George Starostin's Reviews



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Garrett Jennings <> (16.04.2004)

My favorite Pete Townshend CD's in order:

1. Empty Glass - I always wish that Keith Moon hadn't died though and that this would have been a fantastic follow-up to Who Are You. I think Roger Daltrey would have done a great job singing "Rough Boys". The first side is amazing - every song flows into the next, and Pete has figured out how to be unique from The Who - especially with songs like "And I Moved" and "I Am an Animal"

2. Chinese Eyes - It has 2 of favorite Pete solo songs: "Face Dances" and "Slit Skirts". This album has that 80's sound but that's fine - I'm into all types of music.

3. White City - David Gilmour helps out on lead guitar on the title track and this all the makings of a Supergroup. (check out this website by the way: where you can vote for your favorite Supergroup (UK vs. USA or Men vs. Women).

4. Rough Mix - In my older age - I've grown to love this CD and play it for my kids because it's so mellow and even spiritual.

5. Iron Man - it has a Broadway feel with all the singers that he uses, but check out his guitar work and I especially like the songs where it's just Pete singing like "A Fool Says".

6. Who Came First - I like the Pete version of "Let's See Action" better than the Who version. The perfect concert for me would just Pete alone with an acoustic guitar in a small venue. In fact, I'm surprised that Pete hasn't gotten the 3 songs he did for the Secret Policemen's Ball ('Pinball Wizard', 'Drowned', and 'We Won't Get Fooled Again') on a Pete Townshend box set.

7. Psychoderelict - My advice would be to buy the version with no dialogue - just music. The dialogue ruined this CD for a lot of people. But it has probably favorite Pete solo song of all time on it - "Now and Then".

I think Pete Townshend is one of the greatest singer/songwriters and guitar players of all time. I think he should be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist. Sign the petition at: Also, check out Pete on ryhthm guitar for the UK Supergroup as they take on the USA Supergroup for a charity battle of the bands. Vote for your favorite fantasy Supergroup.


Richard C. Dickison <> (07.09.99)

I'm sure you can tell by now that I am not the worlds greatest Pete Townsend fan, if I don't have anything nice to say I will generally spew forth a single retching paragraph and leave it. I like this album though, yes I do.

Even that irritating 'A little is Enough' is just too damn catchy. 'Rough Boys' was just all out there like a drive by shooting, I really liked this album, damn decent. I sort of liked the next one too, Chinese Eyes I believe it was called or something like that, not as good as this though. But then Pete started irritating me again with that snobby behaviour that just rubs me the wrong way and I stopped listening. The Who was a great buffer for this guy and without them he was just far too superior for me. If I want musical intellectuals I'll go listen to Peter Gabriel thank you very much, he does not try to slap me with mental superiority.

Jeff Blehar <> (24.02.2000)

And you accuse ME of having bizarre biases! Well we're all entitled to some (and I can certainly understand where I might have quite a few), but I simply adore Empty Glass and my favorite songs are probably the two which you pointedly knocked. Strange...first of all, let me tell you why I don't think this album is overrated. It's very, very special in terms of its mood, melodies, and lyricism. I can't really think of anything else in my collection that sounds quite like it - I mean, I've got lots of albums that get one aspect down, be it the confessional part, or the melodic part, but nothing that combines them all. And what Empty Glass has that can never really be adequately expressed in a review is an indescribable air, a sheen of beauty...I dunno, some sort of brilliant class. I can try to describe it (and I will), but I don't think I can do justice to it; it's something like a drunk's one shining burst of lucidity. A man at the psychological bottoming-out of his life (as Townshend was at this point in time) granted a moment of peaceful serenity and clarity to analyze, criticize, and (most poignantly, and most observantly as well) celebrate. It's really a beautiful album through and through, from the rockers to the ballads, and while in some completely cold sense I can understand the differentiations you made in song types, I don't really notice that. I just hear one of the finest lyricists in rock and roll history taking the knife to every aspect of his life and revealing both the good and the bad. And that he does both is SO important; just as a purely celebratory album would feel phony and insincere, a purely self-flagellating album would also simply be too monochromatic and (what's more) would fail to do justice to Townshend himself. In fact, that's what did The Who By Numbers in at the final consideration (and I too see obvious parallels): it was unrelievedly dreary, with no mention of the spirituality which always buoyed Townshend.

