Roger Daltrey never set out to be a solo artist. He’s always been content being the lead singer of the Who. But it was inevitable the opportunity would come along, and when it did, Daltrey seized the moment with relish. While he did have modest, scattered success as a solo artist, Daltrey’s forays never overtook the Who, which remains a priority to this day. Between the half-dozen or so solo albums, one-off collaborations, and film soundtracks, there is apparently enough decent material to slap a greatest hits anthology together. The two-disc Gold collection, which would have been far more effective and powerful as a single disc, gathers the standouts from 1972 to 2004. While they aren’t all the nuggets implied by the title, there’s enough to make a righteous claim.
The set opens with tracks from the singer’s debut solo album from 1973, simply titled Daltrey. Filled with songs penned and co-produced by Leo Sayer, Dave Courtney, and Adam Faith, Daltrey was ready to strike out on his own, away from the bombastic assault of the Who. “One Man Band” and “The Way Of The World” expose the attempted diversion, but it’s the British Top 5 single “Giving It All Away” that aptly captures the spirit of those powerful pipes. Two years later, on the heels of his starring role in the Tommy film, the singer teamed up with Russ Ballad for the mildly disappointing Ride A Rock Horse, featuring a funky little number “(Come And) Get Your Love,” overloaded with everything that was wrong with the 70s. No wonder the album fell flat with the record-buying public. One Of The Boys, from 1977, is marginally better and buttered up with special guest turns from John Entwistle, Jimmy McCulloch, Rod Argent, Hank Marvin, Alvin Lee, Eric Clapton, Andy Fairweather-Low, and Mick Ronson. The title track, “Avenging Annie,” “Martyrs And Madmen,” and the beatific “Say It Ain’t So, Joe” offer up an edgier, more explicit range and a grittier performance from Daltrey. Even so, it’s a good thing he has a day job to fall back on.
On the soundtrack for the 1980 film McVicar starring Daltrey, the man totally comes into his own, with plenty of help from his cohorts in the Who. Consequently, tunes like “Bitter And Twisted” and “Free Me” sound a lot like lost Who cousins. The album’s haunting ballad, “Without Your Love,” which also appears on Gold, seals Daltrey’s gift at invoking a tender vocal within a minimal framework. After the Who finished their 1982 farewell tour, the singer tried to kick things into high gear, issuing Parting Should Be Painless. But it did little to advance his ill-fated solo career (the title track contains all the ugly elements of a bad early 80s single). Fortunately, he returns to form on Under A Raging Moon. “After the Fire,” written by Pete Townshend, has all the makings of a break-out hit, while the title track, in tribute to Keith Moon, culminates with a virtual drumathon of world-class skin-beaters including Cozy Powell, Roger Taylor, and Stewart Copeland.
Subsequent solo endeavors have proved to be hit and miss affairs. “Lover’s Storm” from 1987’s Can't Wait To See the Movie is a pleasant, middle-of-the-road rocker that hardly furthers the cause. For 1992’s Rocks In The Head, Daltrey brought in producer/guitarist Gerard McMahon to help tighten the focus, which is apparent on “Who’s Gonna Walk On Water” and “Love Is.” By then, of course, the Who were sporadically back in action and Daltrey’s solo ventures returned to the backburner. This is clearly evident by the presence of numerous live Who numbers — “Behind Blue Eyes,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” “The Real Me,” among them — performed on random solo outings during the 90s. Daltrey's take on Springsteen’s “Born To Run” underscores his ability to belt it out with all the bravado of the Boss himself ("Meet the new boss!"). Gold is a solid reminder why Roger Daltrey, one of rock's greatest vocalist, needs the Who more than he needs a solo career. A best of the best of this collection would undoubtedly be worth a listen or two, but any more than that just isn't necessary.
~ Shawn Perry