreciate your help in maybe finding one.

brilliant work

Wilthomer said...

Michael, I have a copy of the Mo and Steve 45 for sale if you'd like. Reach out to me at: