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The Who - A Quick One CD (album) cover

A QUICK ONE

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

2.94 | 158 ratings

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Necrotica
Prog Reviewer
3 stars My Generation was more than just an album when it came out back in 1965... it was a game-changer. The way it mixed soft R&B covers and pop rock tunes with a previously-unheard hard rock edge and raw production was ingenious, and the affectionate nods to the Mod subculture were icing on the cake. It seems as though I'm exaggerating when I state that The Who's debut was a decade-defining piece of work, but it truly was. So how would these London boys follow it up? Well, how about giving songwriting roles to every band member while becoming a hell of a lot sillier in the process?

What came of this question was A Quick One, one truly bizarre and inconsistent foray into more cheery and poppy territory. Here, we get everything ranging from blues rock, quirky comedic tunes, the band's first "rock-opera" track," folk rock sections, and more. It becomes clear very quickly which musicians really shine in the songwriting department, however: Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. In fact, the latter created perhaps one of the band's most iconic and entertaining songs in the form of "Boris the Spider"; aside from containing vocals that likely (and probably inadvertently) influenced a legion of death metal singers, the song's cheesy horror lyrics just add to its fun camp value. Curiously, Entwistle's other contribution "Whiskey Man" is a pretty standard fast-paced blues rock track compared to the amount of personality "Boris the Spider" had, but it's still a decent addition nonetheless. Of course, just as with My Generation, Townshend still manages to be the real driving force writing-wise. The title track, which is easily his best contribution on here, is an excellent prelude to the band's future rock operas; it also ends up being among the first progressive rock tunes with its varying sections and relatively long length of nine minutes. The whole thing is very elaborate, especially in terms of Roger Daltrey's vocal harmonies and Keith Moon's busy percussion, as the lyrics essentially give the listener a prelude to the story of the 1969 record Tommy. Seriously, this was some ambitious stuff in the mid-60s, especially considering the fact that it predates other proto-prog gems of the decade such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Days of Future Passed.

Unfortunately, the biggest mistake of A Quick One was letting Keith Moon assist in any part of the songwriting process. He might be an amazing drummer, but his songs are seriously lacking compared to what the other members bring. First, we get an uninspired folky power ballad with "I Need You," which has some extremely obnoxious and raucous drumming during the chorus; it's so raucous that it literally overpowers the production itself. The other song he wrote might just be the single worst track to ever be released by The Who, that tune being "Cobwebs and Strange." Remember what I said about this album being really cheery? Well, "Cobwebs and Strange" basically manages to sound like a marching band performance at a Disneyland parade with its bright horns and stiff, angular drumming; that is, until the song turns into a disjointed mess of disparate musical ideas. The second half of the song is pretty much just a glorified Keith Moon drum solo, but it's not very engaging when combined with such an ugly jumble of instruments and styles. As for Roger Daltrey, his sole contribution "See My Way" is a decent pop song that thankfully tones down the dynamics of the album along with the previous Pete Townshend number "Don't Look Away." However, despite the weird mishmash of styles present in A Quick One, I have to give it credit for at least having some sort of overall focus and knowing what it is: a cheesy pop rock record. It often doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why incredibly fun songs like "Boris the Spider" and the title track were able to fit in so well with the experience as a whole. Basically, my advice is to enjoy the Townshend and Entwistle tracks and try to forget the Keith Moon tracks ever happened; I know that sounds harsh, but Moon is simply better off doing what he does best: drumming. In the end, if you don't want to stick with the familiar Who classics and want to delve into something a bit more quirky and strange, this is a pretty good bet. Despite how unusual and flawed it is, A Quick One is actually really fun and a refreshing oddball in the band's catalog.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

Necrotica | 3/5 |

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