So anyway, Empty Glass has this indescribable class, this spirit of simultaneous recrimination and celebration coupled with a sleek instrumental sound that renders it really indelible in my mind. The rockers don't sound like "rockers," the ballads don't sound like "ballads," it all just sounds like "Pete Townshend," if that makes any sense to anyone. It's one of those albums that, despite its mass market, hits you square in the heart in a way little else does. I remember when I first bought this CD putting it on in the car and getting this strange feeling of intimacy and fulfillment, as if I was slightly richer for hearing this disc and that it was something special that could be mine and mine alone: a public statement that can lend private meanings to its listeners. But that's all just personal reminiscence and general discussion; I mention it only because I know others who have felt exactly the same way. As far as the songs go, I won't even try to say that EVERY song is absolutely smashing, "Cat's In The Cupboard" being one that does particularly little for me. But there's really so much that's brilliant and uplifting, even when it's ostensibly dragging you down in the mud of Townshend's misery. "I Am An Animal" is absolutely the farthest thing from an "uninspired ballad," rather it's an exquisitely melodic and lyrical triumph. Built around beautifully delicate piano and a naked confession, it alternates between "hot" verses and "cold" choruses, until about halfway through, whereupon those categories revise themselves further. And "Empty Glass" is really, really powerful. And EXTREMELY memorable, be it in either the completely unnecessary reference to the Book of Ecclesiastes and the furiously driven single-note opening which drips self-loathing to those fragile choruses, it just reeks highlights. And although this is much more apparent on the demo version included as a bonus track on Who Are You (get that album, it's underrated!), it caps itself in one last (very memorable) sickening twist: Townshend takes the uplifting handclap syncopated rhythm from the coda of "Pure And Easy" (remember that one?) and grafts it onto the bleakly drained exhortation to "don't worry, smile and dance/you just can't work life out/don't let the mood entrance you/take the wine and shout!" It's a surprisingly nihilistic statement of resignation dressed up as a cheer, and the fact that he saw fit to include the song three years after it was originally written (1977) should say something. I won't bother commenting on the rest of songs (among which the pisstake on rock criticism "Jools And Jim," is probably my favorite - the FIRST anti-Rolling Stone song! Yeah!), if only because I think it'd just be superfluous. Suffice it to say that I'd run across a desert to give this a 10/10, despite any weaknesses in its component songs, because the whole is so indescribably essential. Oh, and here's a wacky tidbit of info to deflate some of seriousness of this comment: did you know that this album was written and recorded during a phase in Townshend's career when he was convinced he was a woman trapped in a man's body? No shit. NOW look at the song titles and lyrics again, and see if you can't find some shocking subtexts! You know what part of the body an "empty glass" is a metaphor for, yes? (This is from HIS mouth, not mine, no joke!) And the lyrics to "And I Moved" and "Rough Boys" can be seen in a whole new light. Why do you think in "I Am A Animal" he deems himself to be "queen of the fucking universe?" Strange perhaps, but strangely brilliant nevertheless.

Bob Josef <> (30.07.2000)

I agree, not quite a masterwork. But really solid. Pete does provide a good balance between humor and spirituality. But I do like his synth work -- I don't find it cheesy at all, but well suited to the songs. And the listener can easily identify with the feeling he's trying to express, unlike the annoying detachment and lack of assertiveness of Face Dances. Now if they had gotten Chris Thomas (who was the perfect support for Pete here) to produce Face Dances, that album could have been as good as this one.

