The various faces of The Who; EC was there

By Tom Von Malder | Jun 16, 2018
Photo by: Poldor Records The Who are shown circa 1968. They are, from left, Pete Townshend, the late Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey and the late John Entwistle.

Owls Head — The Who: Live at the Fillmore East 1968 (Polydor, 2 CDs, 1:32:42). This is the first official release of this often-bootlegged concert, timed to the 50th anniversary of the two New York City shows performed between the release of The Who albums "The Who Sell Out" and "Tommy." Band manager Kit Lambert recorded both shows with the intention of releasing a live album, but the equipment malfunctioned on the first night. As it is, these night two performances are missing the opening "Substitute" and "Pictures of Lily" due to technical glitches.

In many ways, this is a unique Who recording, with two lengthy improvisational numbers in "Relax," from "Sell Out, which extends to 12 minutes -- guitar-fueled, the performance includes just a taste of Cream's "Sunshine of Your Love" -- and an epic, 33-minute version of "My Generation" that takes up the whole second disc. Also from "Sell Out" is "Tattoo." Other highlights are the mini-opera "A Quick One (While He's Away)," clocking in at 11:15; the obscure "Little Billy," an anti-smoking song recorded for the American Cancer Society, but not released until 1974's "Odds and Sods" collection; and not only the expected Eddie Cochran cover of "Summertime Blues," but two others as well in back-to-back "My Way" and "C'mon Everybody." Before "My Way" -- definitely not the song recorded by Frank Sinatra -- guitarist Peter Townshend says it is time for some "haaard rock." This is the first-ever release of The Who performing the explosive rock of "C'mon Everybody," which is followed by a cover of Johnny Kidd & The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over," more Fifties rock.

The band is in top form throughout, from Townshend's solo on "Summertime Blues" to Keith Moon's big drum roll to open "Fortune Teller." The latter song, written by Benny Spellman, was one the band used to play when they were known as The Detours. John Entwistle's bass is solid as ever and Roger Daltrey was at his vocal peak. The two long numbers show how well the musicians worked together, following Townshend's lead on the improvisational sections. The band had just been gaining a reputation in the United States, having played the Monterey Pop Festival and appearing on "The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour." Before playing "A Quick One," Townshend said the multi-sectioned piece was the direction the band was going in the future. Some of the riffs that would resurface in the ground-breaking "Tommy" rock opera can be heard during the extended "My Generation."

The album has been restored by longtime band sound engineer, Bob Pridden, who painstakingly remastered the tracks from the original four-track tapes. The results may not be perfect, but the energy of the performances make up for any sound deficiencies. It comes with a 12-page booklet, with an essay by Andy Neill. Grade: A

Roger Daltrey: As Long As I Have You (Republic CD, 37:23). This is the first solo album by The Who's vocalist in more than a quarter of a century and his ninth overall. In spirit and approach, the album harks back to The Who's early days of playing soul and blues covers. At age 74, Daltrey still has a powerful voice, and he uses that instrument well here. Daltrey's previous solo album was 1992's "Rocks in the Head."

The title song, an upbeat rocker, leads off the album, with horns and backing vocalists -- extras that are used well throughout the album. It also is one of six tracks on which Pete Townshend of The Who plays guitar. Usually, those guitar duties are shared by Townshend and Sean Genockey, with Townshend playing acoustic guitar more. The song "As Long As I Have You," written by Garnet Mimms, is one Daltrey used to sing when The Who were known as the High Numbers in the early Sixties.

Next up is the rock ballad "How Far" by Stephen Stills, with very nice Townshend acoustic guitar. The gospel arrangement of the backing vocals on "Where Is a Man To Go?" (originally sung by Dusty Springfield as ”Where Is a Woman To Go?) are very good. Daltrey also covers Boz Scaggs' ballad, "I've Got Your Love," with a softer vocal, and Nick Cave's "Into My Arms," which opens with solo piano. The more aggressive covers include Joe Tex's "The Love You Save," about a love gone bad, and Stevie Wonder's "You Haven't Done Nothing," slowed down from Wonder's original version. There also is a funk in a cover of the early Parliament song, "Come In Out of the Rain," changed slightly to "Get On Out of the Rain" here. He also covers the soulful rocker, "Out of Sight, Out of Mind."

Daltrey gets a co-writing credit for the changes in  "Out of the Rain," but he was the main co-writer of two songs, including "Certified Rose," a tribute to his daughter that features New Orleans style horns and overall has a nice metaphor, and the closing "Always Heading Home," which has a big orchestral sound. Grade: B+

Pete Townshend: Who Came First (UMC import, 2 CDs, 1:50:44). This new, expanded, 45th anniversary edition of Townshend's solo debut, consisting of pre-1972 home recordings, features previously unheard and unreleased tracks on the second, longer disc. As important, the paperback book-sized collection comes with a 24-page booklet with all-new liner notes by Townshend on each track, as well as a general introduction. Townshend write that this effort will be followed by expanded editions of all his solo albums, including the "Scoop" series.

