Odds & Sods
Released: October 1974
Chart Peak: #15
Weeks Charted: 15
Certified Gold: 12/9/74
Odds & Sods is a carefully and consciously-contrived collation, assembled, remixed, and rescued from oblivion by John Entwistle with revelatory liner notes by Pete Townshend. For Who fanatics and rock lovers in general (not that there should, by rights, be any distinction between the two), no matter what qualms may arise about what's here and what isn't (and there's plenty left unissued...), Odds & Sods is nothing short of a dream come true.
The Who's Next-era (and beyond) tracks are very strong, qualitatively equal to that fine album itself. "Put the Money Down" has echoes of "Bargain" and "Sweet Little Sixteen," a raucous rocker. "Too Much of Anything" is extremely pretty, and "Long Live Rock" is one of the very best "self-conscious hymns to the last fifteen years" (as Townshend puts it), especially now when half the songs with rock & roll in their titles bear no resemblance whatsoever. It's a colorful raver with strong 50's over/undertones and a real heart-tugger of a bridge. "Pure and Easy" was the standout track on Townshend's solo album, and it's nice to have a Who version, though the differences are not dramatic.
The remaining four tracks, dating from 1968 or earlier, are my favorites, though. "I'm the Face," the legendary, fabulously rare High Numbers single, turns out to be a variation on the old Slim Harpo/Warren Smith number. "Got Love if You Want it," with great Mod lyrics and a solid '64-style performance. "Faith in Something Bigger," religious lyrics aside, is a lovely tune, as close as the Who have ever come to a Spector-style ballad.
"Little Billy," a rejected lung cancer commercial long cherished in memory from the 1968 stage act, sounds like "Odorono" but is far superior, epitomizing that marvelous combination of feathery vocal/melody line and frenetic guitar/bass/drums undercarriage which the Who employed so well in the two years between "I'm a Boy" and "Dogs." "Glow Girl," once scheduled to follow up "I Can See for Miles" as a single, captures that '66-'68 Who essence even better. Only the Stones ever rivaled the Who in the capability for creating the hardest rock and the most delicate melodies, and only the Who successfully combined the two. "Glow Girl," a typically outre tale of air disaster and reincarnation, is a pure delight, with a plane-crash break that challenges "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere" in feedback ferocity.
Perhaps the Who should consider releasing an Odds & Sods-type album as an annual event -- it would make the wait between new albums a lot easier to take and would free some of the most fascinating vault material in existence. The Who have become much more conscientious about their loose ends recently, so, why not get our hopes up?
- Ken Barnes, Phonograph Record, 11/74.
Odds & Sods, the new Who album, collects 11 outtakes, most of them cut between 1968 and 1972. It is an uneven lot. "Put the Money Down" finds vocalist Roger Daltrey at the nadir of an erratic career, while John Entwistle's "Postcard," like several other tracks, will hold more interest for curiosity seekers than music lovers.
But the fumbling is almost as illuminating as the flashes of inspiration dotting this album. Far from exploiting a random set of discards, Odds & Sods gives the listener a fascinating glimpse of one of our best bands, caught in the process of forging a style. While Odds & Sods affords fresh evidence of the Who's durability as rock stylists, it also vividly reveals the elements behind that style -- its limitations as well as its scope.
Peter Townshend, the band's composer and guiding light, appears here not as the grand architect but as the ingenious artisan. He deals in cliches, but they are his own cliches, so deftly assembled that they've become a bold musical signature. Townshend's stylistic units function best in brief doses or in formats where he can move quickly from theme to theme. "Glow Girl" on this album and "Rael" on The Who Sell Out sustain their momentum, whereas Townshend's longer works -- Tommy, Quadrophenia -- occasionally falter.
Most of Townshend's songs are structured chromatically. By modulating stock riffs and progressions, he creates harmonic variety yet preserves rock basics. In fact, Townshend's genius lies in creating memorable pop from familiar elements: He has opened up the process of rock composition without significantly altering its ingredients.
Although the Who, as performers, present a patchwork of contradictions, their identity and playing are central to the successful realization of Townshend's ideas. Daltrey shouts as much as he sings, but his unlikely presence -- he seems an unblemished but worldly orphan -- helps temper Townshend's ideas. Daltrey shouts as much as he sings, but his unlikely presence -- helps temper Townshend's piety. Similarly, Keith Moon's zaniness and Entwistle's stoic humor both extend Townshend's own sense of irony and help counter his occasional pretentiousness. There is a naturalness and taste of reality about this flawed but inviolable quartet of musicians.
The group's slashing guitar chords, explosive drum fills and anarchic breaks all add up to a classic rock style. Although Townshend has been its principal designer, it is a style that belongs to the group collectively, as Odds & Sods proves once again. Without Moon's kinetic percussion, Daltrey's vocal posturing or Entwistle's bristling bass, Townshend's songs tend to drag.
Townshend's solo version of "Pure and Easy" (on Who Came First) flounders in awkward sentiment ("as men try to realize the simple secret of the note in us all"). But the version on Odds & Sods is by contrast a minor masterpiece. Uncluttered and blunt, the band's arrangement catalyzes the track, while Roger Daltrey's labored vocal belies the sanctimony of the lyric. In the song's penultimate section, Keith Moon brilliantly builds tension until the band explodes beneath the "note in us all" line. Townshend follows with a shuddering guitar solo and "Pure and Easy," once a yawning ode to the karmic chord, becomes instead its invocation -- and you don't need to hear the words to know it.
