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Townshend, Pete - 1989 Iron Man Musical



ARTIST: Townshend, Pete
ALBUM: Iron Man Musical
LABEL: Atlantic
SERIAL: 81996-1
YEAR: 1989
CD REISSUE: 2006, SPV (Germany), SPV 97722 CD

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

LINEUP: Pete Townshend - vocals, guitars, keyboards * John Lee Hooker, Nina Simone, Deborah Conway, Roger Daltrey, Chyna, Nicola Emmanuel - vocals * Simon Phillips, Charlie Morgan - drums * John Entwistle, Chucho Merchan - bass * John Bundrick - piano * Billy Nicholls - vocal music director

TRACK LISTING: 01 I Won't Run Anymore * 02 Over The Top * 03 Man Machines * 04 Dig * 05 A Friend Is A Friend * 06 I Eat Heavy Metal * 07 All Shall Be Well * 08 Was There Life * 09 Fast Food * 10 A Fool Says.. * 11 Fire * 12 New Life/Reprise

WEBLINKS: www.thewho.com


Background
When I think of musicals my mind goes to a dark place of watching Sunday Matinee on televisions, with the likes of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. This feeling also stretches to many of the Tim Rice/Lloyd Webber (get well soon), which have never appealed to me, maybe a bit ignorance on my part. So here we find the first (?) musical to appear in Glory Daze so it seems that when a musician has achieved such high levels as Pete Townshend, what do they do? They write a musical based on a children's book, similar to a lesser extent what Brian May did with his 'Star Fleet Project'. This is based on the original story by Ted Hughes, although it wasn't until years later in 1993 a stage version was performed at the 'Young Vic' in London, which seemed to have a successful run.


The Songs
Pete opens the show with 'I Won't Run Any More', (a reference to the Wolverhampton Wanderers back 4 maybe?) while having a textbook Who guitar sound, Pete has really taken a 'musical' sound straight to the heart of these recordings. Very nice 'pop' song with some swirling keyboards locked down at the back. It does have slight memories to Ian Moss, (Cold Chisel) from his 'Matchbox' days. 'Over The Top' includes the first of John Lee Hooker on vocals and provides a better performance than that can be found later in the album on 'I Eat Heavy Metal'. It has a fine melodic chorus, mixing Dire Straits guitar plucking and JLH also sounding mighty close to Mark Knopfler. The chorus is similarly lined on the same axis of Meatloaf's, 'Modern Girl'. Next we have the first performance by The Who with 'Dig'. I do find the backing vocals really get quite annoying and suspiciously close to the Disney 'The Lion King' trilogy of films. This gratefully tails off during the mid section as the song picks up some much needed pace. It's OK, but I doubt it will find a place on any collection of Who classics. Although 'A Friend Is A Friend' is a catchy tune and with some excellent verses leading up to the chorus making it a pretty individual track. This was the actual single release and I can see why. A possible likeness to Paul McCartney, Mike and the Mechanics, which is characterized by the poppy melodies. This does lose a couple of marks with the school children on back up vocals; please tell me when does that ever work on any song? As I signposted earlier, 'I Eat Heavy Metal' sees the return of John Lee Hooker. Itself it's not a good one, but if you put it into the context of the story and the role of the Iron Man character it begins to work. Of course with a title like that you would have expected it come across as a Spinal Tap or Steel Panther tune.

'All Shall Be Well' has the benefit of the introduction of Deborah Conway and Chyna on vocals. It has the image of an Eddie Schwartz song, with Pat Benatar on vocals (obvious partnership really). It combines to give us the most AOR inspired tune on offer, it gets the heart beating. With 'Was There Life', Pete provides his best Bobby Caldwell impression. This being a piano based song it does have potential and threatens every now and then to take hold but gives in to easily. Although it does have some nice violins. The track that lacks the most is 'Fast Food', featuring Nina Simone (surely another first in Glory Daze?), well yes, a pretty irritating song and one you are most likely to fast forward. Exit stage left. As the curtain begins to fall we come to the final three, 'A Fool Says' is a short ballad, with Pete and his acoustic guitar backed by some 'musical' harmony vocals which are beginning to get a bit over powering. Essentially though another good performance by Mr T. With 'Fire' we find the second partnership offering by The Who, and it's a cover of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown hit, interesting?, well the boys have never been frightened to try the odd cover song, for instance a couple of Rolling Stones tracks. Actually they have put enough trademarks to actually make it work and improve on the original. However I do have this niggling tapping in the back of my head, which says it's more of an outtake of the 'Rocky Horror Picture Show' than any connection to The Iron Man. We finally finish with 'New Life/Reprise' and again it has strains of Jim Steinman/Meatloaf. Fine display by Nicola Emmanuel to provide an upbeat ending, with some nice keyboards. It does have a Christian rock/pop feel especially in Townshend vocal delivery. Anyway the Iron Man saves Australia from the Dragon (which can't be a bad thing?) and we all live happily ever after.


In Summary
I can count the number of books that I read growing up on one hand, other than 'Tom's Midnight Garden' and 'The Outsiders', this one written by Ted Hughes is the third. Here the main parts of the book are included between the song lyrics which does help in following the story and linking the songs together. Whether you have read the book or not, it doesn't alter the fact that this is really a good set of credible and interesting songs, that actually flow pretty well as a whole. While Pete spent most of his recording career to strive to complete his 'Lifehouse' project, Iron Man must have seemed easier in comparison with the story already written. Again, lots of enthusiasm here displayed by Pete, like he would do anything in half measures! Like many offshoots of The Who, being Roger's solo career and Entwistle 'The Rock', here is another worth well investigating.


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Comments
#1 | dangerzone on December 12 2009 04:34:19
Like so many of Townshends solo albums this is dire. Maybe not as horrific as 'Psychoderelict' but pretty average.
#2 | Eric on December 17 2009 00:07:27
I thought 'Empty Glass' was a fine album.
 
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