Classic Rock Review

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The Who The Kids Are Alright (1979)


Not exactly a greatest hits compilation – rather a movie soundtrack, but what with a lot of performances never released previously, this can count as an independent album. The song selection is somewhat peculiar, though. The movie (reviewed below) contained tracks not on the soundtrack, and vice versa. And the recent CD version bugs me because they decided to cut out the splendid medley of ‘Join Together/Roadrunner/My Generation Blues’ played on an exceptionally good night in 1975. Ever heard ‘My Generation’ performed as a slow menacing blues number gradually picking up steam? Totally fascinating! And with this stupid remaster, all that remains to you is grab the video. So grab it anyway!!!

Some tracks are also annoying ‘cos they were all previously available. Well, I guess they decided to put ‘Magic Bus’ on ‘cos it wasn’t on any original LP except hits collections, and ‘Long Live Rock’ because it was on Odds And Sods which nobody was ever buying, but why put on the regular version of ‘I Can See For Miles’? And, moreover, why leave these songs on CD and keep ‘My Generation Blues’ off? Whatever for??? I’m stumped.

And the version of ‘Happy Jack’ here comes directly from Leeds… well, I admit it wasn’t available in 1979, but for Chrissake it is now!! Bastards! Gimme my ‘Roadrunner’ right now! And why the hell did they decide to give us dismissable dung like that 1977 version of ‘My Wife’ from Kilburn, where both John and Pete were drunk beyond hope and Keith missed everything that was possible to miss? I’d bet you anything this was the worst performance they ever gave. ‘My Wife’ is often said to be a great stage favourite, with the crowds roaring in support of the trusty bass player, but you really couldn’t tell it judging by this performance: it’s a wonder they didn’t just fall apart in the middle of the performance, because there are quite a few moments when the song transforms into virtually uncontrolled chaos.

Then again, maybe it’s wise to have something like that lying around just for comparison – to see for yourself what is really chaos and what is just an illusion of chaos.

Phew. That was hard. But these are only five songs. In compensation, though, you get a bunch of absolutely indispensable stuff that’s so incredible I have no choice but to give the album a nine (remember what I said about all live Who albums as potential candidates for endless rows of tens?)

The early stuff, though often in crappy sound quality (well what could you expect?), shows that the Who were really developed as immaculate stage machines at a pretty early stage in their career. Thus, the Shindig show version of ‘I Can’t Explain’, even if you hardly hear anything but the girls’ screams and Keith’s tremendous machine-gunnery, is notably faster and more fluent than the regular live version of the song as played around 1970 and witnessed on Leeds and Wight; ‘Anyway Anyhow Anywhere’ sounds even muddier, but I’m really impressed at how efficiently Pete was using feedback and playing all these sadistic tricks on guitar strings outside the studio; and the short, faithful-to-the-studio version of ‘My Generation’ is still fun – especially the bits of dialogue that precede it (taken from the Tommy Smothers show; you can see all that stuff in the movie).

The ‘classic live years’ contribute some stuff from Woodstock, which makes me all the more lament the fact that the performance is not yet officially available. The version of ‘Sparks’, in particular, is one of the most astonishing live Who tracks I’ve ever heard – this time, it is literally hard to believe there’s only one guitar playing, because somewhere in one of the climactic moments in the mid-section Pete manages to have a feedback chaotic background AND play soaring lead guitar notes at the same time. Or was it John providing the background? Awesome.

‘See Me Feel Me’ is particularly impressive, too; you probably know that performance if you ever saw Woodstock the movie. Another little delicacy is an ear-splintering ‘Young Man Blues’ from the London Coliseum with Pete adopting a very bizarre, ‘poisonous’ tone for his guitar and playing some of the greatest blues solos I’ve ever heard. It’s another definite highlight of both the album and the movie; if you haven’t heard this version, well, you haven’t lived. Sorry for the cliche. The song does demonstrate Pete’s terrific abilities as a ‘mad soloist’, though – if you ever doubted it, his frantic lead work in between Roger’s primal screams will shatter any doubt.

And, finally, two of the performances are quite ‘recent’: ‘Baba O’Riley’ and ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ were filmed specially for the movie, in the summer of 1978, and the band made everything to be sure this would work. The performances are blistering – it’s almost as if they knew it was going to be the last time they played together, and decided to give it their all: Pete adds flashy leads even to ‘Baba’, a song that never featured much soloing in the first place, and Roger’s roaring on ‘Fooled’ is not less powerful than on the studio version. I’d bet you anything this was quite unlike the stuff they were… oh, wait.

They hadn’t toured since 1975 by then! (Except for that Kilburn horror, of course). One can only guess at how Pete kept all these block chords and jumps alive for three years when apparently the only thing he’d been doing was pouring booze into himself. Well, however much he boozed, there was no way out.

