Saturday, January 17, 2009

Roger Daltrey 4: McVicar

By the end of the ‘70s, the Who expanded further into the film industry to shore up any finances lost via touring or lack thereof. Having already enjoyed a piece of The Kids Are Alright and getting kudos for the adaptation of Quadrophenia, another pet project served to provide Roger Daltrey with both a dramatic lead role and a new haircut. McVicar was based on the memoirs of a British career criminal who managed to overcome incarceration, recapture, and parole to rejoin society as a journalist. (Considering Roger’s hardscrabble upbringing, he must have felt born for the role.)
Naturally, despite the non-musical content of the film, a soundtrack album would be mutually beneficial. As ever, Roger relied on songwriters both established, like Russ Ballard, and new, like Steve Swindells. And while the liner notes are vague, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Kenney Jones and Rabbit Bundrick are among the all-star musicians, so listeners can imagine it’s a Who album.
The opening “Bitter And Twisted” is a tough rocker with some smart couplets (“a psychopath never takes a bath,” indeed) balanced immediately by the lonesome sentiments of “Just A Dream Away”. There’s some odd but purely coincidental foreshadowing in “White City Lights”, which is merely another ballad. Despite the disco thump, “Free Me” has all the power chords and horn blasts of a solid Who song, and enough to make it to radio.
“My Time Is Gonna Come” is fairly boneheaded, with a four-note range, and more than a little robotic, wearing out its welcome in no time. “Waiting For A Friend” has an easy, country-influenced swagger to it for a nice change of pace. Sweet without being saccharine, “Without Your Love” would be familiar to diehards as a Meher Baba hymn penned by Pete’s buddy Billy Nicholls, as originally included on the obscure With Love tribute LP, mandolins and all. To Roger’s credit, he does a fine job with it. The title track is the most overt reference to the film’s plot, but it’s strong enough to stand alone without it.
As a rockin’ Daltrey album it works, but because McVicar is a soundtrack, each side is interrupted by instrumentals credited to Jeff Wayne, of the musical War Of The Worlds fame. Both “Escape Part One” and “Escape Part Two” sound like any number of ‘80s crime thriller soundtracks, with a flute that owes more than a debt to Ian Anderson. Beyond that, the half-hour of Roger music is surprisingly fresh.

Roger Daltrey McVicar—Original Soundtrack Recording (1980)—3

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