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The Who - WHO CD (album) cover


The Who



3.63 | 27 ratings

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3 stars The Who's studio output has, of course, been rather spotty since 1982, and after several breakups and reunions, has only resulted in two studio albums; "Endless Wilre" in 2006, and more currently "WHO", which was released in November of 2019. All that remains of the band is Roger Daltrey doing almost all of the lead vocals, and Pete Townshend on guitars, background vocals and lead vocals on "I'll Be Back" and all three of the deluxe edition's bonus tracks. All other instruments are performed by guest musicians and these guests all perform on different specific tracks. Of course Keith Moon died in 1978 and John Entwistle died in 2002, or course each death had a lasting effect on the band and it shows in the lack of new output.

On this album, both Daltry and Townsend provide the consistency of this album, and they still provide that same The Who signature sound, however, both of them recorded their parts separately and the other parts were added by various musicians. As far as the bass parts; most of them are provided by Pino Palladino who has been in The Who's line-up since 2002 and has also performed with John Mayer. Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr's son) has also been a regular drummer for The Who since 1996 and performs on 4 of the tracks. Benmont Tench from Tom Petty's band "The Heartbreakers" plays keyboards on 3 tracks and Joey Waronker (session musician for Beck and "R.E.M.) also plays drums on 3 tracks. Everything else is done by various other artists.

One of the most interesting things about the album is the cover which is a series of photos that represent influences to The Who's music along with different notable symbols and things that pertain to the band's history, including the word "Detour" which not only references one of the more catchy tracks on this album, but also is a nod to the name "The Detours", the name the band used before becoming The Who.

As Daltry is lead vocalist on almost all of the tracks on the regular album, so is Townshend the songwriter on all of the tracks except "Beads on One String", The Who's version of a nice ballad (where Daltry even tempers his vocals accordingly), which Townshend shares with Josh Hunsacker, and "Break the News" which is written by Simon Townshend, Pete's younger brother.

The music on this album is definitely interesting enough in that it really reflects the trademark sound of The Who's music through the years. "Ball and Chain" is the first single off the album, yet it really lacks anything interesting. However, as mentioned previously, "Detour" is the first really memorable song up to this point (which is track 4) with a nice catchy hook and rhythm pattern. After that, "Beads on One String" is a definite highlight as a more ballad-like track, and "Hero Ground Zero" features some great orchestral (mostly strings) effects that go uncredited on the album, and that gives it a sweeping feeling that helps it stand out.

Daltry's vocals haven't suffered or changed much over the years, and that is mostly a good thing. I do believe he has more restraint and control most of the time on this album, maybe a bit mellower at times, however, he still proves he has plenty of strength when he needs it, and most people might not even detect a difference in his vocals. In most cases, it has been proven that more restraint never hurt Daltry's delivery, and in this album, even his outbursts are timed quite well. There is still a bit of over-the-top dramatics from time to time, but it works well here.

Townshend's guitar work is still quite similar to his past work also. He doesn't do anything that stands right out, but still performs as he is expected to, which is where his strength has been. His other strength is in songwriting, and, even though there isn't nothing as amazing as "Baba O'Riley", "Won't Get Fooled Again" or even close to the amazing rock opera albums "Tommy" and "Quadropheia", it's definitely much more interesting and varied than most of the songs on "Who Are You" and "It's Hard". Townshend still has his voice also, as shown on "I'll Be Back" which has the help of vocal effects to keep him on target, and unfortunately, this makes what might have been an interesting song turn into a schleppy sounding song that rips off Stevie Wonder complete with harmonica drenched instrumental support.

These songs are varied, which is really the best thing The Who could have done to try to bring in new listeners. I don't think anyone expected to hear any rock operas or amazing rocked out tracks that the band was famous for in the past. But the good thing here, is that they didn't revert to the post-"Quadrophenia" style of songs that sound all the same or heavily soaked in 80s style synth beats. They did keep things organic here, for the most part, and they give the songs more personality by giving a large amount of variety among the songs. The place where it all suffers is that most listeners would love to hear more of a rock edge among the mellower, more radio-friendly tracks. But even that gets some fulfillment especially in tracks like "Rockin' in Rage" and "All This Music Must Fade". But again, don't expect anything that will get your blood boiling and you might be able to see how they use variety to their advantage here.

Are the 3 bonus tracks sung by Pete Townshend worth getting the deluxe edition for? Well, personally, I have liked Townshend's vocals better in the past that were effectively used to smooth out the roughness of Daltry's vocals, but he doesn't always have the strength to carry off a full album as some of his solo work has proven. In the case of this album, "This Gun Will Misfire" is much better than the track that is used on the regular album where Pete sings, and should have been used. "Got Nothing to Prove" has a really cool retro vibe that will make you think this track came from "The Who Sell Out", with strings and a definite pre-1970s sound to the production. Cool. "Danny and My Ponies" is okay, but it uses the annoying auto-tune effect again. I'd rather hear his real voice. So, two of the bonus tracks are great and the last one gets ruined by electronics.

It's not a bad album, but its not excellent either. It's just nice. It's no "Quadrophenia" but its also better than "Face Dances" and "It's Hard", and as such, it stands out in the group of later albums. Still, there is not much in the way of progressive music here, but things aren't necessarily boring either. In the end, it comes off as a little better than average, but not quite enough to be considered excellent.

TCat | 3/5 |


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