Thursday, January 14, 2010

Classic Album Rewind: The Who - Who's Next

I'll sing my song to the wide open spaces, I'll sing my heart out to the infinite sea, I'll sing my visions to the sky high mountains, I'll sing my song to the free... (The Who - The Song is Over)

As you probably know by now The Who is playing the halftime show of Super Bowl XLIV on February 7th. In preparation for the show I thought I would review one of their best records; Who's Next.

In 1971 The Who were at a turning point in their career having released the landmark rock opera Tommy in 1969 and playing the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York the same year. Who lead guitarist and main songwriter, Pete Townshend, was again experimenting with a theme-type album originally referred to as the Lifehouse project. The new release was to be a concept album set in the future. After several recording sessions the concept broke down. Record engineer Glyn Johns was brought to capture how the band sounded live.

Who's Next was a giant leap for The Who right out of the 1960's into the 1970's. The sound was fresh and edgy. Roger Daltrey singing was powerful; Keith Moon's drumming still gives me chills, John Entwistle's bass lines were melodic and Townshend guitar playing is the stuff of legends; Pete also embraced the then new synthesizer as if it was invented by him.

  • Baba O'Riley - A perfect lead off song; the song begins with the now famous synthesizer pattern that was created by Townshend as a result inputting life information of Indian mystic Meher Baba into a synthesizer (composer Terry Riley also influenced the track and thus it's title). The song kicks in with great drumming from Keith Moon and then Roger Daltrey's poweful voice; "Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals"...; followed by Townshend's power chords. The song concludes with the famous line "it's only teenage wasteland" and "they're all wasted".
  • Bargain - Roger Daltrey again sings with power and yearning, "I'd gladly lose me to find you, I'd gladly give up all I had, To find you I'd suffer anything and be glad"; The songs which at first glance appears to be a love song, but Townshend claims it was him seeking God - "I sit looking 'round I look at my face in the mirror, I know I'm worth nothing without you; And like one and one don't make two, One and one make one".
  • Love Ain't For Keeping - This songs feature great guitar, both acoustic and electric from Townshend and I love the John Entwistle bass runs in this one.
  • My Wife - The best John Entwistle song ever written. John also sings lead. The song is hilarious;"My life's in jeopardy, Murdered in cold blood is what I'm gonna be; I ain't been home since Friday night and now my wife is coming after me". The singer is running for his life from his jealous wife.
  • The Song is Over - The songs starts with a nice piano piece and Townshend singing. Then the song kicks in and Daltrey's voice takes over: "I'll sing my song to the wide open spaces"... Then the songs slow and Townshend croons "When I walked in through the door thought it was me I was looking for; She was the first song I ever sang, but it stopped as soon as it began". Great song.
  • Getting in Tune - Another powerful song; starts slowly with piano and a beautiful bass run by Entwistle; The songs builds and Daltrey's voice kicks in right in tune; "I've got it all here in my head, There's nothing more needs to be said; I'm just bangin' on my old piano, I'm getting in tune with the straight and narrow".
  • Going Mobile - Townshend sings this great tune about the open roads; "Keep me movin' over 50, Keep me groovin', Just a hippie gypsy" and "I don't care about pollution, I'm an air-conditioned gypsy; That's my solution, Watch the police and the tax man miss me, I'm mobile".
  • Behind Blue Eyes - This is a classic Who song. It starts out slow and melancholy with Roger and Pete harmonizing, then builds 'til you can hear the angst and fire in Roger's voice; "When my fist clenches, crack it open before I use it and lose my cool; When I smile, tell me some bad news before I laugh and act like a fool".
  • Won't Get Fooled Again - Maybe The Who's greatest song. The songs starts with the now famous synthesizer loop and explodes; "We'll be fighting in the streets with our children at our feet and the morals when they worship will be gone". This song contains the best drum solo of all times, the best scream in rock and roll history and the power chord may have been invented in this song. The song concludes with the great line "meet the new boss, same as the old boss".

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