i'd call that a bargain, the best i ever had

 

the Who

 

The Who are the only band of the web reviewers' "Big Four" (Beatles, Stones, Who, Dylan) that I'll be reviewing, because I can't stand Dylan, I'm not much on the Stones, and who wants to read the five thousandth batch of Beatles reviews?

Though I generally don't do compilation albums, it should be noted that you need at least one Who greatest hits album. Why? Because eight of their wonderful singles (Magic Bus, I Can't Explain, Pictures of Lily, Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, I'm a Boy, Substitute, The Seeker, and Join Together) are unavailable on their regular albums!

Pete Townshend is so egotistical, he has to have his own page.

lineup: Roger Daltrey (thundering vocals); John Entwistle (bass, horns, funny vocals); Keith Moon (drums, squeaky vocals); Pete Townshend (guitar, keyboards, quavery vocals); with that guy from the Faces on drums for the last two albums

review index: A Quick One / Sell Out / Tommy / Live at Leeds / Who's Next / Quadrophenia / Odds and Sods / By Numbers / Who Are You / The Kids Are Alright / Face Dances / It's Hard / Who's Missing / BBC Sessions

solos & sides:

Roger Daltrey: One of the Boys / Can't Wait to See the Movie

missing albums: Sings My Generation, most of the live albums, the rest of those ripoff rarities comps

apex: Sell Out
nadir: It's Hard
overlooked: Who Are You


A Quick One - 1966

Rating: ***
Best songs: So Sad About Us, Run Run Run, Whiskey Man
Worst songs: A Quick One While He's Away, Cobwebs and Strange, See My Way

 

They all wrote songs for this one (there's also an okay cover of "Heatwave"). Let's break it down to each person's contribution:

Daltrey: "See My Way" is an unremarkable pop song.

Entwistle: Displays his black humor well on the alcoholic's ode "Whiskey Man", but "Boris the Spider" is a little dull.

Moon: I like "I Need You", but could do without the carnivalesque instrumental "Cobwebs and Strange".

Townshend: Two great tunes in the chimey "So Sad About Us" and the crunching "Run Run Run", but that stupid opera is...well...stupid. "Don't Look Away" isn't bad.

ON THE BONUS TRACKS: Two great Entwistle songs ("Doctor Doctor" and "I've Been Away"), some odd covers ("Barbara Ann, "Bucket T", and "Batman"?!), a neat noise-filled popper ("Disguises"), and some other stuff that's better left un-mentioned. The Entwistle songs and "Disguises" definitely make this worth the buy.


Sell Out - 1967

Rating: ****1/2
Best songs: I Can See for Miles, I Can't Reach You, Our Love Was, Sunrise
Worst songs: Silas Stingy, Rael

 

Wait a second -- the name used to be singular (The Who Sings My Generation) and now it's plural (The Who Sell Out)?! What gives?

Anyway, this time around the record's a whole lot better. Luckily, nobody thought that A Quick One was a great breakthrough for their songwriting talents, so aside from a couple Entwistle numbers and a song written by some other guy, Pete's songs are all that's on here. And boy, are they good! One needs only to hear the incredible "I Can See for Miles" riff, or the lovely acoustic balladry of "Sunrise" and "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hands", or the powerful pop tuneage of "I Can't Reach You", "Odorono", "Tattoo"...

The only real problems on the album are near the end: "Rael" is another dull rock operetta, and Entwistle adds the extremely grating "Silas Stingy". Overall, this is a definite highlight of the Who's career.

ON THE BONUS TRACKS: Okay, so I was wrong, the others thought they could write songs too. But at least they're good, as in Moon's "Girl's Eyes" and Daltrey's "Early Morning Cold Taxi". Elsewise, Pete has YET MORE songs on here ("Glittering Girl" and "Melancholia" should've been on the album, not "Rael" and "Silas Stingy"!). There's also some pointless stuff, but it's still worth getting.


Tommy - 1969

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: Overture/It's a Boy, Pinball Wizard, I'm Free, Eyesight to the Blind
Worst songs: Underture, Sally Simpson, Welcome, Do You Think It's Alright/Fiddle About

 

Ignoring the silly plot, this is an incredible feat: a double-album with really only about 20 minutes worth of musical ideas ("Overture" contains most of them). Luckily there's enough variation in there to keep it consistently entertaining. Hit singles abound: "Pinball Wizard", "I'm Free" and the 'see me, feel me' bit that pops up every now and then. I've also heard the great instrumental "Overture" on the radio. Dunno why. There's some other great stuff on here, but I think I'll skip mentioning it for now.

