Entwistle's writing style is completely different from Pete Townshend's, as everyone probably knows, but The Who were the perfect vehicle for Townshend's writing, and this vehicle includes Entwistle's bass playing.
This "Anthology" is a choice mix of the five solo efforts he released between 1971 and 1981. Here, one gets to observe how his writing style and tastes in music have changed over those years. The set opens with "My Size," a heavy metal crunch, with his unique perspective about various things as seen from a spider's point of view. The listener is treated to several early efforts with a variety of styles, from the hard rock (circa 1971) of "My Size," to the ethereal "What Are We Doing Here?," the vocal overdubs showing what perfect pitch he had at the time, a talent that gradually faded over time, as some of The Who's later live work and Entwistle's post 1980 solo material shows. But you get tastes of the five major works by him in the 70's, and the meticulous treatment he gave his own music in this time.
There is some very beautiful sounding stuff here. The overall sound of tracks like "Apron Strings" sound compressed, by accident or design, but it gives it a special feel. And, "Apron Strings" features a guitar solo by Peter Frampton, possibly the most beautiful sounding solo I've heard in a very long time.
Of course, there is a very dark humor in a lot of the material, some would say morbid, as in "Roller Skate Kate," a song about a woman being killed in an accident, skating into a truck loaded with ball bearings. "Peg Leg Peggy" features people who look like circus freaks, and so on. The wit is very esoteric in spots, as in "Drowning," a sweet sounding song about writing a sweet sounding song, a love ballad, and avoiding the old, trite phrases like "I love you," and "I need you," but by citing those phrases, he is using them as the premise says he was avoiding. "Made in Japan" is a racy song about everything being made in Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. Racy, because in the last verse, the protagonist finds out his new wife is made in Japan as well; the logo is on a part of the body not normally seen by people, unless you are with her in your Honeymoon Suite.
"Dancin' Master" is Entwistle's parody of late 70's disco, featuring an incredible instrumental break, played mostly on an 8-string bass, double tracked, and at times sounding like TV's "Seinfeld" theme music. It continues with a duet between him and Joe Walsh, Pete Townshend's favorite guitarist.
Of course, the standout track is "Too Late The Hero," the title track of his 1981 effort. This is one of those numbers that just gets better with every listen. Heavy keyboard arrangements, tympani, eloquent lyrics, probably Entwistle's most eloquent, and a slow fadeout, drifting into infinity. This track is chill inducing. But, this effect is belied by the final track, a joke recording of "Red Red Robin." If nothing else, it's funny. Technically terrible, but very enjoyable.
This is an ideal disc for the seasoned fan and the newbie alike. New mixes will jolt the person already familiar, and if you aren't familiar, this WILL make you a new fan. It's that good.