The Who - Who Are You (1978)

In many ways WHO ARE YOU is a continuation of the experiments with symphonic rock that started on QUADROPHENIA. The main differences are threefold: (1) By WHO ARE YOU, Keith Moon's drumming had lost virtually all its power; (2) Pete Towshend's heavy guitar sound is now less prominent than in the past (he still does lots of experiments with synths); and (3) John Entwistle contributed one of his least distinguished compositions to WHO ARE YOU: "905".

Perhaps the most striking development is Roger Daltrey's growth as lead singer. Love him or loathe him (detractors complain Daltrey "tried to turn barking into art") but the old geezer who could barely hold a tune in the mid-1960s had by1978 become a highly expressive vocalist. Who else could have sung "Music must Change", Townshend's superb bluesy ode to changing Rock, with such energy and conviction? Another of Daltrey's star performances is "Guitar and Pen", which has been criticised in some quarters for being too close to Gilbert & Sullivan-style light opera. I've always thought "Guitar and Pen" was an exciting development for the Who: Townshend's electric guitar arrangements are first-rate, and in many ways it's a truly progressive track, which expands the vocabulary of orthodox rock 'n' roll.

Many of the songs on WHO ARE YOU (for example, the blistering opening number, "New Song") are concerned with the validity of writing the same familiar music again and again. In the late seventies Towsnhend must have felt threatened by the British punks - even though the Who were huge in the USA. The questioning title track also suggests he was suffering from a (tragically early) midlife crisis. In spite of this, and in spite of Moon's sad decline, tracks like the sardonic "Sister Disco" (with its flashy synth arpeggios) show the Who had lost none of their capacity to surprise and delight - at least not yet.

In summing up, you might say WHO ARE YOU aspires to the same grandeur as QUADROPHENIA but only reaches the same heights occasionally. I haven't heard ENDLESS WIRE, and (unlike most Who fans) I have a sneaking regard for IT'S HARD, but I wouldn't be surprised if WHO ARE YOU really was the Who's last (near-)great studio album. - Review by fuxi

Track Listings

1. New Song (4:14)
2. Had Enough (4:27)
3. 905 (4:02)
4. Sister Disco (4:23)
5. Music Must Change (4:39)
6. Trick Of The Light (4:45)
7. Guitar And Pen (5:56)
8. Love Is Coming Down (4:04)
9. Who Are You (6:16)

Total Time 42:51

Bonus tracks on 1996 remaster:
10. No Road Romance (5:10)
11. Empty Glass (demo version) (6:23)
12. Guitar And Pen (Olympic '78 remix) (5:58)
13. Love Is Coming Down (Work in Progress mix) (4:06)
14. Who Are You (lost verse mix) (6:18)

- Roger Daltrey / vocals
- Pete Townshend / guitar, piano, synthesizer, vocals
- John Entwistle / bass guitar, synthesizer, vocals, horns
- Keith Moon / drums, percussion
- Andy Fairweather-Low (guest) / backing vocals
- Rod Argent (guest) / synthesizer, piano
- Ted Astley (guest) / string arrangements

Releases information

Remastered by Polydor in 1996 with 5 bonus tracks


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