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on 24 November 2006
I'm not a great judge of music after one listen. I did like it after just that, then I listened again and wavered, but after another listen it soon dawned that the album is magnificent.

Daltrey makes sure there is fire in his voice as if to say "we will somehow find the old spark" as he roars "We're not strong enough" in Mike Post Theme.

The album never goes off the boil and I like the shorter songs, a good plan for the MTV generation to have a good mix.

Inevitably, its impossible to replace the greatest ryhthm section I've ever heard, but the album is so enjoyable, there are other reasons to like it.

Love it.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2007
OK, I write this as a non-Who fan, and the true believers may rightly doff aside any criticisms I make, since I'm clearly outside the magic circle with this band. I mean, don't get me wrong, I've got Who's Next and I like that, most of it anyway. Live At Leeds is super. Plenty of other Who songs sound great. They kicked up a storm at Live Aid. Errm...

So, you see, I'm reviewing this album from the outside.

And what a frustrating, maddening album it is. On the plus side, it's an intelligent body of work. "Side One" (in old money) is a collection of songs, while "Side Two" is what Townsend calls a "mini-opera". This basically means its a collection of short ditties that sound like demos of longer songs, with an incomprehensible lyrical conceit running through them. I pretty much use my "skip" button for this lot - except for the sublime, elegaic "Tea & Theatre" at the end. The album wraps up with the extended versions of 'Endless Wire' and 'We Got A Hit', both pleasing pop/rock confections.

Also a plus: there's a real attempt by Townsend and Daltrey here to recapture some energy, some rawness, some sense of spontaneity. The swirling opening synths nod, self-referentially, to 'Baba O'Reilly' while Daltrey's not afraid to rasp and roar in a manner quite commendable for a 62-year-old. Some important topics are wrestled with, such as the hypocrisy of organised religion, the ubiquity of media-glamorised crime, the immortality that art confers, etc etc. Definitely to be filed under "intelligent art rock".

That's the plus. The minus is in the sheer, stupifying pretentiousness of the project. The liner notes would be a hysterical parody of beard-stroking rock maestro excess, if they weren't so dismally po-faced. After listing "Principle Musicians", then "Guest Musicians", Townsend devotes pages to himself under the subtitle "Everything Else". Not to be outdown, Daltrey appends a brief column of staggering vanity: he's "an actor, an interpreter, an alchemist who turns words into emotions". Gag! He socks it to Townsend though in a delightfully disingenuous put-down, with a little "well done Pete!" for the man who finally got round to writing, performing and producing most of this. Calm down, girls!

Of course, no one would damn a dog on mere liner notes, but they're symptomatic of this album's failings. While Townsend bats for high-concept, he's just not _deep_ enough to tackle most of these subjects. Well, frankly, Leonard Cohen excepted, not many people are. But Townsend has always come across sounding more like a Sixth Form Review act, consumed with a sense of being very grown-up because he's, like, satirising grown-up stuff, okay? It's embarrassingly juvenile in places. The insult "prat" hurled at a cardinal particularly jars, but hey: it rhymes with hat, after all!

Now, no one who's a fan of Townsend's output is going to be put off, at this late stage, by accusations that it's pretentious and juvenile. I mean Quadrophenia fergoodnessakes! What's always lifted Townsend's rather silly sloganeering disguised-as-lyrics to the status of rock epic has been the music itself.

And, musically, much of this album doesn't disappoint. 'Fragments' opens things out with a clear statement of intent, 'Purple Dress' ticks the acoustic-rock box, 'Mike Post Theme' stamps and thunders, 'Two Thousand Years' is a hold-your-Zippo-high festival pleaser while 'It's Not Enough' is as uplifting a stadium rocker as Townsend can write - which is to say, it's pretty much as good as that sort of thing gets. Nor does high concept conceit always wrestle a song to the floor: 'Black Widow's Eyes' is an unaffected and heartfelt ode to lost love, married to perfect power ballad contours, while 'You Stand By Me' is a suprisingly humble hymn to the band's perennially loyal fan base.

