Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey - Going Back Home

by Jeff Penczak Rating:10 Release Date:2014-04-08

When two legends get together to collaborate, the results are often groan-inducing, the good intentions ultimately buried in half-assed arrangements and phone-it-in performances. Be it due to fanboy adoration or magnanimous ego-stroking, the participants often spend too much time staying out of each other’s way and too little on the actual songs. Yet while this stellar set finds these two giants of rock trawling through Johnson’s back catalogue, their sincerity, mutual respect and admiration pours through each and every sweaty, dirty-ass rock 'n' roll performance.

For starters, Daltrey is in his element, ripping through funky arrangements of Johnson’s bluesy ballbreakers and obviously pouring his heart and soul into every note. This is where he started his career 50-odd-years-ago, but Townshend never wrote such unbridled soul scorches as ‘Going Back Home’ or ‘I Keep It to Myself‘ which allow Roger to reach down, rip his lungs out, and stomp them all over the studio floor.

Kudos also to Steve Weston’s fire-breathing harp blowing and the rock-solid rhythm section of ex-Blackheads Norman Watt-Roy and Dylan Howe. (A reunion of sorts: Watt-Roy graced Daltrey’s Parting Should Be Painless solo album 30 years ago, around the time he also joined Johnson’s post-Feelgood lineup). And speaking of Dylan, get a load of the awesome vitriolic rendition of Zimmy’s ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’ – I swear I had to wipe Daltrey’s spittle off my keyboard several times while typing this review.

And what about Johnson? Well, God bless him, the man is bloody invincible and as sharp as a razor blade. Check out his snarly solos on ‘Keep on Loving You’ and ‘Some Kind of Hero’ and tell me this guy is ready for the retirement home (or graveyard) and you’ll have to step outside for a mighty good dust-up, thank you.

The lads are as tight as a monkey’s bum on ‘Sneaking Suspicion’, with Daltrey’s primeval howling as gut-wrenching as ever. He hasn’t sounded this energized in years, maybe decades. To be honest, I didn’t think he still had it in him to pull this off with the finesse of a man half, hell, 1/3 his age. 

Let’s just keep Johnson in our prayers, that he can continue living past the doctor-imposed sell-by date which already expired (no pun intended) about six months ago. If this turns out to be his swan-song, one of, if not the finest overlooked guitarist Britain ever produced will go out at the top of his game.

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