Technically, this is Townshend first commercial solo release. He actually had recorded for three privately-pressed tribute albums (1,000 copies of each) to Meher Baba. Some of those songs appear in this expanded edition, as do demos, alternate versions and songs intended for Townshend's "Lifehouse" project, a science fiction rock opera that was intended as a follow-up to "Tommy," but never saw the light of day until Townshend assembled "Lifehouse Chronicles," a 6-CD set which he issued in 2000. "Who Came First" itself is a collection of songs celebrating Meher Baba, an Indian spiritual master (1894-1969) who said he was the Avatar, the reincarnation of Zoroaster, Jesus, Rama and Krishna, Buddha and Muhammad, as Townshend writes.

Highlights of the original, remastered album include the lovely "Pure & Easy," with its handclap ending; Ronnie Lane's contribution, "Evolution"; Billy Nichols' contribution, "Forever's No Time at All"; and the wanting to go home song, "Sheraton Gibson," with its very nice acoustic guitar. There is a bit of rock in "Let's See Action." Jon Astley remastered the album, which sounds cleaner, from the original master tapes.

Disc two contains eight previously unreleased songs, plus a live version of "Evolution," performed by Townshend for the 2014 Ronnie Lane Memorial Concert. Also performed live is "Drowned," recorded in India in 1976. Townshend writes a lot about the instrumental version of "Baba O'Riley," which is almost 10 minutes long. It gives insight into the making of the classic track from "Who's Next." Other highlights are a 2017 edit of "The Seeker," the anti-drug song "Mary Jane" with its forceful guitar; a 2017 edit of "I Always Say," a blues number with a bit of gospel to the piano and a different style of vocal; and the cool "There's a Fortune in Those Hills," recorded as a four piece. Townshend also covers Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine," one of Meher Baba's favorite songs, with water sounds, but admits he did not get the chords "quite right." "The Love Man" is an early experiment with a pedal steel guitar. The booklet is loaded with wonderful vintage photos. There also is a mini-poster. Grade: A

Eric Clapton: Life in 12 Bars (Eagle Vision, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 133 min.). This is an extremely candid look at the life of British guitar great Eric Clapton, who has been a member of The Yardbirds and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and has led the groundbreaking bands Cream, Blind Faith and Derek & The Dominos, as well as having a successful solo album career and starting the Crossroads Guitar Festivals. Clapton, who is the only three-time inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,  has won 18 Grammy Awards.

The film is produced and directed by Lili Fini Zanuck, who had carte blanche from Clapton, who never viewed the finished film until its Toronto Film Festival premiere. Part of the film's candid nature is the result of who Zanuck interviewed, including Clapton's aunt and longtime friend and manager Ben Palmer. In the segment on when Clapton tired to woo Pattie Boyd, the wife of his close friend, George Harrison of The Beatles, there are no-holds-barred interviews with Clapton, Boyd and Clapton's then-girlfriend, Charlotte Martin.

Clapton was raised by his grandmother, Rose Clapp (also interviewed), and did not realize the woman he thought was his sister was actually his mother, who abandoned him and moved to Canada. Clapton says this revelation led to his losing faith at age 9 that he could trust anyone. Hearing American blues played on a kiddies radio program led Clapton toward his musical career. There are many photos of Clapton as a child and even his early drawings of superheroes and guitars.

The bulk of the film is devoted to the five great bands Clapton was part of. He left the Yardbirds after they recorded the hit "For Your Love," which he felt was too pop and away from the blues he wanted to play. There are snippets of early performances and video from throughout his life, including playing in the studio on an Aretha Franklin recording session and on The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." When first Cream imploded and Blind Faith only lasted one album, Clapton assembled Derek (himself) & The Dominos and the first album they recorded actually was Harrison's "All Things Must Pass."

Jimi Hendrix was another friend and influence, and Hendrix's death in 1971 hit Clapton hard. The film talks about Clapton's heroin use and subsequent life as an alcoholic. The latter period covered the recoding of the bulk of his solo albums, which are relegated to just a quick showing of each album cover. There are wonderful pictures and home videos of Clapton with his son Conor, who would tragically die at age 4 from a fall out of a 53rd-story window.

The solo bonus feature is a conversation between musician/host Jools Holland, Clapton and Zanuck (24:36) after the film's premiere in England, apparently with many of the friends and musicians featured in the film attending the screening. Grade: A

UMe/Universal has issued a 2-CD or 4-LP, 32-track compilation of music featured in the film, including recordings by The Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, Cream, Blind Faith, Derek & The Dominos, The Beatles, George Harrison, Aretha Franklin and Muddy Waters, as well as Clapton's solo work. Five tracks are previously unreleased, including what is called the first release of the entire full-length recording of "I Shot the Sheriff." (This version reportedly is 6:50, while there was a 7:35 version in the box set, "Give Me Strength: The '74/'75 Recordings," issued in 2013.) The other previously unreleased tracks include a 17-minute version of "Spoonful" that Cream performed live in 1968 during its farewell tour, a live Derek & The Dominos' cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," Clapton's live version of Chuck Berry's "Little Queenie" from 1974 and the unearthed Derek & The Dominos track "High" (later rerecorded for Clapton's solo album "There's One in Every Crowd").

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Robert M Rosenberg | Jun 17, 2018 08:05

Hey Tom. I was at The Who concert at the Filmore. One of many great groups I saw there.

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