The Who -
Roger Daltry - Vocals
John Entwistle - Bass Guitar, Synthesizer, Vocals
Keith Moon - Drums, Percussion
Pete Townshend - Guitar, Piano, Synthesizer, Vocals
It had been three years since The Who realeased their last album, and the amount of tours they were doing were dwindling each year. Keith Moon, rock 'n roll madman, had lived such a rock 'n roll lifestyle that it was taking a toll on him: mentally, physically, and even in his playing. However, one more album had to be made, and it was made.
This album was very different than other Who material (described during the song by song breakdown). It is also the last Who album that has Keith Moon behind the drumset. Around the time of the album's release, Moon died by an overdose of drugs that would help in cope with his alchoholism. In yet another irony, on the album cover of Who Are You, Moon is sitting on a chair that reads "Not to be taken away."
This is Moon's farewell album, yet he doesn't shine anywhere near like he used to, until the final track where he gives it his all. However, in this CD issue, there are numerous bonus tracks that follow the title song, which on the original vinyl release was the last song.
This song reminds me of a 70s TV show theme song at some parts. Synthesizers dominate the track, and even though Entwistle does lay a nifty bass track, the guitar and drum work seems mediocre compared to regular Who standards. A good song to open the album, considering what the rest of the album is like. The half-time sections are highlights of this sub-par tune.
Even though it maintains the 70s synthesizer feel of New Song, this song has more of The Who feel to it. It feels more intense, has better playing by Moon, but still seems cheezy and dated. The middle section between verses again feels like a TV show theme song, probably reinforced by the strings.
Finally there's some synthesizer action that sounds cool. An Entwistle tune, this song completly overshadows its predescors, and has a cool rock 'n roll feel lacking in the previous two songs. ven though its more simplistic instrumentally, the overall feel just makes me bob my head constantly. The vocals (which sound like Entwistle's) are better then what Daltry has provided thus far on the album.
The Who + Disco = Somewhat okay, but should never be done. Even though its still better then many other songs of the era, it just isn't good material in comparison to past albums. Synthesizers and strings completly dominate this tune over Who instrumentation. The bass and drums feel flat in this song, but Daltry does provide some good vocal work.
Music Must Change
A cool bluesy groove is established at the beginning, reinforced by some smooth vocals. Synthesizers don't come in for quite some time, and don't distract. Despite not being as powerful as earlier songs on this album, its an overall decent tune.
Trick of the Light
Probably the most out of place song on the album, and that's a good thing. Trick of the Light is easily the best song on the album, and I believe one of the greatest Who songs of all time. Its driving, energetic, has awesome guitar, drum, bass, and vocal work, and features Entwistle playing a distorted 8 string bass that provides the sweet riff that appears throughout the song. Odd how the two best songs on the album are Entwistle's compositions.
Guitar and Pen
A very smooth melodic introduction transfers into an upbeat verse. For once Townshend does some guitar work that actually stands out. Not as much synthesizer as in other songs; the instrumentation is emphasized more on piano and guitar. Even though the beginning seems sub-par to me, as well as the chorus, the rest of the song is actually pretty decent.
Love is Coming Down
I believe that complex string orchestration and The Who shouldn't really mix. The intro and verse has good chord changes and outstanding Daltry vocals, but the strings distract me from the rest of the song.
Who Are You
The title track of this mediocre album is in no way medicore. You might have heard this song on Gateway commercials about 5 years ago, or as the theme song for the original CSI. Finally Townshend has done something right on this album, and I believe this is one of the better Who songs in their entire discography. Its well composed, has multiple, differing sections, good balance of synthesizer and guitar work, and one of the best Moon drum tracks of all time. Great vocal work by all 3 singers, but my only beef is that Entwistle doesn't shine as much as he should on a song of this calibre. But otherwise great song.
No Road Romance
A ballad emphasizing on piano and what I think are Townshend's vocals. Not typical Who material, but decent nevertheless. Virtually non-existant drums, some kinda cool bass slides, but no special contributions from the other members. In fact, I just read the booklet, and its pretty much a Townshend demo with his overdubs.
This is another Townshend demo (later recorded for his solo albums) with overdubs by Moon and Entwistle. Townshend's vocals are pretty weak on this song, and other than the bass guitar work throughout, including the harmonics in the intro, this is another weak song.
Guitar and Pen (alternate mix)
Practically the same song as before, but with much more prominent guitar work. Sometimes the guitar seems to be overbearing on the vocals, but I think that the added boost in the guitar track makes this mix a better version.
Love is Coming Down (early mix)
A cut made early in the mixing process. Slight differences here and there, but nothing of substantial difference to the rest of the song.
Who Are You (different 2nd verse)
The same exact song with a different 2nd verse. Frankly it doesn't make a difference to me, so I won't rate this version.
OVERALL: Who Are You has not aged well. Even the older mod era Who of the mid 60s sounds more modern than most the material on this record. For a fan of that 70s disco, synthesizer-laced sound, this is probably the best record you can have in your collection. For your typical classic rock fan, you might not get into it at all, but at least there are some rocking songs on here that would suit your tastes. A definite album for any avid Who fan, but you should probably pick up their earlier albums first before you invest your money in this. If you want to get into The Who, this is not a good gateway album.
Some really rocking tracks (Trick of the Light, Who Are You, 905)
Entwistle really shines as a composer
Very different sound, not regurgetated Who material
The bonus track demos are weak
Very dated sound
Almost over-produced with strings, horns, and synthesizers
Moon's performance is very substandard throughout (with the exception of the title track)