01/26/07
Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

Pete Townshend's solo catalogue has recently been the subject of a complete reevaluation. Each title -- sans the trio of Scoop odds and ends compilations -- sports bonus tracks, most of which have never been available on CD before now. Here are a few 'not to be missed' entries from this venerable guitar god and Who co-founder.


Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane -- Rough Mix (Hip-O Records)

This little treasure has been given special treatment with a multi-media DualDisc. The CD side features a remastered stereo mix of the album, while the DVD offers a high resolution (96khz/24bit) stereo or a 5.1 Surround Sound option. Plus, there is a video interview with the artist and technical team, as well as a photo gallery of shots from the recording sessions.

Townshend's opening rocker "My Baby Gives It Away" and the Lane collaboration "Rough Mix" really standout. As do Lane's easier-going "Nowhere To Run" and the heartfelt "Annie," which was co-written by Eric Clapton. And Ol' Slowhand is just one in an impressive star-studded cast that likewise boasts Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts (drums) and Ian Stewart (piano), Benny Gallagher (accordion) and Graham Lyle (guitar) King Crimson ex-patriots Boz Burell (bass), and Mel Collins (sax) and even fellow Who-man John Entwistle (brass/vocals).

Of the extras, Lane-penned "Only You" and "Silly Little Man". "Good Question" is a Townshend original that might be familiar to hard-core Pete-heads as a demo titled "Brrr" from the very first Scoop (1983) compile. But more about that below.

Pete Townshend -- Empty Glass (Hip-O Records)

Empty Glass (1980) provided a kick start to Townshend's non-Who career, racing up to a formidable #5 on the album chart. This was no doubt helped by the singles "Rough Boys" and "Let My Love Open The Door". In fact, both became so popular that they often show up in The Who's live sets.

While each original composition bears the artist's unmistakable earmark and sound, the execution is considerably different than many might have been expecting. It crackles with a modern urgency that continues to be heard over a quarter-century later. The freshness undoubtedly had much to do with the incorporation of Mark Brzezicki (drums) and Tony Butler (bass) -- the rhythm section from the Scottish-based group Big Country.

The four supplementary sides include 'alternate vocals' on "I Am An Animal," "Keep On Working," "And I Move," as well as a 'long version' of "Gonna Get Ya" that runs an additional five minutes.

Pete Townshend -- Scoop (Hip-O Records)
Pete Townshend -- Another Scoop (Hip-O Records)
Pete Townshend -- Scoop3 (Hip-O Records)

This trilogy (so far) centers on Townshend's works in-progress. Each respective compilation is split over two CDs and replicates the contents of the original releases.

One definite improvement overall is the audio fidelity  -- particularly noticeable on the Who-era classics "Circles" and "Magic Bus". As briefly mentioned in the review for Rough Mix (1977), the fragment labeled "Brrr" which is linked to "So Sad About Us" can be found on the inaugural volume. Scoop has early readings of other familiar classics, such as "Squeezebox," "Bargain," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Cache, Cache" and an emotive "Love Reign O'er Me" that arguably bests the Who's better-known rendition.

Another Scoop (1986) continues the trend with many tracks sounding very close to completion. This begs the question as to why Townshend didn't simply release these demos. "You Better You Bet" is almost an epic in this so-called 'rough' interpretation. Likewise, "Pinball Wizard" is stunning in its simplicity with Townshend overlapping several guitar and vocal layers for a unique and robust arrangement. "Call Me Lightning," "Pictures Of Lilly," "Christmas" (from Tommy), "The Kids Are Alright," "Happy Jack" and "Substitute" are among the other standouts heard in their intimate infancy.

As explained in the intro essay, the majority of Scoop3 (2001) comes from piano instrumentals. But there are exceptions to the rule for those wanting old school Townshend. Familiar entries of note include "Can You See The Real Me," "No Way Out"-- which is a working-title for "However Much I Booze," Eminence Front," a formative take of "Rough Boys" called "Tough Boys," "Did You Steal My Money?," and "How Can You Do It Alone."

In each volume, Townsend's liner text acts as a written guide to the material within. For tech heads, he goes into detail on his equipment and instruments while providing back stories on the songs themselves.

Pete Townshend -- psychoderelictliveinnewyork (Universal/Hip-O Records)

This DVD video is taken from an August 7, 1993 appearance at the Academy Of Music in Brooklyn, New York. The show was initially offered as a live Pay Per View broadcast throughout North America. The entire two-plus hour gig is presented with a newly tweaked 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo and a room-encompassing DTS 5.1 Surround Sound option.

The focal point is a complete performance of Psychoderelict (1993). The suite is bookended between two mini sets containing exceptional renditions of "Pinball Wizard," the "See Me Feel Me / Listening To You" medley from Tommy (1969), "Let My Love Open The Door," "Rough Boys," "Behind Blue Eyes," "The Kids Are Alright," "Keep Me Turning," and "Eminence Front" before the main feature. While "A Little Is Enough," "You Better You Bet," "Face The Face," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Let's See Action" and "Magic Bus" act as the finale. 

As a video bonus, viewers are treated to an in-depth conversation with Townshend as he explains Psychoderelict and the various musical and non-musical connections to the equally ambitious Lifehouse project from the early 1970s.


Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and technical producer at WBT AM/FM in Charlotte, NC. He is a regular contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and Gaston Gazette. Comments and questions can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


 

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