To say that much doesn't disappoint is to admit that some, alas, does. It is of course churlish to complain that Daltrey's lost his range. And it would be cruel to dredge up more hilarities from his liner notes (he compares himself to Olivier and Gielgud! No, really he does!). But Roger's vocals really don't cut it on some of this stuff. While his contemporaries like Robert Plant or even Neil Diamond are following Johnny Cash down the road of replacing high-octane yelping with a sort of grizzled tenderness, Daltrey seems to think that a bum note can be papered over by making it louder and raspier. Particularly, louder. In fact, he occasionally sounds like Grandpa Simpson, with a megaphone.

I'm struggling, then, with sometime-clownish ideas mishandled with sometime-clownish vocalising. And yet... and yet... it doesn't actually sound too bad. In fact, its very flaws can be part of its charm. The egotism and loftiness and shallow earnestness actually lend it an adolescent grandeur - two old coots rediscovering what it felt like to play the village hall.

I'll cheerfully admit, once again, I'm not a proper Who fan, someone for whom Daltrey's larynx is a national treasure and Townsend's music the soundtrack for a generation. But if, like me, you kinda liked The Who's old stuff, then you could do worse than checking this album out. It'll be time and money well spent and provide you with some food for thought - if not about religion and media and immortality etc, then certainly about what happens to rock gods who've turned sixty. And the liner notes are a hoot!
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on 16 July 2010
If you've never really been a follower of The Who, you could be forgiven for thinking this is just an opportunity for a pair of aging rockers to make a few more quid, when really they should be tucked up at home listening to The Archers with a mug of hot chocolate. How very wrong you would be!

I'd read many mixed reviews of this CD, some along the lines of the above, others really singing its praises. So, to avoid disappointment, I had settled for somewhere in between - average. I was so pleased to be proved wrong!

I have to say that this album was a pure pleasure from start to finish - from the Baba O'Riley-esque opening of Fragments, I knew it would be something very special and I really couldn't fault any of the tracks that followed. Mike Post Theme has to be added to the list of The Who's greatest songs, and I defy any fan not to fight back the tears when listening to Tea and Theatre!

I had expected to have to listen to the album several times before it grew on me, but everything just worked together so perfectly, it grabbed me right from the off.

It's maybe unfair to draw comparisons to the likes of Quadrophenia and Who's Next, as these classic albums were produced at the bands creative peak, but considering 24 years have passed since their last studio album, it really is something quite remarkable.

Strongly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 24 May 2007
Other reviewers have noted that this album misses Entwistle and Moon. That is true, however listen to some older Who material and they are rarely there in any great sense -"The Who by Numbers" for example. What has always set The Who apart is Townshend's songs and Daltrey's voice. Both are in surprisingly strong mode here.

It deserves a few listens to appreciate the strength of songs like "Tea and Theatre", which is possibly one of the most moving songs ever performed by the band, and "Mike Post Theme". The mini opera is full of catchy hooks -"We got a hit" and "Endless Wire" being the strongest.Lyrically Townsend is as adroit as ever, and if some of them such as "Black Widow's Eyes" verge on embarassing they are painfully honest. Others such as "Man in a Purple Dress" hit the nail on the head 100%.

An amazing renaissance from the most intelligent creative force British rock has ever seen
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on 12 April 2007
I heard this record 3 times and always omitted the acoustic tracks,i just wanted full on rock but this morning i woke up and immediately listened to this fine album thru my headphones..and it makes perfect sense! You have to listen to this record intimately thru a good set of headphones and then you will really appreciate the musicianship and great song writing.Drums and bass?!! very weak and lack conviction and passion,but then entwistle and moon are a hard act to match! Overall a beautiful,intelligent rock n roll record which kick's the ass of puny English bands like Razor light,snow patrol and cold play.
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on 18 November 2006
No other band was as dependant on all four band members as The Who. As another reviewer writes The Who were a band of four battling egos and two of them are missing. The missing two are of course Keith Moon on drums and John Entwhistle on bass - and it shows. This album's rhythm parts are plodding in comparison to The Who's works up to and including Quadrophenia.