Greg 'Jesh' Trzaska <> (21.01.2001)

"Pete sitting at a bar with his bottle and his glass with two young ladies of uncertain purposes, with a gloriole around his head... hmm, might be considered sacrilegious, but what a funny allusion at the 'sinner-saint' motive! And probably very reflective of Pete's inner self at the time. "

Look on the inside cover. Hello? Notice the "halo" is just a light in the background? Well if you are stupid that you can not figure out the meaning of the inside vs the outside cover... I'm wasting my time here.

"I am an animal, my teeth are sharp and my mouth is full, and the passion is so strong, when I'm alone, loneliness will change me."

Eric Benac <> (23.05.2002)

not a masterpiece, but not a dud although i actually enjoy face dances much more than this. i like the song 'empty glass' for some reason, in both this version and the version on who are you from the bonus tracks. the synths were coming to the fore more often, and were becoming annoying. an eight is very fair.

Janet <> (28.05.2003)

Just wanted to clarify something about what Jeff wrote. Regardless of whether it's true or not that Pete was "convinced he was a woman trapped in a man's body", the song "And I Moved" was actually written for Bette Midler. Pete was asked to write a song for her to sing and did so. It was turned down though because he agent felt it was too smutty even for Bette. That's from the mouth of Pete.


Eric Benac <> (23.05.2002)

yeah, a lot of the songs on here are quite good. better than it's hard, no doubt. i noticed you raised pete's general rating, and that you have this album and the live album added as well. was his rating raised because of all the cowboys?

Bob Josef <> (23.05.2002)

Pete got slammed by the critics for this album for two main reasons: 1) the extensive use of synths; and 2) the experimental use of "streamed poetry" (as he put it) in the lyrics, in which he freely admitted frequently using word combinations more for sound than sense. Those two things are like red flags to a bull for the critics, bashing poor Pete like he was Yes or something.

But I love the album, too -- it's a lot of fun, much variety, and intriguing music and lyrics whether relatively straightforward ("Slit Skirts," "Exquisitely Bored") or far out ("Communication," "Face Dances"). And Pete exhibits the full possibilities of his vocals better here than on any other album. And as for the record being "pretentious," it's much less so than the stupid Iron Man, because Pete knows his limits here and works exceedingly well within them.

I also have to admit to an extreme bias towards "Slit Skirts," because a DJ played it for me for my 25th birthday. A great rocker.

The Scoop album demos contains a cool track that didn't make it to Chinese Eyes called "Body Language," which contains the same odd synth syncopation's and weird lyrics as much of the rest of the album. Producer Chris Thomas and Atlantic Records didn't like it, but what do they know?


Jesse Sturdevant <> (15.03.2001)

Quite mediocre. There was an accompanying home video for White City. Perhaps it explains the concept further, but I could care less about seeing it. "Crashing By Design" has to be one of Pete's worst guitar solos ever. PS--I see you haven't reviewed Pete's Lifehouse 2000 yet...I'm kinda scared about picking it up too...

Eric Benac <> (23.05.2002)

yeah, i see your point. you pretty much picked the best songs. the rest of the songs are pretty weak. i have the cassette of this, and i only listened to it once. i understand why.

Brandon Hammell <> (10.10.2002)

What about "White City Fighting"? Surely that kicks the shit out of half the crap on this cute little album.


John McFerrin <> (01.10.99)

I knew that for some reason your description of The Iron Man rang a bell, and I finally figured it out. The lameass story you have just described is the storyline for the, get this, critically lauded movie, The Iron Giant, released earlier this year.

I can now say that whatever desire I had had to see that film is, um, gone.

Janet <> (28.05.2003)

This album does not get the acclaim that it deserves. Pete turned a wonderful story into beautiful music. I don't believe you all give this album a chance. "Was There Life" is one of the most beautiful love songs I've ever heard. Do yourself a favor and listen to this album a few more times. Read the lyrics, sing along!


Shaun Tatarka <> (04.03.2000)

There is a "music only" version available and it is much better.

<> (19.03.2000)

You think the album is bad? I saw the live show at Jones Beach, N.Y. in august '94

Bad acting, stupid multimedia presentation, the terrible acoustics of Jones beach loaded on top of this musical mess was insufferable. Pete all but apologized at the end of the show.

