Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Who - A Quick One

The Who's second album was an ode to pop art, from the record cover to the ultra-cool "pop" music within,
showing a growth from the debut, with only one cover tune and songs written by all band members. The initial idea was to be two songs from each person, but that didn't really work out, and Pete claims to have "really" written Keith & Roger's songs (or at least polished them considerably). Regardless, they were definitely moving away from an r'n'b cover band to something unique and original.

While the opener, "Run Run Run" may not be one of their best known, it is quite cool, with its biting chords, chuggin' rhythm and vocals harmonies, not to mention Pete's cool fuzz runs. John's most famous song is undoubtedly his "Boris the Spider" and he really creates a style with his bass runs and extremely low-register singing. "I Need You", by Keith, is actually a superior pop tune, although the spoken middle break is an odd addition. The "cowboy" ending is an interesting foreshadowing of the song "A Quick One". Entwistle returns for his alcohol-influenced "Whiskey Man" - also very strong. The sole cover here is "Heat Wave" - nice job even if it's not a stand-out. Truly bizarre, as befitting its author (Moon), is "Cobwebs and Strange", a goofy instrumental with plenty of histrionic drumming and each member playing a wind instrument - french horn, penny-whistle, trombone and tuba! Demented soundtrack music!

Back to Pete with the sweet, melodic pop of "Don't Look Away" (with an interesting country-ish solo) and then Roger's sole entry, "See My Way" - another fine one (with John contributing french horn again) that I could easily imagine Pete having a hand in. Somewhat lesser known, but no less brilliant, than some of the hits is "So Sad About Us" - about as good as it gets with fantastic singing and harmonies and ringing guitar chords. This is Pete at his power-pop best, as evidenced by the number of people who have chosen to cover this. Of course, the title track is famous for being the suite of songs that was later called the "mini-opera" which gave rise to later works such as Tommy and Quadrophenia. Actually, this consists of snippets of songs joined together in a theme of cheating and forgiveness. The parts truly do work and blend together and it is a bit of early genius, showing just how far the band had come since the first album.

There is an abundance of bonus tracks on this extended single-CD edition starting with their Who-ified "Batman" (quite different), leading into "Bucket-T" and "Barbara Ann", showing Moon's enthrallment with vocal surf music ala Beach Boys/Jan and Dean. The effects-laden "Disguises" is fun pop while Entwistle's "Doctor, Doctor" is more of his silliness and he goes vaudeville for "I've Been Away". John and Keith joined forces for the Jan & Dean stylings of "In the City" (wonder where the Jam got their ideas from?) that they recorded without Pete or Roger, though Townshend later added some guitar. There's a previously unreleased acoustic version of "Happy Jack" (the original was a bit of a hit in the States - though I don't remember it on the radio - so the US label released this album with the song in place of "Heat Wave"), which is quite different from the "official" tune and then a superb take on the Everly Brothers' "Man With money" - another example of the Who making a song their own - as they later did with songs like "Summertime Blues". Everything concludes with "My Generation/Land of Milk and Honey", a bit of producer Kit Lambert's wackiness that no one else really got.

Another amazing reissue - any fan would definitely want the bonus material here - as well as the terrific booklet!