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Petra Haden
Sings: The Who Sell Out
Bar NoneRecords

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 talent.

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… Baked beans.

-Embo Blake

Track Listing:
1. Armenia City In The Sky
2. Heinz Baked Beans
3. Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand
4. Odorono
5. Tattoo
6. Our Love Was
7. I Can See For Miles
8. I Can't Reach You
9. Medac
10. Relax
11. Silas Stingy
12. Sunrise
13. Rael

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