PETE TOWNSHEND – ” Who Came First  ” Released in October 1972

Posted: February 15, 2018 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Pete Townshend’s first solo album will mark its 45th anniversary by returning to stores with a second disc of bonus material that includes previously unreleased tracks. the pending plans to reissue Townshend’s “Who Came First” LP. Originally released in October 1972, the album marked the Who guitarist and songwriter’s official solo debut, and collected an assortment of recordings that included demos for the band’s aborted Lifehouse project.

According to the label, the 45th anniversary Who Came First reissue, which is scheduled for an April 13th arrival, will add “eight previously unreleased tracks, new edits, alternative versions and live performances,” as well as restored and expanded packaging that includes new liner notes from Townshend, the poster included in the original release and a 24-page booklet containing rare photos from the period that produced the album.

The track listing hasn’t been made available for this edition, but as fans are likely well aware, this isn’t the first time Who Came First has been given the reissue treatment. Rykodisc brought the album to CD with bonus tracks in the early ’90s, and it was subsequently expanded further in 2006, after Universal took over the catalog. Between those two editions, nine extra cuts have already been added to the original track listing, so if nothing else, it should be interesting to see what else has been unearthed for this latest expansion.

This 1972 album gets off to a cracking start with a superb song which fans of The Who will know well – Pure and Easy . While I really like The Who’s dynamic version I prefer this because it sounds more personal, more precise, more…at peace with itself. Yes. For this is indeed a great album and something of a personal and spiritual odyssey for Townshend. The Who’s main composer is in reflective mood here, heavily influenced by the spiritual leader Meher Baba. If you are expecting trademark power chords you’ve come to the wrong album, this is a quiet set of songs compared to his band at their exuberant best. It is something of a tour de force as Townshend sings and plays all the instruments, recording his songs in his home studio. No surprise then that acoustic guitar is very much in evidence and some songs have an almost folky/country feel – one thing that is unmistakeable is the catchy tunes and singalong hooks that Pete seems to produce with ease. If you want an insight into the creative processes and intuitive craft of a classic songwriter this intimate album is probably a good place to start. Townsend’s voice gives more sensitive treatment of his own lyrics compared to Daltrey’s mighty lungs.

It would seem churlish to go through the album track by track, this is one collection which is meant to be heard as a whole and very much proves that the sum is greater etc. Special mentions though for the beautiful Evolution and Heartache, the addictive Sheraton Gibson and a song which again would be recorded by The Who, Let’s See Action. The bonus tracks on this deluxe edition are all worthwhile although none are essential.

The instrumental His Hands starts like the quiet beginning of Pinball Wizard but you’ll wait in vain for those power chords. Another version of a Who song “The Seeker” seems appropriate in some ways but is also ill at ease in the company of the other songs. The Who version you will remember is a classic song of despair and fruitless searching. Somehow, in context, the lyrics “I won’t get to get what I’m after till the day I die” take on a different meaning. Among the other songs, Mary Jane is perhaps not just about a girl (!)and is a wry song (of the same ilk as Pictures Of Lily, Dogs or Tattoo but not as good) and Begin The Beguine is not a cover you would expect from this guitarist. Sleeping Dog is a touching love song to Baba, while The Love Man could conceivably have made a good Who album track, I Always Say is a McCartneyish blues number and the piano is very much to the fore in instrumental Lantern Cabin.

Meanwhile, his contributions to the new Who Came First booklet notwithstanding, Townshend is in the midst of a quiet spell. As he announced late last year, he’s enjoying a yearlong sabbatical following his marriage to longtime partner Rachel Fuller.

A ’60s-era rock star finding spirituality in an Indian mystic and adopting the teaching philosophy of said mystic is almost a stereotype. However, Townshend has never wavered in his admiration of Meher Baba (The Baba in ‘Baba O’Riley’). While Townshend’s drug use was at odds with Baba’s views, he never tossed out his beliefs throughout the decades. Indeed, his more overtly religious songs were usually tempered with narratives that involved child abuse and salvation (‘Tommy’), Mod culture (‘Quadrophenia’), or an early version of the Internet as connecting people to more authentic experiences (‘Lifehouse’ and ‘Psychoderelict’). However, one song members of the Who were most likely never exposed to during band meetings was ‘Parvardigar’ — a prayer Baba asked his devotees to say every day. Townshend set the prayer to music, and the result is this rather heartfelt and beautiful song.


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