Caleb Smith <> (01.05.2001)

Actually George, I'm pretty sure the music only version is now the most widely available one. Check for instance, the only way you can get the version you (and I) have is through import. Anyway, there's some really good stuff here, but also some really boring stuff. The dialogue isn't too bad at first, but on repeated listens gets quite tedious. I haven't been able to sat all the way through it yet though, so I can't give a definite opinion, but I can say that the music only version might have potential.

Sergey Zhilkin <> (01.02.2002)

i don't know who the fuck gave this fucking disgusting george s. to write such a motherfucking review of such ass fucking album. if ya earn da fuckin money by this better find another job for fuck's sake. this album is so fucking great that you can't even understand a fuck about it. if i were to make a compilation 'fucking hits of fucking Pete' i swear i would have put half of these fucking songs on it. i rate it 15/15 and give no fuck about what you say. yeah, and here's one more thing - fuck you!

Seriously, now. I don't have an album in studio variant cause I haven't seen it for cheap and buying it at shop would have costed me $15, which is completely unfair. So I decided to pick up a video with Psychoderelict and other solo hits. There're less tracks in live version and that's only for better since even when you hear (or see) some stage features (like a guy with big fat nude belly (I wanna puke) walking across the stage with a beer can in his hand..ha ha) you still get bored. And that's not to mention ugly Pete (yeah, he looks ugly and his voice is nothing close to what it was in early 70s)! Although, I've gotta say that there are good moments ('Now and then' with 'English Boy'). But they are get gragged down by endless dialogs almost every sentence of which has word 'fuck' (I was shocked when I saw crowd enjoying these moments! yuck...). Fortunately, some a little bit jazzy tunes go off well. Others? Well, others are otherzzzzzzzz......

And, Pete, please remember - saying word 'fuck' loud doesn't make you a punk.

Eric Benac <> (23.05.2002)

i vomit and cried the first time i heard this album. my favorite song writer, one of the best song writers ever, who propelled the who to such glorious melodic heights was reduced to this?! a horrible "play" with a plot that couldn't pass for a soap opera plot? music that I probably could have wrote in half the time? the dialogue has got to be one of the dumbest ideas i've ever heard, he did rock opera's before with no such things, why now? i saw this for six bucks and got the version with the dialogue and i also picked up empty glass the same day. although empty glass isn't a masterpiece it's still a glorious wonderalbum compared to this! the worst album (obviously) of his career. of course, most bands of today would kill for an album this "good". music is in sad shape today.

Billy Bill <> (13.01.2004)

I agree that the original version of this album is a pretty tough listen. However I recently got a copy of the "music only" version, which by the way is actually pretty easy to find, and if you're willing to get it used (which is what I tend to do anyway...I'm cheap) it's pretty inexpensive. I got mine off ebay for $3 but have seen it other places and it's pretty much always under $10. Anyway...after listening to this album without the distraction of having actors talking about witches teets and whatnot it's actually very good. I think there's about 8-10 really good songs here, it's just hard to tell when there's dialogue over the top of them. Also, 'Let's Get Pretentious', 'Early Morning Dreams', 'Predictable', and 'Flame' are all more "complete" on the music only version than they are on the dialogue version. There's extra verses on all of them which were cut out originally for whatever reason, probably because the album was too long. I think they're all better versions here. (except for 'Flame', it still kinda sucks and benefits from having two minutes cut off) I'd say that the music only version is probably his third best solo album, with Empty Glass and Chinese Eyes coming before it and White City and Iron Man coming after in that order. I think it's a bit of a shame that he decided to go the "radio play" route on it since it's now considered to be one of the worst things he ever did. But without the dialogue it's a pretty good album. Personally I'd recommend to anyone who has a copy of the original version, sell it and then plunk down five bucks or whatever and get the music only version. It really is better than you think. It's still no masterpiece and there's a couple clunkers ('Flame', which I already mentioned, and the reprise of 'English Boy' is pretty pointless) but for Townshend fans I'd say it's still about 80% enjoyable, as opposed to the original, which depending on how good you are at ignoring the actors tends to be somewhere between 5% and 50% enjoyable... So that's my two cents...


