Picks and Pans Review: Scoop
A musical montage, this warts-and-all collection ranks with the Beatles' White Album and Bob Dylan and the Band's Basement Tapes. It is, by turns, surprising, dull, nostalgic, silly, sad, wondrous, bitter and playful. It is also something of a chronicle of Pete's love affair with the recording process. Besides noodling with multitrack tape recorders on his own as chief composer for The Who, he has often made demonstration tapes of his songs for consideration by his compatriots. Since the band had a musical image to maintain and a commercial destiny to fulfill, much of his quirkier material fell by the wayside. Pete, now having effectively mothballed the group, has dipped into his personal tape archive to provide a sampling of his orphan compositions. In all there are 26 titles, adding up to 74 minutes of music. The tunes fall into four basic categories. First, there are cover versions of Who songs in solo Townshend performances—not necessarily better, but different from the group's recordings. His The Magic Bus is less hypnotic, for instance, while his Squeezebox is sleazier. Second, there are compositions rejected by The Who, including a dopey ditty called Things Have Changed, a stirring love song called Mary and a marvelous Keith Jarrett-ish piano piece left over from the Quadrophenia sessions. Third, there are a number of fresh, never-considered tunes on subjects as diverse as angling (Goin' Fishin') and reincarnation (You Came Back). And finally, there is a series of sonic experiments including a metallic-Motown-ish work called Politician and some synthesizer playing accurately labeled Initial Machine Experiments. The collection is unpretentious and meant, apparently, to recapture some of the innocence that has been lost in making popular music under constraints of commercialism and band compromise. This is the rock 'n' roll equivalent of a writer publishing his notebooks, and because Townshend is as talented as he is, it's a fascinating project.
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