The Who are on tour right now, playing Quadraphonia in its entirety, so it’s a propitious moment for a tribute CD celebrating some of The Who’s greatest songs. Who Are You – An All-Star Tribute To The Who brings together stars from classic rock, punk, progressive rock, and country to celebrate the group and their sound.
The results are uneven. The first two songs, “Eminence Front” and “Baba O’Riley,” simply fell a bit flat for this reviewer. “Eminence Front” featured musicians from Asia, Dream Theater, and Judas Priest. It was not a particularly good pairing. Neither were Nektar and Jerry Goodman of Mahavishnu Orchestra on “Baba O’Riley.” It just missed the spark of the original.
After that, things get better. Mark Lindsay of Paul Revere and The Raiders and Wayne Kramer of MC5 do a good job on “I Can See For Miles,” as do The Raveonettes on “The Kids are Alright” and Sweet on “Won’t Be Fooled Again.” Iggy Pop’s “I Can’t Explain” was interesting, but I missed the harmonies.
Pat Travers sounds okay on “Behind Blue Eyes,” but the sound mix is strange and distracting. “Magic Bus,” with Ginger Baker of Cream, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits, and Peter Banks of Yes, also was enjoyable but again had rather strange production which took away from the quality.
“Pinball Wizard,” with members of Blues Image and Night Ranger, is not bad but does not have the punch of the original. The same is true of “Squeeze Box” with John Wesley of Porcupine Tree and David Cross from King Crimson.
The best songs on the CD to me are Gretchen Wilson and Randy Bachman’s take on “Who Are You,” which is powerful and very nearly as good as the original. The other standout songs are “Bargain” with 38 Special, Ted Turner of Wishbone Ash, and Ian Paice from Deep Purple, and “The Seeker” from Joe Lynn Turner of Rainbow and Leslie West.
All in all, it’s not bad but in the end nothing here reaches the dynamism and impact of the original recordings, even on the best performances.
The packaging offers very little information about how this recording came together or even where it was recorded. Even the official press release gives little background, which would have been interesting. In fact, only Amazon provided the information about which bands the artists were from who sang on the CD.
Buy this if you are curious, but be sure to get the original recordings, too. These are, after all, mere imitations which sometimes provide interesting results but can never match The Who’s own versions.