Who says they don't make good albums anymore?
Bobby Bare, Jr.--A Storm, a Tree, My Mother's Head (Thirty Tigers): No reason to pity Bobby Bare, Jr. for having to dodge his famous father's shadow--he's extremely good at it as an artist in his own right. This is a record full of punch and surprise, with barely a trace of country music at all. In fact, the dark humor and superior dynamics throughout remind me of classic rock but without the hollow, crusty aftertaste of what you hear over and over on today's corporate radio. My early favorite on A Storm is "Swollen But Not the Same."
The Plimsouls--Live! Beg Borrow and Steal (Alive/Naturalsound): Recorded on Halloween night at the Whisky a Go Go in 1981, the band led by Peter Case is riveting, if not at the top of their game. It's a meaty balance of classic originals ("Shaky City," "A Milion Miles Away") and a rash of fab covers (Little Richard and Gary U.S. Bonds, where they're joined by the Fleshtones). Hooks, drive, melody--the band had it all. Worth the thirty year wait.
Bettye LaVette--Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook (Anti-): Is there a wiser,
tougher vocalist than Ms. LaVette? With the exception of a few dull choices (songs by Elton John and the Moody Blues), LaVette brings a new dimension and richness to every old warhorse she touches. "It Don't Come Easy" gets a swampy treatment while the covers of "All My Love" and "Salt of the Earth" are compelling indeed. Don't forget that LaVette recorded Free's "The Stealer" back in '72, so the triumph of Interpretations is hardly unexpected. This project may have been inspired by the live version of the Who's "Love Reign O'er Me," performed in December 2008 at the Kennedy Center Honors, which concludes Interpretations. If you were watching that telecast, you'll remember that three of the honorees, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend and Barbra Streisand, were sitting in the same row while LaVette delivered her staggering performance of the song. According to Townshend, Streisand turned to him and asked, "Did you really write that?"
Half of the Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey, turned in a spirited performance at Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show, and I'm sure that there will be some youngtimers griping that Rock is now officially dead, since Townshend is 64 years old and Daltrey 65. Meanwhile, corporate writers/bloggers are busy making snotty comments and tapping their keg of cliches to belch out "the Rock'n'Roll Nursing Home that comes to the Super Bowl every year" and all that.
The show was a better than decent presentation because I wasn't looking for them to breathe fire--were you? Not only did the camera work effortlessly shift back and forth between Townshend and Daltrey, giving viewers more than one focal point, but having their superb, young looking drummer (I read later that it was Zak Starkey, Ringo's son)
in many of the shots was a smart move. The songs still rank as some of the best ever, and still inspire generations other than mine. Young people dig classic rock, too.
Besides, I'm happy if this means that Steve Miller is seething, ready to motivate his lobbyists to garner the halftime show for him in 2011. I've read or heard Miller putting down the Who about their days of smashing their instruments on more than one occasion, as if it never dawned on him that they stopped destroying their equipment long ago. Oh yeah, and then going on to create The Who Sell Out, Who's Next and Quadrophenia, not to mention some impressive solo material.
In fact, that brief folk-rock fade over Keith Moon's rolling drums at the end of "Pinball Wizard" is more creative than all of Steve Miller's records put together. Nice job, Pete and Roger. Their next series of shows will include performing Quadrophenia
in its entirety to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Addendum: There are some nasty bloggers out there ripping the Who about this show. Of course they're not going to sound as if this were the '60s and '70s--none of the songs done on Sunday were slowed down or lowered in key, by the way. This was hardly "an embarrassment"--it sounded like passionate, quality Rock'n'Roll, warts and all.
If the NFL continues this trend of mega star, white male acts doing halftime at the Super Bowl, we're likely to get Corporation Eagles or Bon Jovi's lowest common denominator, sing-a-long swill next year. Or Steve Miller. That would be embarrassing.
So what tunes will The Who (Pete Townshend, Roger Daltrey and backup) be playing at Sunday's Super Bowl halftime show?
My request is that the band perform some of their great songs, not duds like "Squeeze Box." But if they insist, they really should have Janet Jackson or Justin Timberlake come out and play an accordion solo on that one.