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More of a Smooth Mix - just don't expect The Who!
on 20 May 2013
The story behind this album is that Ronnie was having trouble persuading record companies to allow him to release a solo album. He turned to Pete and asked him to produce it in the hope that the album might be picked up if it had the words "Produced by Pete Townshend" on it. Pete refused as Ronnie was a friend and he did not want a "producer - performer" relationship to get in the way of their friendship. He suggested they record the album as a Townshend-Lane effort instead.
As others have said, it's half PT songs and half RL songs. As a fan of both performers this appealed to me from the start. I think it was the late John Entwistle who once compared The Who to a large spaceship and the individual members to smaller shuttle craft. The smaller craft could explore territories that were off-limits to the large craft, and so it is with this album. Pete's contributions include Street In The City, which has orchestral arrangements from his then father-in-law Edwin Astley. Another of Pete's songs, Misunderstood, contains timbales (tight metallic sounding drums) which, to the best of my knowledge, have never been used by The Who! Some Who fans might be disappointed at how un-Who like Pete's contributions are, but I am pleased by them - and there isn't a single one that I can imagine Roger singing, so a solo album was the only place for them.
Ronnie's contributions are similar to other stuff in his solo back catalogue (and rest assured, that's praise not criticism). Nowhere To Run, Annie, and April Fool all rank alongside his better-known songs How Come and The Poacher. Catmelody is a weak link but still enjoyable.
One thing that initially delighted me about the deluxe package is the booklet that contains the lyrics. As much as I like Ronnie's singing, it can be difficult to understand the words at times and I was hoping to put that right. Unfortunately, the lyrics seem to have been transposed by a listener who had no more idea than I have as to what Ronnie was singing: for over 30 years I've heard a line in Nowhere To Run as "Ghost of old sailor long since been dead". This line has been transposed as "Don't starve old sailor long since been dead". I think the lyrics I've been hearing for 30+ years make more sense!
My main reason for deducting a star is that I do not believe this package merits the description "deluxe edition". Most of the deluxe editions in my collection contain a whole second CD of music which is up to the same standard as the original disc. To put on three extra tracks, throw in a booklet, and call it a deluxe edition strikes me as being at best a little cheeky.
To finish with the three extra tracks I've just touched on, two are songs by Ronnie and the other an instrumental by Pete. Suffice to say these tracks are every bit as good as the tracks that made it on to the original album. Catmelody remains Ronnie's weakest track on the disc! (My opinion)