Having invented one of the most famous signature guitar riffs in rock ‘n’ roll history Dave Davies’ place in the rock ‘n’ roll firmament has always been well assured. The fact that he currently plays the role of a bespectacled journeyman rocker is both a testament to his tenaciousness — his career was nearly terminated following a stroke in 2004 — and the fact that apparently he still has a point to prove, namely that he deserves the same level of respect accorded Page, Beck, Clapton and all the other guitar gods who have long since been given their due. While the possibility of a Kinks reunion has become ever more remote due to his elder brother Ray’s reluctance to commit, if not consider, Dave doggedly promotes his and the band’s legacy by playing modest sized venues and consistently releasing new albums with slightly diminishing returns.
Consequently, his new live album, Rippin’ Up New York City, isn’t exactly the kind of thing that will move the needle, but it does offer yet another recap of the exceptional moments of a fabled career. In that respect, it finds equal footing with the many belated anthologies that gave Dave his due after years of simply being considered chief foil to big brother Ray. There’s nothing wrong with that; in retrospect, Dave’s contributions, though few and far between, held up well to Ray’s material and in some cases, even surpassed it. Indeed, his roll call of compositions still holds up well, with songs like “I’m Not Like Everybody Else,” “Death of a Clown,” “Suzannah’s Still Alive,” and “Strangers” among the the hallmarks of the Kinks’ canon. All are included herein, and Dave’s raw, somewhat raucous delivery makes that seem somewhat matter of fact. He tempers the set with a select number of tracks from Rippin’, his most recent studio effort, but it’s clear from the start that though they are cut from the same cloth — “Rippin’ Up Time” being largely self descriptive and “Front Room” being unmistakably autobiographical — it’s the classic cuts that everyone’s there to hear. Naturally that means a reprise of “All Day and “All of the Night” and “You Really Got Me,” not because they came from Dave’s pen — they didn’t — but because it was Dave’s slashing fretwork that made them what they are.
So too, Davies’ backing band becomes almost incidental, although it more than serves its purpose. Drummer Dennis Diken, on loan from the Smithereens, is especially essential, but even he finds himself dutifully restrained. Still, the songs are the stars here and it’s part of the players’ obligation to simply give them their due. As a result, Rippin’ Up New York City makes its point, living up to its title in every way imaginable. Although it may seem a perfunctory indulgence for all involved — audience and artist alike — that’s just fine. To borrow the title from one of these singular songs, Dave Davies is not like everybody else. And all it takes is a set of songs like this to emphasize the obvious once again.