One last thing: if you’re skint on money, skip this and buy the movie instead. This stuff is powerful enough to work without the video accompaniment, but when you get around to actually seeing this, Rock Nirvana is somewhere around the threshold.

March 6, 2013 Posted by | The Who The Kids Are Alright | | Leave a comment

The Who The Kids Are Alright (1979)


The year after Keith Moon died, The Who released a movie that they had been working on for awhile, entitled “The Kids Are Alright.” The movie was a documentary, and it featured live films, interviews, and promotional films from 1965 until 1978. Along with the movie, they released a soundtrack with some of the songs from the movie. This is the soundtrack to the famous documentary, and most of the music is from live shows that the band did. (There are only a few songs on here that are studio.) Since it is The Who, some of the music is mind boggling awesome. Other songs aren’t as good as others, but are still exceptional. Nonetheless, every song on here is special in its own way.

My Generation
The soundtrack immediately starts with one of The Who’s most famous tracks, My Generation. The track starts with Tommy Smothers talking to each of the 4 band members. (They’re on The Smothers Brothers TV show.) The song is a lot like the studio version. John has a nice bass solo, Keith has a few good drum fills, and Roger’s vocals flow smoothly with the band’s playing. There is also a big explosion at the end of the song, with the effect of Pete Townshend going partly deaf for about twenty minutes after the show. I’m sure that most people who read this know My Generation, so we will move on.

I Can’t Explain.
This is from an early show that they played. It doesn’t have the best quality, but it’s still good nonetheless. The drum part is exceptional, and the vocals are crisp as well. Not the best version of I Can’t Explain, but still a good tune.

Happy Jack
This is one of the only songs on this album that is not on the movie. The guitar is pretty notable on this, and the drum part is as well. Townshend has some great backing vocals on this song, and the rest speaks for itself.

I Can See For Miles
The only other song on the soundtrack that isn’t on the movie, I Can See For Miles is the first song from the studio off the album. The vocals are probably the hook on this song, as Daltrey’s vocals on this are clear and strong, and the guitar playing is exceptional. Even though this song is a bit repetitive, it is another classic.

Magic Bus
Another Who classic. Magic Bus is a concert essential, no wonder it is on this live disc. The use of percussion equipment on this is great, and the music blends smoothly together. The lyrics in this song are interesting the way they are arranged, “I don’t want to cause no fuss, but can I ride your magic bus.” which adds another aspect to Magic Bus.

Long Live Rock
Probably the least well known song on the compilation, Long Live Rock features Pete Townshend on vocals for the first time on this album. The guitar part is very well balanced in this song, and also has a good keyboard part thanks to Jon Carin. Long Live Rock also has a nice blues feel to it. Some weak lyrics on this song, but aside from that, another good song. (I don’t think this was on an album.)

Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
An alright track. Pete and Roger both collaborated to write this song. This song has a call and response, which was common in early Who songs. As you may tell, this was from an early show, so it is a bit worn. There is a lot of feedback in this song, and has some messy lyrics. Not the Who’s best song.

Young Man Blues
A nice change of pace, Young Man Blues is different then every song on this album so far. From the start of this track, you can tell it is going to be a heavy blues song. The Who recorded this at the famous Live At Leeds concert. This was originally supposed to be on their first epic rock opera Tommy, but they cut it out. The bass and guitar both go well together in this song, as both Pete and John have good parts. Roger’s vocals are very loud and powerful as well. You can see why The Who are one of the best live bands ever from the way they perform this song.

My Wife
This is a great live version of My Wife, written by John Entwistle. John sounds great as he sings lead on this song. The bass line is probably the hook on this song, as well as the great guitar part that Townshend dishes out. Another great aspect of this song is the drum part. This version of My Wife is definitely better than the studio version.

Baba O’Riley
Upon first note of this song, whether you have heard The Who or not, you will defiantly know this song, being that it is one of the most popular songs of all time. The highlight of this song is probably the great organ/keyboard part. John messes around with the bass part on this song, while Roger’s lyrics are very emotional and strong, which is probably the hook to this song The lyrics are another strong point of this song. The studio violin solo is a harmonica solo on here. A great version of Baba O’Riley.

A Quick One, While He’s Away
A Quick One was the first rock opera that Pete Townshend ever wrote. The story is about a girl who has not seen her lover for a year. When he finally comes home, he sees the girl with an engine driver named Ivor. This song is my favorite on the album, as it has many different parts, a great bass part, and catchy lyrics, which are all hooks on this song. The vocals are strong, as Pete and Roger each contribute, and there are a few great guitar riffs as well.

