5 things to know about WHO by The Who

WHO

The Who | Polydor Records

This eleven track recording is the first from the present configuration of The Who in 13 years. Presently touring with a full orchestra backing the classic rock crew, the music on WHO could never be mistaken as coming from any other band.

The album’s release has been overshadowed by guitarist and songwriter Pete Townshend’s recent comments about taking all the credit for the band’s success over its six decades-long career and his relief that the late drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwistle are gone. He later offered up a half-hearted apology for the comments, but they had certainly done the job of getting the band far more press than WHO ever would on its own.

This is not to say that the 11 songs recorded with Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, drummer Zak Starkey, bassist Pino Palladino with contributions from longtime touring guitarist Simon Townshend, Benmont Tench, Carla Azar, Joey Waronker and Gordon Giltrap aren’t worthy of a listen. Without doubt, WHO is the best thing the band has put out in many decades.

Daltrey is on record calling the album the band’s best since 1973s Quadrophenia. He’s probably right. With the exception of 1974s Odds & Sods collection, every album after Quadrophenia was weak. Townshend says he wrote almost all the material for WHO over the 2017-18 period to give Daltrey “some inspiration, challenges and scope for his newly revived singing voice.”

Covering topics ranging from musical theft to the Grenfell Tower fire and Guantanamo Bay Prison torture, there is no mistaking who is performing the music. Particularly the pipes powering through those big arena choruses the group was a key architect of back on 1971s exceptional Who’s Next.

Here are five things to know about WHO:

1: Daltrey’s vocals. Fans are less than impressed by Townshend dissing Moon and Entwistle, but he never would have achieved the degree of success for his songwriting if not for the explosive, assured bluesy grit of his lead singer. Following Daltrey’s serious battle with viral meningitis in 2015, which forced the band to postpone a bunch of dates on its 50th anniversary tour, it didn’t look like his voice would ever bounce back. But 2018s solo album As Long as I Have You proved that the voice was back and he sounds superb on everything from the jazzy cabaret swing of She Rocked My World to the handclap pop of I Don’t Wanna Get Wise. Vocal producer Dave Eringa did an amazing job.

2: Detour. Maximum R&B was the Who’s signature calling card and this track has all of the group’s best qualities. There is the air-punching shout out chorus, Townshend’s slashing guitar, Starkey’s Moon-esque pounding drums and the assured swagger of the verse heading into that transcendental musing break complete with 5:15-ish keyboards.

3: The power of strings. Recalling the way the string section crashed like waves against the melody in Love, Reign O’er Me, Hero Ground Zero features huge orchestral washes dropping into valleys of a single strummed acoustic with a tin whistle and some quiet rhythm section only to build over and over. It’s classic The Who.

4: I’ll Be Back. Pete always gets a track or two per record and he drops a great lyric about the enduring legacy of a happy love in this jazzy ballad. Until the weird halfway point when the robotic spoken rap comes in and shakes everything up. Fortunately, the Toots Thielmans-esque harmonica returns a feeling of sunny days.

Receive News & Ratings Via Email - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of the latest news and analysts' ratings with MarketBeat.com's FREE daily email newsletter.

5: Rockin’ In Rage. Rockin’ in rage/No, I won’t leave the stage. At their peak, The Who made some of the most aggressive rock music of all time. At the heart of its success was the fragility and tenderness of the lyrics and many of the melodic hooks juxtaposed against the relentless attack of the band. Even at 74, Townshend still has anger to burn. After all, this is an artist who titled his first fiction novel The Age of Anxiety.

Also out this week:

Gabriel Birnbaum

Not Alone | Arrowhawk Records

From its album cover to the production, the latest solo release from the singer/guitarist of Brooklyn’s Wilder Maker bears more in common with music made on the opposite coast many decades earlier. Citing such California singer-songwriters as Jim Sullivan and John Philips and the beyond brilliant backing work of the Wrecking Crew, the nine song set will appeal to anyone with a love of world-weary singer-songwriters prone to frequent outbursts of Tom Petty-esque guitar rock. The slide solo at the 1:40 mark in mistakes is Lowell George-good and that’s high praise.

Hazar Ava Ensemble

The Mystery of Nightingale’s Warbling |

The hazar (nightingale) is symbolic of both love and death in literature and assumes a frequent key role in the work of Persian poets such as the legendary Sufi mystic and writer Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273). The Hazar Ava Ensemble is made up of Vancouver-based Composer and Ney player Amir Eslami, joined by vocalists Atoosa Nezakaty, Banafsheh Farahmand and Pegah Sherket. Established in 2016 to perform classics from the Persian canon, the quartet is backed by a 10-piece orchestra on the beautifully recorded 13 track recording. With its driving rhythmic quality juxtaposed against the three vocalists’ polyphonic singing, tracks such as Beloved are like choral masterworks. Elsewhere, instrumentals such as Joy Rouser showcase bowed alto and bass qeichak lutes in moody, meditative music. An impressive debut.

Pat Irwin and J. Walter Hawkes

Wide Open Sky |

NYC No Wave guitarist and B-52s touring member Pat Irwin (The Raybeats, 8 Eyed Spy), is well known for his composing for everything from Nurse Jackie to SpongeBob SquarePants. Trombonist/electronics player J. Walter Hawkes is a four time Emmy-winner who has credits in TV and with artists such as Norah Jones. The 10 songs the duo produce on Wide Open Sky have nothing to do with any of those past credits. The instrumentals range from the kind of ambient, space jams you would expect to hear in a very cool loft space (In Another Time, February) to theme songs for cyberpunk noir Netflix shows yet to be produced (Automatic 3) or perfect music for a romantic dinner (For A Dance). Listen if you like Bill Frisell, etc.

Lee “Scratch” Perry

Heavy Rain | On-U Sound Records

Anyone familiar with the history of dub music knows that the name of Lee “Scratch” Perry and Adrian Sherwood together is going to generate some ridiculous bass-heavy jams. And that’s exactly what they do with tracks from Perry’s Rainford album, roping in everyone from Brian Eno (Here Come the Warm Dreads) to Gaudi and Vin Gordon to twiddle knobs and mess stuff up. Over the top, naturally, Perry ruminates on whatever is on his mind at the time —  his collector of souls talk-singing in Enlightened is particularly, well, enlightening — and it’s deliciously weird and pulsating.

END CUT

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*