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Ray Davies

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As the erudite, witty, gap-toothed leader of the Kinks, Ray Davies has been feted for many things. Among them: penning the timeless "You Really Got Me," introducing the term "quintessentially British" to the rock & roll lexicon, and making onstage sibling brawls safe for Oasis' Liam and Noel Gallagher.

One of his lesser-known accomplishments, however, was helping sire the VH1 Storytellers series. The format was perfectly suited to Davies, a natural raconteur: Revisit a selection of Kinks "klassics" alongside a handful of new compositions, while serving up spoken-word introductions with a bit more meat on their bones than "Hello, Cleveland!" And unlike artists whose subsequent Storytellers installments typically focused on the inspirations behind their songs and insights into their craft, Davies' anecdotes comprised readings from his 1994 book X-Ray, an engaging "semi-fictional" memoir for the pre-James Frey era. (Don't blame Davies for that weasel.)

The Storyteller (Koch) is bookended by two studio tracks, "Storyteller" and "London Song," both quite Kinks-y. But the concert is the real draw, highlighted by stripped-down versions of such gems as "Victoria," "20th Century Man," "Autumn Almanac" and "You Really Got Me." And the X-Ray excerpts, with Davies drolly narrating the Kinks backstory while adopting a variety of voices (managers, band members, etc.) from the past, are a gas. His recollection of drummer Mick Avory's audition, in which Avory, clad in a Boy Scouts uniform, frets that the effeminately-attired Kinks aren't the straightest arrows in the quiver, is worth the price of admission. When Davies took his "Storyteller" tour on the road in 1995 the project went over well, although The Storyteller CD, issued by EMI-Capitol in 1998, only reached hard-core Kinks fans and soon went out of print. With the recent release of Davies' Other People's Lives, however, Koch's reissue is timely.

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