Tommy Can You Here Me?
This is an extended version of Tommy Can You Here Me?, because Daltrey says Tommy at the end of the song a few times. After he says after awhile, Townshend shouts hello. Aside from that, it’s basically the same.

Another one of my favorite who songs, this version of Sparks is from Woodstock. This is the only song on the album that doesn’t have Daltrey singing, and boy, do the instruments make up for him not singing, with a few crescendos and decrescendos. Even though its cut short at the beginning, they make up for the loss with some great riffs, and a few powerful drum fills. After awhile, the song gets really loud and rocking, and then quickly gets quieter and fades out. The song goes along smoothly and quickly, and is a must listen track.

Pinball Wizard
Another one of the most famous who songs. Pinball Wizard’s hook is with no doubt its guitar part. John shows us how good off a bass player with a powerful bass riff. The lyrics in this are unbelievable, and the singing by Daltrey is great. Just like My Generation, one of The Who’s best known songs.

See Me, Feel Me
See Me, Feel Me starts off a lot slower than the other tracks. This is one of the most underrated Who songs. See Me, Feel Me is their final track from Woodstock on this album, and probably the best and most beautiful. The bass part again sticks out, while the guitar part moves the song along. Even though the lyrics are repetitive, they are some of the best that Townshend ever wrote. A truly fabulous and moving song. It’s sad that people don’t appreciate the lyrics.

Join Together/Roadrunner/My Generation Blues
This is my least favorite track on the album. These combined songs are all blues, which is interesting to see, because Join Together and My Generation weren’t originally blues. Roadrunner is a cover that the band did. This song has a good bass part, and Roger does a great job with lyric, but this song just doesn’t do it for me.

Won’t get Fooled Again
Obviously, The Who saved the best for last on “The Kids Are Alright”, that being the enthralling Won’t Get Fooled Again. Even though this isn’t my favorite song on the album, it is certainly the most powerful song. The song starts with a ridiculous synth part, that everyone who listens to this song will have heard before. After the synth intro, everyone comes in, and the song really takes off from then on. This is the best bass part played by The Ox on this album, making a tough bass part sound so simple. Pete has a fantastic solo, and Roger’s vocals are more powerful and crisp on this track than on any other. The hook to this song has to be the synth, with a great intro, and an even better solo at the end of the song. Roger lets out one of those awesome yells towards the end of the song, and after a few more lines of lyrics, the song is over, ending this great soundtrack.

I think that The Who are one of the best live bands of all time, and this album backs my opinion up in the fullest. This album is excellent, and gets a 4.5/5. You have to hear this album to truly understand and appreciate The Who’s talent of performing live.

February 28, 2013 Posted by | The Who The Kids Are Alright | | Leave a comment

The Who – The Kids Are Alright (1979)


Like the film itself, the soundtrack to the Who’s Kids Are Alright documentary is frustrating even as it pleases, since it falls short of being definitive.

If the film was supposed to explain the excitement and history of the Who, tracing their evolution from mod superstars to arena rock gods, it somehow failed by just not quite gelling. Similarly, the soundtrack attempts to gather a bunch of live rarities, thereby capturing the band at the peak of their powers, but it falls a little bit short of the mark by hopping all over the place chronologically, adding a couple of studio cuts (including live-in-the-studio tracks), along the way.

So, you can view this as a missed opportunity or treasure what’s here — and, really, the latter is the preferred method of listening to this album, since there is a lot to treasure here. There’s the epochal performance of “My Generation” from the 1967 Smothers Brothers show, three performances from Woodstock, terrific television performances of “Magic Bus” and “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” a blistering “Young Man Blues,” and the definitive performance of “A Quick One, While He’s Away,” the version they played at the Rolling Stones’ Rock & Roll Circus — a performance so good that, according to legend, it’s the reason why the Stones shelved the show for 20 years, since the Who just left them in the dust (even if it’s not true, it sure sounds plausible, based on this performance).

Then, there are some really fine latter-day versions of “My Wife,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” along with a medley of “Join Together/Roadrunner/My Generation Blues” from 1975, that may not be era-defining, like those mentioned above, but they’re pretty damn great all the same (as is “Long Live Rock,” Townshend’s best Chuck Berry homage and one of the few songs to capture what rock was all about in the ’70s and beyond).

So, it’s a bit too haphazard to really be definitive, but the Who were always a bit haphazard, and if you love them, that’s something you love about them. And, in turn, it’s hard not to love this album, if you love them. (At the very least, you have to love the cover, which is not just the best portrait of the Who, it’s one of the iconic images of rock history.)

November 21, 2010 Posted by | The Who The Kids Are Alright | | Leave a comment