It’s been another busy week here. I got the final master version of the album early in the week. Yesterday, I finished photography for the album with JA Caldwell. I’m really happy with the way the sessions turned out.
Now, Kayt Hester will work on a second piece for the album cover art–a portrait.
Then I’ll work with a graphic designer on the album artwork…and send it off to the manufacturer to make it all tangible.
It seems like I’ve been on the verge of completion for a while now…but there are so many pieces to fit together. I’m feeling really grateful that it’s all coming together that way it is. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some really talented musicians and artists.
You’ll see what I mean soon enough. I have to keep stopping myself from just sending out links to let you listen. I’m that excited and proud.
The Who – Who’s Next (1971)
The last time I listened to The Who was early in the year for Tommy (96). I found that double-album difficult, interesting, but ultimately not a match for me.
Both of this week’s episodes are featured in episodes of Classic Albums–and so I watched them both. For The Who, I am struck by how different Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey are. Pete definitely seems like the artist and brains behind the whole operation. I loved watching him pogo around the stage, whipping his guitar hither, thither, and yon. But Roger is an undeniable front man–all power and mic cable swinging bravado. When Pete sings, there’s an emotionalism that Roger overshoots. Yin and yang.
Turns out this album, their follow-up to Tommy, was originally planned as another concept Rock Opera type piece called “Life House”. The conceptual phase never seemed to gel, so Pete Townshend had to scrap his ambitious plans. Some of the songs were retained, and plugged into a more traditional album format.
Without that conceptual layer, I found this album much more accessible, and successful, than Tommy. Many of the songs are now classics–Baba O’Riley, Bargain, Behind Blue Eyes, and Won’t Get Fooled Again.
They included one song from bassist John Entwistle–My Wife. To my ears, this is the one misstep of the album. It sounds like a Paul McCartney knock-off. It’s not a bad song. It’s just not on the level of the balance of the album–all written by Pete Townshend.
Also, showing different layers of the band: the biggest surprise cut on this record is Going Mobile. Complete with it’s “beep beep” and lyrics like “I don’t care about pollution, I’m an air conditioned gypsy…that’s my solution” — this song shouldn’t work. But its energy is contagious. The message still seems relevant, conjuring up the “Tiny House Movement”–that I’m still somewhat fascinated by. I definitely romanticize the idea of pairing down, hitching my tiny house to the back of a pick-up (both of which I don’t own), and going mobile.
U2 – The Joshua Tree (1987)
This is also our second look at U2, having last listened to them with Achtung Baby (63). I had never listened to any of their earlier records prior to this week.
I did not have high hopes.
I watched the Classic Albums episode for this record too. It seems U2 was in the midst of their own identity crisis after the success of their tour for The Unforgettable Fire. Meeting Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, they realized how little they knew about the roots of American rock.
So they took some time and educated themselves.
Watching that gave me some interesting context. Perhaps it also opened me up to listening to this album with fresh ears.
The first four tracks make up the strongest album opening I’ve heard in a long while–if ever. These songs were ubiquitous when they came out, so it’s hard to imagine that they were birthed at the same time. They’re perfect. Timeless. Universal.
Then it falls off a bit for me for the next 5 songs. They’re fine songs, but don’t speak to me in the same way.
Things get interesting again with the Patti Smith-like Exit. It’s mixed/mastered quieter than the preceding songs, so you have to really turn it up to hear it…perhaps to infect you with its darkness.
From that dark space comes the beautifully haunting Mothers Of The Disappeared. It’s a beautiful soundscape, with Bono’s falsetto oohs and The Edge’s spare descending melodic lines and the uncredited wonderfully lazy operatic vibrato that comes in around 3:39. I love it.
I’m not sure if I can say that I’m now a fan of The Who–but I definitely want to learn more about, and hear more from, Pete Townshend. I’m eyeing his memoir and biography “Who I Am”.
The Joshua Tree is a great album–really makes me rethink where I file U2 internally. The album opens really strongly, loosens for a while, then finishes very strongly. Perhaps on additional listening I will find more to love about those middle cuts.
026: Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
025: James Brown – Live at the Apollo (1963)
Want to listen ahead, or see some posts you may have missed? Check out the full list of the 100 Greatest Albums here.