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[Off The Record]
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Pete Townshend & Raphael Rudd

Here’s a bouquet for Townshend fans: live recordings from a pair of acoustic duo performances from 1979 and ’80, when Pete was in peak form, before he broke his strumming hand in a bicycle accident. He teamed with then-19-year-old piano and harp prodigy Raphael Rudd for these by-invitation shows that were played for his guru Meher Baba’s Oceanic group at Townshend’s Eel Pie studios. And his solo renditions of "The Seeker" and "Bargain" rival anything on the Secret Policeman’s Ball and Scoop recordings: his singing is clean and nuanced in his light-falsetto head voice, and the guitar chords blaze, authoritative and quirky in their rhythmic command.

If it wasn’t obvious before that this material, from "Let My Love Open the Door," which he’d soon record for his solo debut Empty Glass, to the furious and delicate wish "Drowned," is spiritual, this stripped-down context puts the focus on Townshend’s lyrics. Rudd’s contributions are primarily solo instrumentals that presage new-age music or else colorful textural canvases behind Townshend’s voice and guitar. The pair also collaborate on a few instrumental arrangements that concentrate on beauty and spareness. The disc concludes with "O’Parvardigar," which Townshend describes as a universal prayer. It’s quite lovely, and like this entire concert it offers insight into a major source of inspiration for one of the rock era’s greatest songwriters.


Issue Date: December 13 - 20, 2001

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