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Of all the songwriters who've packed up their allegiances and headed to the States, the most surprising is probably Ray Davies, who was the poet laureate of disappointed middle-aged Englishmen before he was out of his mid-20s. Few 60s-era admirers of American R & B had the cojones to be so unabashedly nostalgic, vulnerable, and, well, British. Davies bore his status well--Robert Christgau famously called "Waterloo Sunset" the most beautiful song in the English language, and I have yet to see a convincing argument to the contrary. But at their peak the Kinks were cheated of their due as the artistic equals of the Stones and the Who by legal problems, not to mention the separated-by-a-common-language factor. More recently Davies has gracefully survived a gunshot wound incurred when he was living in New Orleans, as well as a UK Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony where his ex Chrissie Hynde, of all people, performed his signature tune. His first proper solo album, Other People's Lives (V2), is his strongest collection in decades, free of the burdens of sound-track requirements or the albatross of the Kinks name. The title is typical Davies snark: for 40 years he's been dodging hacks who've tried to interpret his songs as autobiography just because he writes with a novelistic flair. Even when he does talk about himself he seems to be addressing the whole broad territory of fragile human hopes, and his conversational liner notes cheerfully deflect any attempt at mystique making: "No, look there," he seems to be saying, pointing to the songs. See also Sunday. Sat 4/1, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield, 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212, 18+, sold out.

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