My Five Favorite Who Albums

Now that I have finished reviewing all the albums that The Who released during its original run, the time is ripe for individualizing the five studio records of the guys I can’t do without. As I always say, this is just a matter of personal tastes. I have to say it again because having included “Face Dances” at the expense of “Who Are You” or “Tommy” could end up in me being lynched. I am just highlighting the albums I can connect with the most. You can let us all know what you think by posting a comment below with your own favorites.

1- Who’s Next

The Who’s most consistent album from start to finish, and that is specially remarkable considering the tensions it caused within the band, the friction with their longtime managers and the risks that they took by embracing new technology so openly. If you listen to classic rock stations, you already know more than half of the songs on offer here – “Baba O’ Rile” (aka “Teenage Wasteland”), “Behind Blue Eyes”, Won’t Get Fooled Again”…

And the ones that you don’t know are no B leaguers in any sense (“Getting In Tune”, “The Song Is Over”, “Going Mobile”…)

2- Quadrophenia

A very problematic album turned to be a timeless work about identity – Pete Townshend’s key theme, and one that few have investigated as thoroughly as him. The 1996 remaster put everything in a mix as balanced as that of “Who’s Next”, making listening to this double album as pleasant to the ear as it is to your intellection.

3- Face Dances

How good would a poppy Who sound? The answer lies in this album, the first with Kenny Jones onboard. It produced their last chart hit, the dynamite “You Better You Bet”. But it also had some great songs in the shape of “Don’t Let Go The Coat” and “Another Tricky Day”. In each and every case, Roger’s delivery is more nuanced than usual. It is a pleasure to listen to him on this record. And the remastered CD is a true gem. Continue reading

All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (Pete Townshend) – Album Review (Part 1)

"All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes" Is My Favorite Solo Record By Pete Townshend. The Album Was Released In 1982, After The Acclaimed "Empty Glass" Had Ignited Townshend's Career.

"All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes" Is My Favorite Solo Record By Pete Townshend. The Album Was Released In 1982, After The Acclaimed "Empty Glass" Had Ignited Townshend's Career.

“All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes” was issued in the aftermath of Pete’s near-fatal depression of 1980-81. Keith Moon was dead, Kit Lambert was gone, and Pete was not reaching out to the public the way he once did. The faith on his band was broken, he had already launched a promising solo career. His marriage was in shambles (he was living away from his wife and children), and he was a million pounds in debt.

You must understand that Pete was never a strong person. He always had enormous difficulty coming to grips with who he was, and the way others saw him was instrumental to Townshend. When others perceived there was a problem, when they could see behind his blue eyes, that was the time he also noticed that he had a problem. And like most people who face alcoholic issues, he used to go to extremes all the time. He once remarked he even used to get suicidal about people he didn’t know at all if rebuffed.

During this time, virtually everybody scolded him. Roger Daltrey almost had it with Pete one night on stage, and even his best friend Richard Barnes (he who had suggested the name of the band all those years ago) cornered Townshend and called him “pathetic”. Pete’s response? “It’s alright. Why should Keith have all the glory?”

Finally, during a night out at the Club For Heroes he took heroin, overdosed and had to be rushed to ER. It transpired his heart had stopped beating for a while. A mere second later would have been fatal.

The turning point came shortly afterwards when wife Karen asked him “Why don’t you come over again and we try to work it out?”. That gave him the resolve to start pushing once more.

His 1982 record captures all of the above, and it shows that sometimes there is not a difference between being shattered, being broken and being fragmented. The only valid difference lies in being there or not being there at all.

“All The Best Cowboys…” is experimental in every sense. The first track has Pete reciting instead of singing. “Stop Hurting People” is actually an open letter for reconciliation he had written to Karen. The song, dealing with a love that died and had to be born again was the one way to start the record. “People, stop hurting people”, he pleads. And we all can picture him looking into the eyes of his wife as he does so, his gaunt reflection in her eyes, the words “without your love there is no flame” hammering and hammering until they are unleashed into song. Continue reading

Face Dances (The Who) – Album Review (Part 2)

(Check out the introduction to this review here)

Face Dances is a record which can be described very easily: it is an album of rock songs that have been produced and treated as if they were pop tunes. That certainly posed a problem for many fans that were expecting another Who’s Next, yet they were more or less appeased by the lead single, “You Better You Bet”. That song alone revived a lot of interest in the band, and it was to be their last stronghold in terms of chart performance. The other single was “Another Tricky Day”, and both the two singles and the poppy “Don’t Let Go The Coat” had some weird accompanying promos where the tempos were all sped up (!). I am not kidding:

Ah, “Don’t Let Go The Coat”. That was one of the very first Who tracks I listened to, actually, and I must say that it has an incredible catchy quality. The song deals with Pete’s faith on Meher Baba – the Avatar had once instructed his followers to “grab to the hem of my robe”. It is traditionally regarded as one of Pete’s most charming songs on the subject (and he wrote quite a few tunes about that), and while some have misgivings about Roger’s interpretation I couldn’t disagree more. He does the song splendidly, reaching the climax during the middle eight and ad libbing excellently during the fade. If you want to listen to Pete’s own take you have to go for the first album devoted to rarities he released, “Scoop”. Different interpretations, same great song and same great way to communicate faith on life in general, not just faith when it comes to a single person or leader. Continue reading

Face Dances (The Who) – Album Review (Part 1)

The Cover Of The Who's Face Dances Was Devised By Peter Blake (He Who Designed The Cover Of Sgt. Pepper's). He Approached 15 DIfferent Artists To Paint The Canvasses.

The Cover Of The Who's Face Dances Was Devised By Peter Blake (He Who Designed The Cover Of Sgt. Pepper's). He Approached 15 DIfferent Artists To Paint The Canvasses You Can See.

After the loss of Keith Moon, The Who decided to take the one gamble that was left and carry on the best way they could, in loving memory of Keith and in loving memory of all the ideals they had stood for. Was “the best way” recruiting former Faces compadre Kenny Jones? That is debatable ad infinitum, of course. On the one hand, Jones was a strict time keeper. He was the polar opposite of Keith, and that was one of the reasons he was chosen as his successor, actually. Pete declined Ginger Baker’s offer to be their new drummer if only because he was as troublesome a character as Moon. Also, John relished having the chance to have a less frantic drummer setting the beat for a change. They first had worked with Kenny during the Tommy soundtrack, and they had gotten along with him well professionally. And they had known him on a personal level for much longer, obviously.

The one person that definitely opposed to Kenny’s addition as a full-time member of the band was Roger. He was keener on rotating drummers until arriving at the suitable one. Pete claimed that such a thing would turn everything into “a pilgrimage to find Keith”, and that is why Kenny was eventually instated as their new (and definitive) drummer. Continue reading