Retrospective is the operative word for Ray Davies in the front of end of 1998: EMI-Capitol has released “Storyteller,” his dialogue-and-music stroll down memory lane; Velvel has started reissuing the Kinks catalog from RCA and Arista; and in England, Castle Records has done a superb job repackaging the first five Kinks albums with the bonus of multiple singles-only releases.
And on the road he continues with his “Storyteller” revue of stories of family and recording sessions, acoustic versions of ’60s hits and readings from his bio. Davies, 34 years removed from his first chart-topper with the Kinks, started it 2-1/2 years ago as an outgrowth of a VH1 special, and it remains relatively unchanged — more than half the 19 songs performed appear on the “Storyteller” disc released last week, and while most retain their charm, some have clearly worn out their welcome.
Show is heavy on ’60s hits, and Davies’ enthusiasm — which is generally quite high — wanes on some of the warhorses (“Tired of Waiting,” short versions of “Lola” and “Set Me Free”) yet revs up on the lesser-knowns (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy,” “See My Friends,” “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”). Newer numbers “Art School Babe” and “The Ballad of Julie Finkle” show his keen wit intact.
At two hours and 10 minutes his show could use some trimming. Davies, 53, starts strong with a steady diet of music before mixing it up with readings from his book and anecdotes — fortunately, most of those are quite humorous, especially the lengthy recounting of the formation of the Kinks as a lead-in to “You’ve Really Got Me.” Electric guitarist Pete Mathison, who has been with Davies since he launched this concept, gives the set considerable heft and volume.