Ray Davies of the Kinks reinvented his career in the mid-'90s with what amounted to a one-man cabaret, featuring stripped-down versions of old and new songs, readings from his autobiography, and a theatrical flair. His brother Dave, another Kink, responded with a more traditional series of rock shows, featuring a tight but raw band. Late in 1999, Dave decided to cross the axis and experiment with a cabaret of his own, playing without backup and stopping periodically to talk extemporaneously or read from his own memoir, Kink. He performed this show at Marian College, in Fond du Lac, WI, and recorded it for posterity as a self-released CD, Solo Live.
It is an interesting document. The readings and ramblings -- more than half the album -- are sometimes funny, sometimes moving, and sometimes just plain weird (as when Davies comments that if you pull your earlobes, "it releases fluids in your brain"). Most listeners will not want to hear them more than once, and even the most devoted Kinkophile will probably think twice before returning to the guitarist's five-minute pitch for his website.
The music is a different matter. It takes Dave a few songs to find his footing, but find it he eventually does, discovering new power in "Strangers," "Living on a Thin Line," and "This Man He Weeps Tonight" by reinventing them as acoustic ballads; these performances are almost as excellent as the originals. And "Love Gets You" actually surpasses the original: Where once there was slick overproduction, now there is merely a man, a guitar, and an undeniable, if erratic, talent.