Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Pete Townshend/Ronnie Lane [extended]

  • Who Came First [Track, 1972] A-
  • Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance [A&M, 1975] B+
  • Mahoney's Last Stand [Atco, 1976] B-
  • Rough Mix [MCA, 1977] A-
  • Empty Glass [Atco, 1980] B-
  • All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes [Atco, 1982] D+
  • Psychoderelict [Atlantic, 1993] Dud
  • Psychoderelict (Music Only) [Atlantic, 1993] C+

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

Peter Townshend: Who Came First [Track, 1972]
Townshend sounds as relaxed in this rather folkish Meher Baba tribute cum "gynormouse ego trip" as Paul McCartney in his do-it-yourself studio, and a lot less self-absorbed--other musical gurumongers sound "Content" (title of worst song here), but Pete seems happy, too. So much so that some of this music is a little lightweight--expressing the kind of undiscriminating joy in the everyday one might expect from somebody who considers "You always were, you always are, and you always will be" both a profound sentiment and a snappy way to finish off a concept album. But I'm encouraged that Ronnie Lane (singer-songwriter on "Evolution") offers a drink (alcohol, get it?) to the Master and his Truth. And in the end the homely sweetness and frailty of his music prevails. A-

Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance: Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance [A&M, 1975]
Whether moved by the propinquity of their own folk tradition or by some general attraction to the eccentric, English rockers are at ease with a sprightly sloppiness that is usually left to folkies in the U.S.--they know it's rarely enough to be "tight." On this solo debut Lane takes the Faces--not the Faces themselves, but their hang-loose playfulness--into the English countryside with saxophone, tambourines, an accordion, and a choir of communards. Whether undergoing his own reincarnation on "Stone" or coming on randy and rude in "Ain't No Lady," he sounds sweet and independent; he covers Fats Domino and Chuck Berry and "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." Luverly. B+

Ron Wood & Ronnie Lane: Mahoney's Last Stand [Atco, 1976]
Better moaning bottlenecks than singing strings, but soundtrack music is soundtrack music even when the movie remains invisible, and we all have access to more meaningful background noise. B-

Rough Mix [MCA, 1977]
Meher Baba inspired psalmody so plain and sharply observed, maybe he was all reet after all. Three of Townshend's contributions--"Keep Me Turning," "Misunderstood," and an unlikely song of adoration called "My Baby Gives It Away"--are his keenest in years, and while Lane's evocations of the passing scene are more poignant on his Island import, One for the Road, "Annie" is a suitably modest folk classic. Together, the two disciples prove that charity needn't be sentimental, detachment cold, nor peace boring. Selah. A-

Peter Townshend: Empty Glass [Atco, 1980]
Townshend has said the only reason this isn't a Who record is that it wasn't time for a Who record, which must be his oblique way of apologizing for not being able to sing like Roger Daltrey. On his earlier solo excursions, the casually reflective mood suited his light timbre. Here he's coming to terms with love, frustration, punk, and other subjects that overtax his capacity for urgency and anger (and understanding). Who fans find the gap between aspiration and achievement touching, even thematic. Nonbelievers find it whiny. And they hate those ostinatos. B-

Pete Townshend: All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes [Atco, 1982]
What intelligence must have gone into this album! What craft! What personal suffering! What tax-deductible business expenditure! In 1982, at 37, Townshend has somehow managed to conceive, record, and release a confessional song suite the pretentiousness of which could barely be imagined by an acid-damaged Bard drama major. That is, it's pretentious at an unprecedented level of difficulty--you have to pay years of dues before you can twist such long words into such unlikely rhymes and images and marshal arrangements of such intricate meaninglessness. A stupendous achievement. D+

Pete Townshend: Psychoderelict [Atlantic, 1993] Dud

Pete Townshend: Psychoderelict (Music Only) [Atlantic, 1993]
Shorn of the voice-overs and bad dialogue designed to make the "dramatic" version as explicit as multileveled self-referentiality can be, what I'd dreamed might be his sparest, strongest, sweetest set of songs in years turns out to have needed all the camouflage it could get. It's long been evident that what turned Tornshend on about pop art was the art rather than the pop--he didn't want to drag opera down to rock's level, he wanted to raise rock to opera's. In practice, this means he has a fatal weakness for long synth intros. After the jagged surprises of the lead "English Boy," there are far fewer intelligent moments than a guy this intelligent out to keep in his back pocket. If he's so damn worried about the postinformation age, it's because he's in the information business and is afread of getting left behind. And he damn well should be. C+