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Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane - Rough Mix (LP)
 

Pete Townshend and Ronnie Lane - Rough Mix (LP)

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As a teenager I was a big Faces and Who fan so it was only natural that this album caught my attention.

This Lane-Townshend collaboration apparently had a troubled start. Perhaps urban legion, but the story is having left The Faces for a solo career, by the mid-1970s Lane was having increasing financial difficulties and he eventually asked Townshend for a loan. Townshend declined and Lane suggested that he produce Lane's next solo album. Townshend came up with a counter-offer, that lead to this collaboration.

Produced by Glyn Jones, 1977's "Rough Mix" found Lane and Townshend offering up a mix of solo and joint compositions with support from a truly amazing collection of friends including Eric Clapton and members of members of both The Faces and The Who. Pure speculation on my part, but I've always wondered if part of the set's charm stemmed from the fact it gave the two principals an opportunity to step away from their high powered, high pressured commercial careers and briefly return to making music for the fun of it ... Regardless, "Rough Mix" was one of those albums that critics fawned over (yeah the critics occasionally get it right), but entranced by punk aggression and energy, the buying public never really discovered. Who fans ensured it hit # 45 on the album charts, but I remember my base exchange literally having piles of this album on sale for 99 cents. Shame I didn't buy a couple of copies since I've literally worn out at least one copy of the album. So, as I've indicated, I love this album, but be warned that if you were looking for another Faces, or Who album, this wasn't the place to be looking. First off, remember that rather than being the rock and roll exponent, Lane was always the guy who brought the country and folk influences to The Faces' catalog and with the exception of 'Catmelody' those are the influences he brought to this project - lots of folk and softer numbers. As for Townshend, while there were a couple of Who-styled numbers here (check out 'Keep Me Turning' and the heavily orchestrated 'Street In the City' which sounded like an excerpt from another Who rock opera), for the most part he seemed more focused on exploring more personal, less commercial regions. So against that backdrop, you might not have expected a great deal

- One of five Townshend solo numbers, 'My Baby Gives It Away' was the album's most conventional rocker showcasing some of his most intriguing wordplay. Yeah, Townshend managed to build a reputation as one of rock's most serious guys, but this one demonstrated he had a sense of humor. If you had tapped the album for a single, this would have been a prime target. rating: **** stars
- So here's a perfect example where the beauty of a song manages to overpower technical limitations like a rough vocal ... Penned by Lane, 'Nowhere To Run ' was a mesmerizing acoustic folk tune. The tune was so strong you simply didn't notice Lane's raw and somewhat out-of-tune vocal. rating: **** stars
- The only Lane-Townshend collaboration on the LP, the instrumental title track was an enjoyable, but somewhat anonymous sounding bar band rocker with Rabbit Bundrick on keyboards and Eric Clapton providing he searing lead guitar. rating: *** stars
- With backing from Gallagher and Lyle, the acoustic ballad 'Annie' has always been one of my favorite performances. Strange since normally a folk-tinged number like this one wouldn't have done anything for me. In this case the simple Lane-penned melody was so pretty and Lane himself sounded so sincere and vulnerable, that it was hard not to be enchanted. Only complaint was that the song faded out too early. rating: ***** stars
- For some reason the mid tempo rocker 'Keep Me Turning' was the tune that struck me as sounding the most like a Who track. Guess that's why I like it so much ... oh, there was also a simply mesmerizing acoustic guitar solo. Supposedly inspired by Townshend's then-guru Meher Baba .., rating: *** stars- Lane's rocker 'Catmelody' sounded like The Faces trying to cover an Elvis Presley tune (can anyone say skiffle ...) Not the album's most original effort, but the song grew on you once you figured out Lane was actually having a good time. The song also had a great lead guitar solo. rating: *** stars
- My vote for the best Townshend composition, 'Misunderstood' was simultaneously catchy, funny, and insightful. rating: **** stars
- Another simple, but beautiful Lane-penned ballad , 'April Fool' was actually just as good as 'Annie'. Clapton provided the stunning dobro solo. No idea why Townshend chose to use his 'Bijou Drains' pseudonym on this one ... rating: ***** stars- As mentioned above, the heavily orchestrated 'Street In the City' sounded like an outtake from another Who rock opera. Melodically it wasn't particularly impressive, though Townshend's lyrics were at least entertaining. Ultimately to my ears it sounded way out of place on this collection, but lots of folks will disagree. Perhaps because it sounded so much like a Who song, MCA tapped it as a single. rating: ** stars
- Starting out as a pretty mid tempo ballad with Lane and Townsend trading versus, 'Heart To Hang Onto' gathered more and more energy as it rolled along, including some tasty John Enwistle horns. Another album highpoint. rating: **** stars
- The album's only cover tune, low-keyed and beautiful, 'Till the Rivers All Run Dry' was one of the set's prettiest performances with Clapton on lead dobro ... Supposedly this one was included because it was the Meher Baba's favorite song. Who knows if that was the inspiration,. Regardless, the results were stunning. rating: **** stars

As mentioned above, in the UK Polydor tapped the collection for a single. MCA didn't bother with a single for the US market.



- 1977's 'Street In the City' b/w 'Annie' (Polydor catalog number 2058 944)

So who would ever have though Lane would outshine the talented Pete Townshend ? Certainly not me, but that's clearly the outcome here.
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