Ray Watch Kinks frontman Ray Davies rarely gets props for his plethora of rock classics. (His band was mysteriously shut out of VH1’s 100 greatest albums and MTV’s 100 greatest pop songs lists.) But perhaps a new tribute album, This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies & the Kinks, will help change that. ”Ray Davies’ songwriting is just so amazing,” says Matthew Sweet, who contributed a version of the 1967 track ”Big Sky.” ”To me he’s right up there with the Beatles and the Byrds and the Beach Boys. How can someone be that great and have people not realize it? It’s depressing.” Compiled by Conan O’Brien‘s music booker Jim Pitt and due out this summer, the album boasts an inspired lineup of artists covering mostly lesser-known tunes. ”It would have been boring if people just did the obvious hits,” says Pitt. Highlights include Ron Sexsmith‘s ”This Is Where I Belong,” Fountains of Wayne‘s ”Better Things,” Steve Forbert‘s ”Starstruck,” and Bebel Gilberto‘s lovely take on ”No Return.” Also possible are contributions from Aimee Mann and Wilco, as well as a version of ”Waterloo Sunset” sung by Davies and Blur‘s Damon Albarn. Kool!
Beastie Feast Just seven months ago, Beastie Boy/Grand Royal honcho Mike D was sidelined by a nasty bike accident. Now he’s back (”I can play drums, I can stand on my hands, whatever,” he says) and dipping into a bunch of projects. He recently finished work on an album by Indian chanter Bhagavan Das, whose disc is due out on Grand Royal in late spring. ”I’d almost call him a spiritual Forrest Gump,” says D. ”He’s 6’4” with dreadlocks. I did a cappella recordings of his vocals and then I built tracks around that.” D also stars in a jokey TV commercial hawking the hit album from Grand Royal faves At the Drive-In (”It was sort of a takeoff on those ads where CEOs are apologizing for their company’s mishaps”), which recently started airing on MTV and MTV2. And he and Beastie cohort Mixmaster Mike have recorded a demo for a Grand Royal radio show, which they are shopping to radio stations. As for the next Beasties album, ”All I can say is, music is in progress. It’s too early to foolishly state any kind of direction, because it’ll take many, many turns before it’s a finished record. It’s under way conceptually, at least.”