(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.
John Entwistle has two tracks in: the autobiographical “The Quiet One” and the dissatisfied “You”. They both rock colossally hard, and thematically he mostly eschews the humorous approach that had characterized his previous output (he does so as well in his contemporary solo albums). The truth is that his songwriting days were ending – it was natural he was to change his MO in order to try and carry on, but it just didn’t work. These two songs can be deemed as his last hurrah with the band. “The Quiet One” makes it all to clear that “I ain’t quiet, everybody else is too loud” while “You” has one of my favorite bass lines of his.
Elsewhere, Kenny has one of his first great performances on the song “Daily Records” (a catchy number that could have used a better lyric), while “How Can You Do It Alone” is a good horn-driven ballad treading the mature territory Pete was heading to for good soon.
For its part, “Did You Steal My Money” and “Cache, Cache” detail the excesses Pete was slipping into – excesses that not only wrecked his health but which actually led Roger to acquiesce to splitting the band. He later changed his mind, but his concern for Townshend was genuine.
The album was criticized when it was first released on the whole, and “You Better You Bet” was hailed as the one reminder of what once had been. In hindsight, the surviving members of the band have indicated that the album was actually a good one. People just didn’t know what to expect from the band – new drummer, new producer, new stage band overall… anything they would craft would come under a barrage of fire in all directions.
Personally, I have always treasured Face Dances, and dearly treasured it for that matter. It was actually one of the first Who albums I purchased, mainly on the strength of “You Better You Bet” and “Don’t Let Go The Coat”. These songs are lilting and tender, and the other album with Kenny they were to release was to have no equivalent compositions – “Eminence Front” was little more than a solo song by Pete backed by John and Kenny.
And the remastered CD is phenomenal from the point of view of additional material: three brilliant outtakes (one is Pete’s terrific “Somebody Saved Me”, a song he was to rerecord shortly for the “All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes” album), and two live songs. They are a jam version of “How Can You Do It Alone” and a fierce “The Quiet One”. The booklet, though, is a bit flimsy (the albums without Keith Moon were to be released without an essay), but I really like the photos that are featured.
Original album: 7/10
Remastered CD (w/bonus tracks): 8/10