The problems with this one include a pointless ten-minute reprise of "Overture" and "Sparks" ("Underture"), a REALLY annoying Entwistle song ("Fiddle About"), and some dull material near the end ("Sally Simpson", "Welcome", about half of "We're Not Gonna Take It"). There are also a bunch of silly/stupid connecting bits, but they're short enough to escape my wrath, except for the aforementioned "Fiddle About".

And just for the record, here's my (conceptually) condensed-to-one-LP Tommy:

side one: Overture/It's a Boy, You Didn't Hear It, Amazing Journey/Sparks, Eyesight to the Blind, The Acid Queen
side two: Christmas, Pinball Wizard, Go to the Mirror Boy, I'm Free, We're Not Gonna Take It
the inevitable CD bonus tracks: The Seeker, Heaven and Hell, and probably some live tracks

It doesn't make much sense conceptually, but at least it doesn't have a bunch of filler. Oh, one last note: avoid the film! It's awful. Nine words: Elton John: "Pinball Wizard", Tina Turner: "The Acid Queen".


Live at Leeds - 1970

Rating: **
Best songs: Shakin' All Over, Summertime Blues, Heaven and Hell
Worst songs: My Generation, Fortune Teller, A Quick One While He's Away, Young Man Blues

 

I know I've bitched a lot about this album, mostly because of its absurdly-high place in the hearts of classic rock fans. And this time I'm not even going to bother attempting to comment on the lame original six-song release; instead I shall cover the remastered, doubled-in-length edition. Not that that's much better.

Okay, granted, they tear through some of their songs with aplomb: the opener "Heaven and Hell" features some raucous instrumental work, and their versions of "Shakin' All Over" and "Summertime Blues" are, dare I say, definitive. Disappointingly, there's only one song from their masterpiece The Who Sell Out ("Tattoo"), and they spend way too much on the partially-cooked covers ("Fortune Teller" and "Young Man Blues"... yeah, you might love "Young Man Blues", but I sure as hell don't) and lame originals ("A Quick One While He's Away"? WHY?!). Oh, and they totally screw "My Generation" over by turning it from a decent proto-punkish tune to an interminable quarter-hour jam (slightly better than, say, "Do You Feel Like We Do").

Anyway, I could continue complaining all night, but I'll just close it up: it may rawk, but that doesn't mean it's good. It's rather monotonous, and way too many of the songs either a. stink, or b. end up crapified.


Who's Next - 1971

Rating: ****
Best songs: Baba O'Riley, Won't Get Fooled Again, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes
Worst songs: Gettin' in Tune, The Song is Over

 

Bloated. Bombastic. This is a new Who, a Who for the 70's. Gone are the silly rock opera, the two-minute singles, and the lyrics about kids and/or deodorant. Nope, Pete turns to matters spiritual ("Bargain" and "Behind Blue Eyes"), cultural ("Won't Get Fooled Again"), and uhh... ecological ("Going Mobile"). Sure, the songs all only have three or four chords in them, but they're still good. You know, you've heard "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again", if not the whole album. Yeah, I even like "Going Mobile". hee hoo, beep beep!

I would freely give this album five stars if it weren't for the two mediocre songs in the middle, "The Song Is Over" and "Gettin' in Tune". Bleah.


Quadrophenia - 1973

Rating: **
Best songs: The Real Me, Love Reign O'er Me, 5:15, Doctor Jimmy
Worst songs: uh, the rest, pretty much

 

Okay, here goes.

Side one: "I Am the Sea" is a decent enough prelude, but Tommy's "Overture" kicks its ass all over the place. Nevertheless, "The Real Me" kicks the ass of pretty much anything on that acoustic-guitar-ridden wimpy opera thing, though the production is questionable: Daltrey's vocals are too buried in the mix. The title track is an instrumental -- already?! It's kinda cheesy, but decent enough. "Cut My Hair" is nice. "The Punk and the Godfather" is dull rock bluster combined with an unintelligable falsetto part.

Side two: This is why I don't like this album. It's boring. There's no friggin' hooks or anything particularly interesting going on, just Pete putting his three chords in different orders. Blah.

Side three: Finally, something decent! "5:15", that is. Then we get back to boringassville. "Sea and Sand"'s intro suggests it might be different, but no, it's just more plodding craaaaaap. And doesn't Pete include the melody from "Long Live Rock" in there? And "Bellboy"? This shit is funny? Whatever.

