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Wire And Glass - The Who

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Genre: Rock - Classic Rock / Artist: The Who / EP / Audio CD released 2006-07-24 at Polydor

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      07.02.2009 23:20
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      Solid Return to Form

      Formed in 1964, The Who have undoubtedly been an influential musical force over the decades. Due to a combination of songwriting skills and destructive on-stage antics, the band from Shepherd's Bush have embedded themselves deep into the annuls of pop culture. I was lucky enough to see them perform a few years back - although it was a far cry from the original line-up which included the exuberant Keith Moon (d.1978 - sedative overdose) and John 'The Ox' Entwistle who passed away on the eve of The Who's 2002 US tour after a cocaine-fuelled night with a stripper in Las Vegas.

      Nevertheless, the performance I saw was excellent, with the exotically named Pino Palladino taking over the bass duties, and Zak Starkey (Ringo's son) drumming on the night. It was in the same year (2005) that the Who released 'Wire & Glass' - a mini-opera consisting of six songs. The short recording functions as a taster for 2006's 'Endless Wire' - their first studio album in 23 years. As well as original members Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, Wire & Glass utilses Peter Huntington on drums, the multi-tasking John "Rabbit" Bundrick playing keyboards, organ, and 'mini guitar', and as I previously mentioned, Pino Palladino on bass.

      Opening with 'Sound Round' (1:22), the mini-album gets off to a rousing start. The track was originally written for the fantastic 'Who's Next' album (1971), but didn't make the cut, and has ended up here. The bass-line sounds like classic Who and Daltrey's gravely vocals still manage to hit the the high notes - unfortunately at only 1.22, it finishes just as it's getting interesting. 7/10

      'Pick Up the Peace' (1:28) also features an old-skool Who sound, although the chorus perhaps lets this one down. The pace is a little slower than the opening track, but still full of energy. The subtle organ layered over picked guitar creates an interesting and surprisingly contemporary sound. 6/10

      'Endless Wire' (1:51) is sung by Townsend in a bluesy style - however, it sounds like a voice he is deliberately putting on, rather than one he is comfortable with. Although by no means bad, this track is much slower than you would expect a Who song to be. The piano is the only thing that reminds me of the Who of old. 6/10

      'We Got A Hit' (1:18), tells the story (I assume) of when the Who first found fame - "We got rich and famous, papers at our door, we talked a lot o' crap, they just wanted more... we got a hit". In my opinion this is probably the best track of the six, and is certainly the most catchy. It reminds me of the classic 'Who are You' from '78 - although without the synth! 8/10

      'They Made My Dream Come True' (1:13) is another song featuring Townsend on lead vocals, but this time his voice seems a bit more natural and less forced. The track has a slow-paced acoustic feel, but at the same time utilises some Entwhistle-like quick fingered bass-work - this in combination with the decent chorus certainly makes this track a worthwhile listen. 7/10

      'Mirror Door' (4:16) - The final track is a bit of an epic - catchy lyrics, soaring vocals and fast strumming; unfortunately it's also a bit sycophantic - ending up with Daltrey listing a selection of iconic musicians - "Howlin' Wolf and Ol' Link Wray, Dave Van Ronk and Doris Day, Bobby Darin, Brownie McGee, Elvis, Buddy, and Eddie C". The chorus is well constructed, yet Daltrey's voice seems a little strained when he attempts to reach the high notes. 6/10
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      In conclusion, after the thoroughly average 'Old Red Wine', and 'Real Good Lookin' Boy' - the two 'new' songs which were released as part of The Who's 2004 best-of 'Then and Now' album, I was skeptical about the bands current songwriting abilities. However, after listening to Wire & Glass (subtitled 'six songs from a mini-opera) it was instantly obvious that Townshend and Daltrey are still perfectly capable of producing a creative and energetic contemporary rock sound.

      Although the focus of the Who's newer tracks no longer call for an uprising or revolution as seen in some their previous work, including the classic 'Baba 'O Riley' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' (both '71), we now see a passive and perhaps reflective tone from the aging rockers. That said, you can tell that the passion is still there, and both Townsend and Daltrey are loving their music. Although disjointed, this sampler is well worth a listen, and a perfect accompaniment to the full 'Endless Wire' album.
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      You can purchase Wire & Glass for £5.89 from Amazon, or (because the release is technically classed as a 'single') only £1.49 as a digital download from the iTunes store. Recommended.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Sound Round
      2 Pick Up The Peace
      3 Endless Wire
      4 We Got A Hit
      5 They Made My Dreams Come True
      6 Mirror Doo