Roger Daltrey "As Long As I Have You" (Republic Records)
This cover image released by Republic Records shows "As Long As I Have You," by Roger Daltrey. (Republic Records via AP)
It may seem paradoxical to begin a review of a Roger Daltrey album by mentioning Pete Townshend, but The Who vocalist himself credits his bandmate for encouragement in getting "As Long As I Have You" finished.
"I'd lost confidence in it, due to a long break recovering from meningitis," Daltrey says in a touching liner note on his first solo record since 1992.
Daltrey has embodied many characters on record, stage and screen—pinball wizard Tommy and real-life reformed criminal John McVicar among them—but he's not the kind of singer whose personality gets lost in the song. Instead, his credibility and authenticity as a vocalist make the tunes his own no matter who wrote them.
Townshend's also plays acoustic guitar and a few electrifying solos on seven of the 11 songs on the album, an exquisitely chosen selection of tunes by Stephen Stills, Parliament, Stevie Wonder, Nick Cave, K.T. Oslin by way of Dusty Springfield and Boz Scaggs, among others.
Daltrey tips his cap to his band and youth by covering a pair of tracks The Who played when they were starting out—the dynamic title song and a Joe Tex ballad, "The Love You Save."
Both Stills' "How Far" (from the first Manassas album) and Parliament's "Get On Out of the Rain" (aka "Come In Out of the Rain") could be The Who circa 1972, Daltrey singing with gusto and Townshend's guitar lines providing real lift. Oslin's soulful "Where Is a Man to Go" and Cave's "Into My Arms" are also great.
The end of the album brings a rarity: Daltrey originals. The tender "Certified Rose," with Stax-like horns, is dedicated to his daughter, while thoughtful closer "Always Heading Home" attains added poignancy in light of his brush with mortality.
Daltrey says he's ready for another Who album and this record and his 2014 collaboration with Wilko Johnson show he's still in great form. It would be an amazing journey, Pete.