Side four: My God! "Doctor Jimmy" is actually kinda good! I'm shocked. Maybe it's because the last two sides of the album have sucked so badly. "The Rock" is another instrumental, and is about as bland as the wrestler of the same name. (God, that's awful) Then there's "Love Reign O'er Me", which actually does rule. "LOOOOOOOOOVE!!!"

So in conclusion, I don't see what all the fuss is about. The concept for this one may be more coherent, but that doesn't excuse the massive, monolithic genericism that the album subsists on. Tommy had an idiotic story, but at least it had some good friggin' songs on it!


Odds and Sods - 1974

Rating: ***
Best songs: Water, Faith in Something Bigger, Glow Girl, Long Live Rock
Worst songs: Young Man Blues, Postcard

 

Good: I'm the Face, Faith in Something Bigger, Glow Girl, Pure and Easy, Long Live Rock, Water

Odd: Under My Thumb, Little Billy, Too Much of Anything, Put the Money Down, Now I'm a Farmer

Sod: Young Man Blues (studio version), Postcard, Naked Eye

ON THE BONUS TRACKS:

Good: Leaving Here, Love Ain't for Keeping, Time is Passing

Odd: Summertime Blues, My Way, Cousin Kevin Model Child

Sod: Baby Don't You Do It, Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand, We Close Tonight

(adds an extra 1/2 star to the rating)


By Numbers - 1975

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Imagine a Man, Slip Kid, Squeeze Box, Blue Red and Grey
Worst songs: How Many Friends, They Are All in Love

 

Pete going through a mid-life crisis. Not a pretty thing. Fortunately he didn't run out of good songs: on this one, you get the acoustic balladry of "Imagine a Man" and "Blue Red and Grey", the rockin' album opener "Slip Kid", and the silly pop tune "Squeeze Box" (with a banjo solo!). Uh... whoops, sorry, maybe he did run out of good songs -- after those four, anyway. The rest is pretty dispensible. "They Are All in Love"? "How Many Friends"? Bleah. Okay, there's a couple other decent tracks -- "However Much I Booze", for example -- but really.


Who Are You - 1978

Rating: ***1/2
Best songs: New Song, Who Are You, Had Enough
Worst songs: Guitar and Pen, Music Must Change

 

The last major hurrah for the Who. There are some spotty moments, particularly the pseudo-Gilbert & Sullivan silliness of "Guitar and Pen" and the rather ironic "Music Must Change" (might I remind you, Peter, that you've been using the same chord sequences for 14 years?). However, the bad stuff is made up for with the synth-fests "New Song" (irony again: 'I write the same old song with just a few new lines' -- oh, Pete, you're hilarious!) and "Who Are You", and Entwistle's songs ("Had Enough", "Trick of the Light" and "905") are all surprisingly good. Too bad there's nowhere for them to go but down.


The Kids Are Alright - 1979

Rating: **1/2
Best songs: Won't Get Fooled Again, Baba O'Riley, My Generation
Worst songs: A Quick One, Young Man Blues, the awful-sounding stuff on disc one

 

Hey, look, double-album that mostly life. Starts off cool, with a chaotic performance of "My Generation" from the Smothers Brothers show (y'know, the exploding bass drum one), then uhhhh, hell. A bunch of crappily-recorded live tracks fill out the majority of disc one, as well as the studio versions of "Long Live Rock", "Magic Bus", and "I Can See for Miles" -- huh? Disc two goes on to a performance of "A Quick One", which has always sucked and always will suck. Then there's a selection of stuff from Tommy, not bad, and finally on side four we have... About 30 seconds of "Join Together", a neat cover of something called "Roadrunner", and a lame performance of "My Generation" medleyed together. In case you haven't guessed, this album is not an essential part of a nutritious breakfast.

Oh, I forgot to mention, there's also recorded-specifically-for-this-album versions of "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again"


Face Dances - 1981

Rating: ***
Best songs: You Better You Bet, Don't Let Go the Coat, Cache Cache
Worst songs: Did You Steal My Money, The Quiet One, You

 

No Keith, but Pete hasn't run out of steam yet. He delivers several good songs, joyous pop explosions like "You Better You Bet" and "Cache Cache", subdued pop explosions such as "Don't Let Go the Coat", and a re-tread of "Guitar & Pen" ("Daily Records") that's actually GOOD (maybe because it's about half as long?!). And the bad stuff this time around includes the oh-so-annoying "Did You Steal My Money" and Entwistle's two songs. But hey, thumbs up for not immediately turning to crap.

