Face Dances was the first Who studio album recorded without drummer Keith Moon. He would die in September of 1978 following the release of Who Are You. Former Faces drummer, Kenny Jones was picked as his replacement. Moon was a difficult musician to replace. His unique, frenetic, and all out assault on the drums was an integral part of The Who sound and persona. Jones was a better than average drummer, but he was not Keith Moon in talent and certainly not in style.
The group’s sound had been undergoing a change. They were now slicker and a little more pop sounding. Face Dances would be an uneven work with some highs and lows. It was not the equal of such releases as Who’s Next, Tommy, and much of their early work but would still prove listenable.
I believe that Kenny Jones has received a lot of unfair criticism for the limitations of this work. He was not in charge of the musical vision. Townshend, Entwistle, and Daltrey were all involved in individual projects which may have distracted from the overall quality of this release. Townshend would issue the solo albums Empty Glass in 1980 and All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes in 1982. Daltrey would be involved in his McVicar film and soundtrack project in 1980. John Entwistle would release a solo album, Too Late The Hero in 1981. It is amazing that the three Who stalwarts were able to even produce an album in 1981 given the fact that much of their energy and focus was elsewhere.
“You Better You Bet” is a great song lost on an often ignored album. It has a catchy chorus and a wonderful combination of 12 string guitar, keyboards and vocals. It was a deserved hit single for the group.
John Entwistle contributes “The Quiet One” and “You.” Both are above average rock songs and have a slightly rawer sound than the rest of the tracks. They show what a competent songwriter he had become.
“How Can You Do It Alone” has a great melody that saves it from the lyrics. “Another Tricky Day” is an average track tucked in at the end of the original release, yet it would shine when played live. The other four tracks are average. There is nothing terrible about them, but they do not have the energy and memorability usually associated with the group.
In the final analysis Face Dances is not one of the stronger albums in The Who catalog. Still there are a few gems to be mined. It is a great group producing an average album.