I bought this album because the reviews I read said it was as good as anything post Quadrophenia and because a couple even said it was as good as Quadrophenia. Well it certainly isn't as good as that classic rock opera and there is no stand out track like 5.15. It is however better than anything they've done since Quadrophenia but then again that isn't difficult when you consider the band produced the execrable Face Dances.

Also this is an album of two parts. The first nine tracks sound like a Pete Townsend solo album which happens to be sung by Roger Daltrey. Not bad but certanly not worth the £9 the album cost me. The mini-opera Wire & Glass sounds like a Who demo awaiting an explosive rhythm section to lift it to glory. That rhythm section of course never happens.

So what of this curate's egg? In truth this is a Roger Daltrey / Pete Townsend album and they should have had the courage to issue it under their names rather than under that of The Who. I have played it a few times but it utterly fails to excite. In another review I have said most albums are merely slightly amusing distractions and truth be told that is what this album is. Buy it if you like The Who but don't exepct it to be The Who.
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on 17 November 2006
Positives: Superb, highly memorable songs throughout, easily wiping out the competition, and showing once again that Pete Townshend is still the greatest songwriter in popular music.

Negatives: Obvious lack of Moon's and Entwitle's power and innovation. Daltrey's voice is showing slight signs of wear. Insufficient development of one or two song ideas leads a "demo" type feel on some parts of the album.

Conclusion: The sheer quality of the songs overcomes most of the negatives. After 4 or 5 listens, many of those songs will stay with you for a long time.
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on 12 July 2008
The reason the Who aren't quite the same as maybe they once were is, quite simply because two of them are dead. This, not suprisingly would illicit some kind of change to any band, never mind the Who. Every character in the Who was a 'one off',so physically the Who of old are gone, but as long as Townshend and Daltrey feel the desire and enjoyment in carrying on, the Who are alive in spirit .I've seen them over the last few years on a number of occassions and haven't been dissappointed. Roger has struggled,from time to time, but Pete is reborn. His energy and aggression are mesmorising and a joy to watch. i didn't watch Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey play the Who's greatest hits, i saw the Who.
The album was bought with fear in my heart, but i wasn't dissappointed. There's some great bits in there and the more you listen the bits join up to form a bloody good whole
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on 10 November 2012
When this album was first released, there was so much understandable hype & publicity, that it kind of put me off it for along time. But listening to it now after a gap of several years, I have to admit to quite liking the record.
The album is split into two sections, the first & more successful is a traditional selection of songs, with no underlining theme connecting them. The highlights being "A Man in a Purple Dress" concerning all the sex abuse within the church, & "Two thousands years", about waiting for JC's returns. Interestingly, a lot of the songs have a more acoustic feel to them, which give the tracks a nice delicate feel.
Then you have "Wire&Glass" ,a concept piece about the evils of the music industry (that's a subject never broached before).
There are some good songs on this part of the album, such as "We got a Hit", & "Tea & Theatre" (which The Who used to close their concerts). But I feel that they should have made a regular album upon their return, then followed with the high concept after gaining a bit of confidence.
Perhaps the reason for listening to the record so infrequently, is that The Who have released so many iconic albums, it just a bit of a effort to put "endless wire" on the turntable. Which is a shame, as it a solid record.
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on 12 November 2006
The first studio album for decades and also the first without both John and Keith, and for me that's whats missing. This is without doubt a Who album, combining aspects of Tommy, Who's Next and Quadrophenia, but the bass and drums are just not what they would have been.

The Who were always about four huge egos, all vying to be the loudest, the most outrageous, and without John and Keith this is just slightly too tame.

However, it makes a real change from the endless Greatest Hits re-issues and is well worth a listen.
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