Top positive review
10 people found this helpful
One of my favourite Who albums
on 17 May 2010
I have all the Who's studio albums, plus various best ofs, live albums and compilations, and it is my considered opinion that "Who Are You" is the Who's most underrated album. When I first got it, it seemed closest to "Who's Next" (probably The Who's greatest album, for me anyway). The songs have the same muscular rock sound with big climactic choruses, and the synthesizer is quite prominently used.
There are 3 John Entwhistle compositions on "Who Are You", an unusually large proportion. The liner notes include a quote from Entwhistle complaining that the main problem with the Who was that he didn't get to sing enough of his compositions on their albums. The main problem for Entwhistle, maybe, but good for the rest of us. The Who's popularity was based on Daltrey singing Townshend compositions. If people wanted to hear Entwhistle singing his own compositions, his solo albums would have sold better than they did. So the Entwhistle tracks are among the weaker on this album, especially the very heavy and very turgid "Trick of the Light". The best of them is "Had Enough", sung by Daltrey.
The excellence of the album is, in my view, in the Townshend songs. The opener "New Song" is a full-on rocker, with provocative lyrics: "I sing the same old song with a few new lines, and everybody wants to cheer it." It could come across as a "me fans are stupid pigs"(Simpsons reference)-type rant, but Daltrey doesn't do cynicism or irony, so the mixture of Townshend's thoughtful and acerbic lyrics with the full-throated gusto of Daltrey's singing makes for an excellent hard-rocking opener.
The theme of musical creativity is prevalent throughout the album. "Music Must Change" is another exceptionally insightful, searching and honest lyric from Townshend and a powerful performance from the band. "Guitar and Pen" details the frustrations and ecstasies of the creative process, with changes in tempo and dynamic mirroring the moods of the composer.
The bonus tracks include alternate versions of three album tracks, including the title track with a completely different second verse. There's also two other songs from the sessions not on the original album: "No Road Romance", which is fairly forgettable, and "Empty Glass", with Pete on vocals, an excellent song, Townshend at his angriest, which is always good. It was to become the title track of Townshend's second solo album.
"Who's Next" aside, this is possibly the Who album I return to most often. It's generally one of their less-admired works, but the songwriting is high quality, with the harder edges that disappeared from their next album "Face Dances", and that brought the best out of Daltrey's voice. Overall, a very good listen.