What all this suggests -- and it should come as no surprise -- is that the Who's forte is rock, straight and (relatively) simple. On one level Townshend understands this and can even celebrate the fact, as witness Odds & Sods's bravura closer, "Long Live Rock."
But on another plane, Townshend aspires to something grander. He would like to import transcendental themes into pop; on occasion, he seems to fancy the Who "meta-popsters," theoraticians as well as practitioners of rock. These ambitions have prompted works like last year's "opera," Quadrophenia.
Odds & Sods provides a standpoint for reassessing that landmark. Ironically, the new album accomplishes de facto what Quadrophenia strained for -- a portrait of rock as a privileged but insular form of life, destined to perish with youth.
Quadrophenia employed musical motifs and an elaborate dramatic superstructure to make its point. The plot was interesting, almost epic; but the music, a seamless mélange of repetitious themes, lacked the focus imposed by more modest forms.
Odds & Sods has no plot and boasts no premeditated motifs. Instead, its hodge-podge of tracks, thoughtfully paced and annotated, presents pop music raw, the rough edges intact. Rather than fictionalizing the process, Odds & Sods simple documents the metamorphosis of Britain's quintessential mid-Sixties rock band.
We follow the Who from the cutting wit of "Little Billy" (an antismoking commercial that was never aired) to the earnest professions of "Naked Eye" ("There's only one who can really move us all"). We hear the apostles of absurdity become gurus to a fading counterculture and we hear rock grow old gracefully. Without pretense and despite an abundance of lapses, Odds & Sods confirms the greatness of the Who.
- Jim Miller, Rolling Stone, 12/5/74.
Being a rock-and-roll fan is (or used to be, anyway) a bit like belonging to a fraternity, and to this day no musicians know this better, or are more aware of the responsibilities it entails, than Pete Townshend and the Who. The band remains, for example, practically the last remaining believer in the throw-away B-side -- almost every Who single in recent memory has featured a flip that has not achieved LP status -- and there is no nicer gesture you can make to your fans than giving them this little something extra for their money. Furthermore, the various widely bootlegged unreleased Who tracks that many of us have been getting off on for years are rumored to have been leaked to the bootleggers by the band members themselves. (Townshend, in particular, is fascinated by the bootleg phenomenon, to the point that his jacket design for Live at Leeds was consciously styled to look like one.
Odds and Sods, the Who's superb new album, is a collection of things the group has had in the can from various periods, but it should by no means be implied that they were never released because they were deemed to be of insufficient quality. "Little Billy," for example, a wonderful song in the Sell Out mold, was written as an anti-smoking commercial for the American Cancer Society, and it was that august group's myopia, not the band's, that kept it from seeing the light of day. Townshend is simply incredibly prolific, and he'll scrap whole albums if he feels that they're not up to snuff conceptually, even though he's well aware that the individual tracks are spectacular.
At any rate, hard-core Who freaks will have a field day with this package, since to my knowledge only four of the songs have already appeared illegally, and one of them only in a live version. For the rest of the audience, considerations like that are of course irrelevant, as Odds and Sods is top-flight rock-and-roll throughout; it hangs together even more satisfyingly -- dare I say it -- than Quadrophenia. One of the tunes in particular, "Naked Eye," is (for me anyway) as good as anything he's ever done, with its plaintive shared Daltrey-Townshend vocals, soaring guitars, and impeccable backing from the rest of the boys. As an extra bonus, they've even included "I'm a Face," their hilarious 1964 flop debut release from the days when they were calling themselves the High Numbers.
The album may well start a trend -- Mick Jagger is said to be working up an LP's worth of Stones stuff from their early years, and God only knows how much killer Beatles material remains mouldering in the EMI vaults. But don't let what may seem like a museum approach deter you for a moment. Odds and Sods may have been programmed with Who fans in mind, but the music is most emphatically for everyone.
- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 12/74.
Super-satisfying mid-vintage-period Who collection that raises question of how many other major acts have equally superb unreleased material locked in vaults. Songs & productions not dated in any way despite being several years old. Peter Townshend's outstanding inner notes credit bassist John Entwhistle with assembling LP while rest of Who was busy with "Tommy" film. Cuts are by no means out-takes, they were generally intended for grandiose multimedia projects that never came off. Sample the full Who performance of "Pure And Easy," which was first unveiled on Townshend solo LP. A delightful package. Best cuts: "Postcard," "Now I'm A Farmer," "Glow Girl."
- Billboard, 1974.
Although Peter Townshend's genius (well, for once that's what it is) glimmers through on every one of these leftovers, all that glimmers is not gold, which is why most of them have been in the can for between three and seven years. The great exception is "Little Billy," a cheerful, cruel smoking-is-dangerous-to-your-health song that the American Cancer Society chickened out on; it'd make a great public service ad on The Who Sell Out. There are also two pretty fair rock life songs -- and "Long Live Rock," a strained variation on that overworked theme. And to balance off the two pretty good devotional songs there's "Faith in Something Bigger," which could serve as Nashville filler. B
- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.
Odds is right -- a collection of outtakes and mistakes from the first eight years of the group's history, all of it listenable and half of it indispensable. "Long Live Rock" (which later turned up on the Quadrophenia soundtrack album) was the best song, but most of the rest is worth a listen. * * *
- Bruce Eder, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.
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