ON THE BONUS TRACKS: "Somebody Saved Me", despite the Elton John-esque title, is a nice ballad that Pete recycled for his second solo album, and "I Like Nightmares" is a silly bit of fun. I can do without "It's In You" or the dull live jams.


It's Hard - 1982

Rating: *1/2
Best songs: Eminence Front, Athena, It's Your Turn, It's Hard
Worst songs: remainder

 

Yikes. So much for them carrying on without Keith. The first side contains the only worthwhile material. Pete contributes two good songs ("Athena", an up-tempo ballad and "Eminence Front", a rocker with a blippy synth line straight out of "Who Are You") and the decent title track, and Entwistle actually comes up with an okay song in "It's Your Turn". The rest makes me wish Roger Daltrey wrote more songs. 'People are suffering' -- yeah, the people who bought this album!


Who's Missing - 1985

Rating: **
Best songs: I Don't Even Know Myself, I'm a Boy, Here for More
Worst songs: Lubie (Come Back Home), Shout and Shimmy

 

Side one is pre-Tommy stuff. Mostly covers, but it also includes "I'm a Boy" and yet another version of "Mary Anne With the Shaky Hands". Side two has post-Tommy stuff, including the original version of "Heaven and Hell". There are a few gems, like Daltrey's countryish "Here for More" and the Who's Next reject "I Don't Even Know Myself", but it's not really worth getting unless you're a hardcore Who fanatic.

I spent ten bucks on this! Fucking shit pussy!


BBC Sessions - 2000

Rating: ***
Best songs: Anyway Anyhow Anywhere, Leaving Here, Pictures of Lily, Shakin' All Over
Worst songs: A Quick One While He's Away (yeah, again), Just You and Me Darling, Disguises, See My Way

 

Not bad. Too many A Quick One tracks (and NOTHING from Sell Out), a couple songs that suck compared to the studio versions ("Disguises" doesn't have the cool noises in it! and why two versions of "Substitute"?), and some songs that I could just do without (namely, "Happy Jack" and the first two r&b covers), but at least it lets me hear a couple more tracks from Sting's My Renovation. Those stupid BBC announcer voices are annoying, though.


Postscript: Solo Albums and Side Projects

I've got most of Pete's albums, so I'll give him his own page. But for now, here's Roger Daltrey!


Roger Daltrey, One of the Boys - 1977

Rating: ***
Best songs: Parade, Single Man's Dilemma, One of the Boys
Worst songs: Satin and Lace, Doing It All Again, Giddy

 

On One of the Boys, Daltrey relies a lot on outside help. He co-wrote just three of the album's tracks with producers David Courtney and Tony Meehan, and the rest are written by people whose names I don't recognize (Pratt? Goodhand-Tait? Gibbons? Head?!), as well as a contribution each from Colin Blunstone and Paul McCartney (!). There's also a bunch of stars playing here: John Entwistle, Wings' Jimmy McCulloch, Rod Argent, Mick Ronson, and even Eric Clapton. I'm surprised Ringo Starr didn't pop up somewhere!

Anyway, the songs on here are pretty good: Blunstone's "Single Man's Dilemma" is a nice countryish tune, and the opener "Parade" is a cute, dramatic piano ballad, the title track is a humorous, fun rocker (with a two-word vocal cameo by Entwistle), and "Say It Ain't So" has an almost epic feel. Low points? Well, Macca's "Giddy" is a throwaway, though the funky middle section is kind of interesting, and the album just peters out with the last couple songs. But overall, this is a solid effort from Mr. Singer-person. If you find it cheap, you might as well pick it up -- that's what I did!


Roger Daltrey, Can't Wait to See the Movie - 1987

Rating: *
Best songs: Hearts on Fire, When the Thunder Comes
Worst songs: uh, the rest?

 

Not released in the dreaded 1986, but it might as well have been. Consider this: one of the songs on here is co-written by David Foster (of St. Elmo's Fire soundtrack infamy) and Jack Blades (of Night Ranger infamy). If that's not a clear indicator of the quality of this album, I dunno what is.

Well, if you haven't guessed it yet, this album is choked with generic 80's synth, programmed drums, and metal guitars. The songwriting is mostly uninspired cliché-ridden love song fluff. The album does kick off with a decent synth-rocker "Hearts on Fire", and "When the Thunder Comes" isn't too bad, but the rest just sucks. This disc is on its way to eBay.


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