PETE TOWNSHEND -- Coolwalkingsmoothtalkingstraightsmokingfirestoking: The Best of Pete Townshend (Atlantic)

Atlantic has just released a new Pete Townshend compilation called (from this point on) "Coolwalking..". As the principal songwriter for The Who, and also as a solo artist, Townshend has written more than his share of great music. Though the band hasn't produced any new material (besides the track recorded forthe Two Rooms tribute CD) in over a decade, Townshend continues to write vital and compelling music on his own. Coolwalking.. covers Pete's entire solo career from his 1972 album, Who Came First, through 1993's excellent (and highly underrated) Psychoderelict.

Rather than running in chronological order, Coolwalking.. starts off with what is probably Pete's most popular solo tune, "Rough Boys". As far as songs to start off a CD, you can't do much better than this. The original version of "Let My Love Open the Door" follows, with the Ronnie Lane collaboration, "Misunderstood" (the song featuring the CD's title in the lyrics), right behind. From there, you go into one of the best tracks from the White City album, "Give Blood". With its horn arrangement & David Gilmour's guitar work, this song was a highlight on the live Deep End shows from the mid-80's.

Also included on Coolwalking.. are two tracks from 1982's introspective All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes album - "The Sea Refuses No River", and a new version of "Slit Skirts", with a different ending. The CD also features a Psychoderelict outtake called "Uneasy Street" (which sounds a lot like "Don't Try to Make Me Real"), plus a great new version of "Let My Love Open the Door". The new arrangement has an atmospheric, almost ambient feel to it. It's an interesting change to what was originally just a pop song.

While it's great having album tracks like "Sheraton Gibson" & Townshend's solo version of "Pure and Easy" included on the CD, any Pete fan is sure to find some glaring omissions. Where are tracks like "Second Hand Love", or Pete's killer version of "After the Fire" (a song originally given to Roger Daltrey for his Under a Raging Moon album), or any of the other live Deep End tracks? Instead we get "Face the Face" and "Street in the City". If they wanted to include more from the Rough Mix album, why not use "My Baby Gives it Away" or "Heart to Hang On To"? Both of these are better songs than "Street in the City". The MTV hit, "Face Dances - Part Two" is missing too. Not to mention the exquisite "Now and Then", or any of the other great tracks from Psychoderelict.

It's true, there's a lot of material that didn't make it to the CD. However, considering the fact that this is only one CD and not two, Coolwalking.. is an excellent representation of Townshend's solo work.

© 1996 Steve Marshall