It’s Hard was released in 1982. At the time few people would have guessed it would be the Who’s last studio album for almost a quarter of a century. By the time of 2006’s Endless Wire, the band would be down to two original members as John Entwistle would pass away during 2002.
Roger Daltrey would dislike It’s Hard while Pete Townshend would speak highly of it. Similarly, reviews of the album at the time of its release would range from poor to very good. I find the quality to be similar to that of 1981’s Face Dances, in that there are a few high points and some ordinary material. As such it ranks in the bottom part of The Who catalogue of releases but is still listenable every once in awhile.
The musicianship and Roger Daltrey’s vocals are of normal Who standards. It is the quality of many of the songs that drag the album down. Pete Townshend was involved with his own solo projects and may have been using some of his leftovers for this release. Again there is nothing bad but only a few tracks break away from the ordinary.
“Athena” was originally Townshend’s ode to actress Theresa Russell. When the feelings were not returned the song was presented in its present form. It became a top thirty hit in the United States and is a catchy rock tune.
“Eminence Front” was a story about partying to avoid problems. Sung by Townshend, it was the closest to a classic Who song that the album would contain.
John Entwistle contributed three compositions. “It’s Your Turn” was an interesting and well written tune about not aging gracefully and not passing the torch on to the next generation. “Dangerous” would be one the least interesting tracks of his career. Interestingly, Roger Daltrey would provide the lead vocal for both songs. “One At A Time” has some of the better lyrics that he would create.
While some other songs would not be brilliant, bits and pieces of them would be positive. “I’ve Known No War” and “Cooks County” are social commentaries by Townshend. “Cry If You Want” was better than much of what was being issued in the early 1980s. However such songs as “One Life’s Enough,” “A Man Is A Man” and the title track are just forgettable.
In the final analysis, It’s Hard is probably only for hard core fans of the group. Many albums in the Who’s catalogue contain some of the best rock ‘n’ roll in the history of music and completely over shadow this release. Still, from a historical perspective, this can provide an interesting if not essential listening experience.