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The Who
THEN AND NOW: 1964-2004
Stars graphics

As a best-of collection, this is pretty serviceable, with "I Can’t Explain," "My Generation," "Magic Bus," "Love, Reign o’er Me," and other killer tunes from the supergroup’s canon. But what makes it notable is the first CD appearance of two new numbers by the current Who line-up of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey joined by drummer Zack Starkey, keyboardist John Bundrick, Simon Townshend producing and playing second guitar, and bassists Pino Palladino and Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s Greg Lake.

"A Real Good Looking Boy" is a rambling tribute of sorts to Elvis Presley, as well as to Townshend’s own childhood perception of his homeliness. It begins with Bundrick quoting the King’s "I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You" on piano. Daltrey brings grit to the ballad, and Townshend gives his trademark guitar chop to the choruses. By the time the tune twists to its end, an affirmation of individuality, it hasn’t covered much territory, but it certainly sounds like the Who. And that’s not bad. "Old Red Wine" is also a tribute, to the band’s late bassist John Entwistle, who was a wine collector. Coming out of the first verse, Townshend uses one of his trademark climbing modulations and the band catch their breath until he comes on stomping with his guitar. He and Daltrey then bring this rock-and-roll requiem home, with its ringing chords and heartfelt lyrics promising yet another toast among these three friends — and maybe Keith Moon, too — when they meet again in the great beyond. It’s proof that the current Who can still rock in the studio. Perhaps this year we’ll find out whether they’re able to do it for an entire album.


Issue Date: April 30 - May 6, 2004
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