Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Who - My Generation (Deluxe Edition)

The Who's debut album may have been a bit of a sanitized version of their bombastic stage show, but it is still a terrific 60's r'n'r record that shows the variety of their influences and includes some fantastic material.

Opening with Townshend's "Out In the Streets", Pete does attempt some of his guitar acrobatics, with his use of the pickup toggle switch and a little bit of feedback. This is a pretty special opening for any band, though - plenty of big chords (even with the weaker studio sound), Moon's crazed playing, Entwistle's cool runs and lots of vocals. Considering that they are really known for Pete & Keith's craziness and power, there is a lot of emphasis on harmonies and backing vocals. This is evidenced again in their cover of James Brown's "I Don't Mind", which also shows their love for soul and r'n'b, which was a big part of the Mod scene that they emerged from (or glommed onto, depending on how cynical you are). Pete returns for a cool pop number, "The Good's Gone" with its ringing Rickenbacker riffs and smashing chords in the break. "La-La-La Lies" is a bit of a minor vocal number, as is "Much Too Much" - both nice, but not particularly special. But then we get the groundbreaking title cut! Wow! What a statement, lyrically as well as musically! A rallying cry for the Mods - and all rock'n'rollers to follow - and a Kinks-like rocker with Entwistle taking the leads that Pete really couldn't do, giving the song a unique edge. Quite amazing all around!

How could you follow that? With yet another Mod anthem, "The Kids Are Alright", a fantastic pop/rock song with lyrics about how your mates are more important than your girlfriend! The instrumental middle break, made up of ringing chords interacting with the bass and especially the drums, creates more excitement than most virtuoso's guitar solos. Another James Brown number, "Please, Please, Please" kinda shows just how white they were, despite their best intentions. Another of Pete's, "It's Not True", follows, and then their take on the ubiquitous "I'm a Man" - not the best ever, but with some cool Nicky Hopkins piano (who adds keys throughout). Townshend takes lead vocals for "Legal Matter", a diatribe against marriage, with good interaction between Hopkins and Pete's guitar licks. The instrumental, "The Ox" (John's nickname), features Pete's fuzz guitar being de-tuned, Keith bashing with all his might and Hopkins keeping a melody running through it. Actually damn good fun! "Circles" is an early, reasonably undiscovered gem - one of the better tunes that didn't become a hit - and John gets to play his french horn! Bonus tracks on disc one include the exceptional "I Can't Explain" (if this debut song was the only thing these guys ever did, they would go down in r'n'r history, as it is so incredible!), "Bald Headed Woman" (not bad, but nothing special) and "Daddy Rolling Stone", one of their better r'n'b ravers.

Disc two opens with their fantastic take on "Leaving Here" (right up there with the Birds), then a fun "Lubie (Come Back Home)" and "Shout and Shimmy". Their version of "Heat Wave" is pretty hep and "Motoring" grooves while "Anytime You Want Me" is a nice, soulful ballad. There's an alternative mix/version of the stupendous "Anyhow, Anywhere, Anyway", then the doo-wop-inspired "Instant Party Mixture" that's actually pretty forgettable and silly before another take on "I Don't Mind" as well as another "The Good's Gone". The instrumental backing track of "My Generation" is a fun oddity, but not terribly exciting, and the a capella "Anytime You Want Me" is also gimmicky, but it works a bit better and shows that they really could sing when they worked at it! The last two numbers are monaural, with guitar overdubs: "A Legal Matter" and one more "My Generation" (it is the title track, after all!).

A bit inconsistent, sure, but still a damn cool debut and the bonuses here make this edition one to pick up!