Pete Townshend

With Love

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What appears to be the final volume in the Pete Townshend produced and assembled album series devoted to the celebration of his late Indian teacher Meher Baba. The album was recorded in 1974, and Townshend has been less vocal about Baba since then, though he is still firmly entrenched in his spiritual practice and in brining facts about Baba's life to the general public. Billy Nichols has a prominent roll on this volume, and perhaps his best song ever, "Give It Up," sounding like a Bad Company anthem, kicks the album off after a 33-second chant by a qawwali choir. It's a rock tune with a full complement of guitars, heavily studio compressed and showing lots of effects, including "the Bag," the very one Peter Frampton made infamous with "Do You Feel Like We Do?" A sweet reverential love song follows this and blends into an instrumental by Townshend, which for all its brevity is killer. Featuring Ronnie Wood and Ronnie Lane, Townshend is in fine company, winding his augmented and diminished chords through a complex melody and harmonic counterpoint provided by Wood. It's called "His Hands," and I can only hope he re-records it with modern sound technology. Next up is the album's single most beautiful track and one of the finest songs ever penned by Ronnie Lane. Again, Wood and Lane tackle all the strings with a keyboard section handled by Bruce Rowland. "Just for a Moment" could have been written as a song of revelation in any religion. But more importantly, it also voices better than any other the entire theme of this final installment in the series. All of the songs here deal, not with worshipping Baba, but in stating what is happening in their lives right now. States of attachment and suffering are juxtaposed against glimpses of wisdom, clarity, and divine love. Everything is in the immediate present, there are no future longings or claims of reliving past lives. In other words, everything is measured against the varying states of desire. If the songs were bad, it wouldn't matter, but the songs on this set are terrific, despite their time-period production markings. Next, Peter Hope-Evans weighs in with a Lonnie Donegan-style skiffle tune called "Contact," and Sydney Fox offer's "All God's Mornings," a Laura Nyro-styled pop song that contains a bridge so moving and beautiful it's tempting to repeat it without the song over and over again; this track comes with an appearance by Pete Banks, of all people. To round all of this out, there are two more solid offerings from Townshend, "Sleeping Dog" and "Lantern Cabin," which caps the album. "Sleeping Dog" is a classic Townshend morality tale. He accompanies himself on acoustic guitar and sings of the acceptance of all things and beings as they are; sung in his wry, witty style of delivery it's an uncharacteristically intimate and vulnerable portrait of Townshend. It also features the all-too-rare acoustic guitar solo that showcases what a brilliant instrumentalist he is. With "Lantern Circle," he indulges his keyboard skills with an extended meditation on Scriabin, Elgar, and Debussy, placing variations on themes from all of them in a tidy mix of harmonic problems that he makes no attempt to resolve. The piece ends with a question mark, as does the trilogy, leaving the door open to whatever happens next.

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