Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Who 19: Join Together

The vehicle chosen to promote Pete’s new album overshadowed it completely: a full-blown Who reunion tour, where the three surviving original members were augmented by an additional guitarist, stalwart keyboardist Rabbit, and a drummer, percussionist, horn section and backup singers handpicked by Pete. Naturally, it was A Big Deal, which in turn sparked a variety of tie-ins, including a pay-per-view show, radio broadcasts and an inflated live three-record/two-CD set. All featured a complete performance of Tommy—1989 being the twentieth anniversary and all—performed by the 15-piece ensemble.
To its credit, Join Together does include the song of the same name, though we had to check twice to make sure. What’s even more baffling is what was included. Tommy is faithfully reproduced, thankfully without the star turns from the pay-per-view, in mostly the order they played in 1970, with the addition of “Cousin Kevin” to give John two songs, and “Eyesight To The Blind” in the rejigged movie arrangement. It all fits neatly on the first CD, as if they planned it that way.
The second disc is the real head-scratcher. Pete dominates the first handful of tunes, from “Eminence Front” through “Face The Face”. Roger sings “Dig” from The Iron Man, and a sterile “I Can See For Miles” demonstrates why they rarely played it onstage. “A Little Is Enough” and “Rough Boys” are the best Who songs from his first solo album, while “Trick Of The Light” is a left-field showcase for John. Everything is faithfully reproduced, and the sound is admittedly better than that of Who’s Last, but it’s still an album worth playing exactly once.
By the time Join Together appeared in stores, the monetary nature of the tour was all too clear, and nobody was clamoring for a full-fledged reunion involving a new album and subsequent shows. If anything, the best reminder of what they once meant came with the release of their Monterey Pop set, buried within a 4-CD box released in 1992 on Rhino. It’s a good snapshot of a fair-to-middling yet historic performance, right on the verge of their exposure to the US. Still, that half-hour or so of music created before Tommy is more exciting than a 2-CD box designed to spotlight it.

The Who Join Together (1990)—2

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