Monday, November 24, 2008

Pete Townshend 2: Rough Mix

This exceptionally likable album is an underappreciated gem in the Who-related canon. Recorded between their last great album and Keith Moon’s last gasp, Rough Mix is a joint effort coming out of a favor from Pete for Ronnie Lane, and provides a pleasant distraction from the heavier subjects Pete had come to tackle. A lot of that influence came from Ronnie, who’d been indulging his gypsy musician longings since the demise of the Faces. Only two songs here appear to be true collaborations: the instrumental title track which serves as a base for a smoking Eric Clapton solo; and the closing cover of “Till The Rivers All Run Dry”, a tribute of sorts to Meher Baba, their personal guru. However, their individual contributions sit comfortably together, giving the proceedings the air of a pleasant afternoon pub conversation between friends.
Of Pete’s songs, the orchestrated “Street In The City” hasn’t aged well, but the rest rank with his best: the rocking “My Baby Gives It Away”, featuring Charlie Watts on drums; the searching “Keep Me Turning”; the self-deflating “Misunderstood”; and the sinewy “Heart To Hang Onto”, wherein he trades verses with Ronnie, giving the album a needed boost towards the end. Who fans will love Pete’s songs, of course, but for the newcomer, Ronnie’s tracks will be a nice surprise, from the jaunty “Nowhere To Run” and “Catmelody” to the sweet and pretty “Annie”.
Rough Mix is a minor yet pleasant album that consistently rewards future listens. Pete’s own affection for the album showed with the deluxe treatment it got upon its remastering in 2006, which includes a DVD layer with a mini-documentary, tons of photos from the sessions and a SACD audio mix of the tracks, complete with a full ending for “Annie” with jokey in-studio comments about the last chord. Of the bonus tracks, two are Ronnie’s and another, “Good Question”, is a full band version of the instrumental previously known as “Brrr”, which fanatics knew from Scoop.

Pete Townshend & Ronnie Lane Rough Mix (1977)—4
2006 DualDisc reissue: same as 1977, plus 3 extra tracks

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