September 28, 2020

1981-04-12 – Hartford Courant

1981 04 12 Hartford_Courant_Sun__Apr_12__1981_

HUN!!! 9

. 111s Himoao COURANT: Sunday, April 12,1931

ROCK

Roger Daltry, K enney Jones, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle

Back in Who’s ‘Who’

By HENRY McNULTY
Qourant Rock Critic

As the Who enter their 17th year
performing together, they have taken
to calling themselves old men of rock
— “wheezers and geezers," as they
put it. Don’t you believe it. If their
brand-new album “Face Dances” is
any indication, the Who are still in
top form as one of rock’s most worth-
while estabished bands. Though pes-
tered by the errors and excesses that
have plagued them throughout their
career, they can still charge full-tilt
through a song — or produce an ar-
resting, delicate moment of poignan-
c .

y“Face Dances" is the first full LP
of new material from the Who since
the death in 1978 of drummer Keith
Moon. It is thus doubly significant
that it has such range and power:
First, it shows that Moon’s replace-
ment, Kenney Jones, has more than
enough skill and energy to propel a
band like the Who (though, to be hon-
est, he lacks Moon’s anarchistic ex-
plosiveness). And second, it proves
that Moon’s death, though undoubted-
ly a severe blow to the chummy, fra-
ternal group, was not enough to kill
the Who. Staggered by their mate’s
demise, they have struggled back
into the limelight by pure force.

The album begins with a flash and
a sparkle: “You Better You Bet,” an
uptempo number that’s the best sin-
gle release from the group in a dec-
ade (since “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
in 1971, that is; the only thing close is
“Squeeze Box” of 1975). Roger Dal-
trey roars and taunts his way through
the lengthy tune, sounding alternate-
ly angry and incredulous. Invoking
not only T-Rex but the Who of years
past, Daltrey chants ,his uppity love
song and delivers as accurate a self-
criticism as can be: “I still sing a ra-
zor line every time.”

For guitarist Pete Townshend, who
wrote seven of the LP’s nine songs, a
high point is “Cache Cache,” in which
his chiming, keenly aimed guitar
lines zip past Jones’ drumming and
Daltrey‘s vocals. Townshed is only in
his glory near the song’s end, but as
usual his sense of timing is excellent;
afterthe tension is built up by speedy
verses and slow choruses, the slithery
guitar lightens the entire song.

Daltrey has developed an effec-
tively melodic bellow in recent
years, especially on his solo record-
ings. It’ s used here of course (on
“You " for example, and elsewhere),
but Daltrey can put his voice to other
uses, and a good showcase for his tal-
ents is “How Can You Do It Alone.”
This Townshend composition is
thoughtful and restrained, like some
on Townshend’s solo “Empty Glass”
LP. With its hint of mourniul bag-
pipes — actually a synthesizer, I’ll
wager — it gives Daltrey an opportu-
nity for some low-key singing.

Bassist John Entwistle wrote the
remaining two songs, the abovemen-
tioned “You” and a ditty called “The
Quiet One.” Of the two, the latter is
by far the better. Full of the menac-
ing rumblings for which The Ox is
famous. this autobiograpical number
answers those who object that
Entwistle remains stationary on
stagewhen Jones, Daltrey and (espe-
cially) Townshend leap back and
forth, burning calories by the bucket-
ful. Powerful and driving, the song
sneers at Entwistle’s critics: “Still
waters run dee , so be careful I don’t
drown you . . . ain’t quiet — every-
body else is too loud." So there!

As “Face Dances” works tow‘ards
its conclusion, it loses a little steam.
“You" is too much like other recent
Who material; perhaps it would be
more effective if Entwistle sang his
own composition, instead of Daltrey.
And “Another Tricky Day.” though a
carefully constructed set-piece art-
fully performed by the group, lacks
the punch it is obviously supposed to
have as an album-closer. It sounds a
little nderous and reachy.

Stil . the latest 0 album has
more than enough excitement and
plain good music to satsfy any fan;
And on a song called "Daily Re-
cords." Townshend has finally come

to terms with his famed “hope I die
before I get old” statement of the
mid-l960s. Now Townshend, by his
own admission, is neither young nor
dead, and he answers himself with a
shrug: “I watch my kids grow up and
ridicule the bunch / When you are
eleven, the whole world’s out to
lunch.”

The Who are featured prominently
on “Concerts for the People of Kam-
puchea,” a two-record set that could
be described as the British equivalent
of the recent American “No Nukes”
concert set. Established groups like
Wings, the Who and Queen appear
with relative newcomers such as
Rockpile, the Clash, Pretenders and
Elvis Costello. At record’s end, an
amazing amalgam called “Rockes-
tra” performs a couple of golden 01-
dies

The benefit concerts, to alleviate
starving in the country that used to
be called Cambodia, were for a good
cause and no doubt were a treat for
those with tickets. Unfortunately,
they don’t translate very well onto
vinyl. The more familiar a song is,
the more dull and listless it sounds on
these records.

For the Who and McCartney, who
perform nothing new, this is bad
news. 0f the four Who songs (taking
up an entire side), only “Sister Disco”
holds any interest, mostly because of
Pete Townshend’s wild synthesizer
work and Roger Daltrey’s inspired
bellowing. “Baba O’Riley” and “Be-
hind Blue Eyes” from “Who’s Next”
aren’t getting any better after a dec-
ade, and what must be the 2,009th
live performance of “See Me, Feel
Me” is as welcome as last week's cold
oatmeal.

“Got To Get You Into My Life,”
“Every Night,” and “Coming Up,”
from Wings, have all been given bet-
ter live treatments — ditto “Now I’m
Here” by Queen, which is inferior to
31; version on their “Live Killers”

The best songs on the LP are the
unfamiliar ones by New Wave
groups. Pretenders sparkle with their
sassy, punkish sound; “Precious” is
as fresh and zippy as anything com-
ing out of England these days ( it also
happens to be featured on that
group’s brand-new LP). Elvis Cos-
tello and Ian Dury are characteristi-
cally zany; Dury’s “Hit Me With Your
Rhythm Stick,” chanted in his usual
offhand fashion, is great. Rockpile’s
version of Graham Parker’s “Crawl-
ing from the Wreckage” is fine, al-
though I prefer the group’s studio
version on Dave Edmunds’ “Repeat
When Necessary” album. “Little Sis-
ter,” the Elvis Presley chestnut, is
given a lively treatment by Rockpiie
with guest work by Led Zep’s Robert
Plant.

Most of all, it is McCartney’ 5
much- touted “Rockestra” brigade
which falls flat. No doubt it must
have been utterly amazing to see the
likes of Ronnie Lane, John Paul
Jones, Dave Edmunds, Gary
Brooker, Pete Townshend, Denny
Laine, Paul and Linda McCartney
and about a dozen and a half others
all on stage together (one of the liner
photos shows eight guitarists dflilaying
simultaneously. Zowie!). Sa the
sound coma out muddled and con-
fused.

When the assembled multitude
play “Let It Be,” one can only recall
what the Fab Four could sound like
— and be disappointed that the Fab
24 don‘t sound anything like six times
as good. Little Richard made “Lu-
cille" a rock ‘n’ roll classic; McCart-
ney’s Rockestra just about smothers
it with overkill.

One note: Proceeds from the sale
of the album will go to the Kampu-
chean people. and some may find that
sufficient cause to buy this set. But
that is a humanitarian choice. not a
musical one.

FACE DANCES by The Who;
Warner Brothers Records.

CONCERTS FOR THE PEOPLE
OF KAMPUCHEA by various British
artists; Atlantic Records.