I'm fairly certain that jazz legend Charlie Haden is very
proud of his little girl Petra. What father wouldn't be?
Petra fronted 90's rockers That Dog, and then has gone
on to have a fairly successful, if underground, solo career. This
latest project goes far beyond anything she has ever done before
in its scope, and certainly shows Ms. Haden to be a woman of incredible
Here's the story: Mike Watt (that's right) allegedly told
Petra that he thought she should cover the entire Who Sell
Out record. And so, to further the project he provided her
with an 8-track recording tape (ADAT, I would suspect) with one
track consisting of the entire Who record front to back.
This left Petra 7 tracks with which to record her very own version
of the classic. And away she went! Haden has recorded the ENTIRE
record, front to back - including the commercial interludes -
using only her voice as an instrument. Quite a task to undertake
covering a Who song, much less an entire records worth. Seems
like a bad idea at first exposure, doesn't it? How does it stack
up, you may ask?
Well, let me tell you, I was expecting a bunch of garbage. I
was pleasantly surprised to find that Petra Haden has done
such a wonderful job of covering these amazing songs. Not only
that, but she has done such an amazing job sorting through the
dense music of Pete Townsend and distilling it into a few
basic elements that are still representative of the originals.
Listening to Haden sing some of these songs has re-opened my eyes
to the fantastic beauty of the original Who record, and caused
me to go back and listen closely to find where some of these parts
she sings actually exist.
"Armenia City In The Sky" comes to new light with this
simplified clarity. It's always been an amazing song, but there
is some new depth brought out by the lack of sonic depth. Another
highlight, and one I thought would never come off well, was "I
Can See For Miles", probably one of the best known Who songs
of all time. Haden pulls it off extremely well, doing a bit of
beat boxing and using her empty tracks to record thumping bass
and some glorious vocal harmonies. The background emulation of
guitar has an eerily edgy quality that makes it stand out, but
not disruptively - like at other times she tries to emulate guitar.
The only shortfalls I can find on this record are those moments
of expressing the Townsend guitar solos. You just can't feasibly
vocalize the kind of torture that Townsend inflicts on guitars
in a pleasurable way.
Otherwise, I give this record a must hear rating. Petra Haden's
voice is simply divine, crystal clear and highly expressive. The
songs are as good as they've always been, and as I said, these
versions are brilliant. I'm certain that one listen to this record
will have you pulling out your version of the Who record to catch
some of the bits you've been missing all these years.
And nice job with the graphic design, as well. Mmmm
1. Armenia City In The Sky
2. Heinz Baked Beans
3. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
6. Our Love Was
7. I Can See For Miles
8. I Can't Reach You
11. Silas Stingy
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