Brandon Hammell <> (10.10.2002)

Personal favorites on this collection for me have to be "You Better, You Bet" and "Let My Love Open The Door". Pete's voice, while at times he isn't technically singing, sounds amazing. I love the gruff tone he's adopted over the last decade.

But what the hell is with "Won't Get Fooled Again"? The original backing track is missing, and is replaced with some kind of weird fucking synthesizer sound that doesn't come close to the original. But at least we get to listen to it for 13 minutes. Thank god he introduces the electric after the second verse, I don't think I could bear it otherwise. What a fucking disgrace that piece is. Now as for disc two, I for one think "Heart To Hang Onto" is fantastic and sounds great with Eddie Vedder.

And I'm going to state the obvious tha in that the lack of Pete's electric playing drags this whole album down. If you wanna see what a latter day Pete Townshend live can actually do, watch The Who Live at The Royal Albert Hall DVD. How come you haven't reviewed this anyhow George?

In the end, this could have been a lot better. But hey its for charity so I bought five copies.


Tony Souza <> (05.03.2003)

Definitely a masterpiece, if not in terms of groundbreaking sound, then in terms of raw emotional honesty. This album, in terms of feel, seems more an extension of The Who by Numbers, even though it's not a Who record and there's not a Who-sounding song on here. I don't know if Lane brought it out of him or what, but Townshend's writing on here is every bit as personal and heartfelt as on The Who by Numbers. I also agree that if the Who had another songwriter as strong as Townshend (Entwhistle had his moments, but he's not in Townshed's league) the Who might have been even better than they were. I feel that Lane's songs are more haunting and other-worldly, while Townshed's more down-to-earth despite being slightly more experimental. There is not a bad song on the entire album as both bring their best to the table. "My Baby Gives it Away" may sound trivial, but the song is so fun that it overcomes whatever deficiency it might have. The production on here suits the rootsiness of the songs. This is a lost classic.

<> (23.03.2003)

I don't really understand how come that Pete decided to team up with Ronnie. I mean, I would understand uniting forces with anyone of Tommy (1974) project, or other quite famous musicians, but Ronnie? Well, he's from a mod band Small faces and Pete is from used-to-be-mods the Who but in fact neither Pete nor Ronnie were real mods, I think. Anyway, we got this wonderful collaboration and I'm glad that this album didn't result into a big freak out like so many other star collaborations do (keep in mind, we have Eric Clapton, John Entwistle and Charlie Watts here, too). Rough mix smells like a country pie and I'm absolutely sure that it's all because of Ronnie, who brings this wonderful roots atmosphere. Even though, Pete's contributions in general, IMHO, are far better than Ronnie's, I'm 100% sure that the album wouldn't be that good without such feel and simple (but still professional) production. It all starts with 'My baby gives it away', really unpretentious (you hit the mark with this definition; I can't describe it better) tune from Pete about his girl who just doesn't care about who the hell she sleeps with. Come think of it, Pete doesn't weep like Neil Young would do (oh poor and lonesome him); on the contrary, he represents this situation in a funny, humorous way, an approach which Who by numbers misses oh so much. 'Nowhere to run' (I had some associations with Ten Years After) has wonderful harp solo (just like in 'Misunderstood';) and it sounds really soothing, especially if you had to sit through early Bob Dylan album before this one (I still keep thinking that Bob's harmonica is tuned way too high). 'Rough mix' is indeed more Eric Clapton and John 'Rabbit' than Pete and Ronnie but tell me, isn't it nice to hear Eric rock out? There're not so many fast and short Eric Clapton solos on earth and here's one for you. 'Annie' is beautiful beyond words, the only song that can beat Pete's material on here. I remember reading that single with title track and 'Annie' failed to chart. What was with people's taste back in 1977, eh? Anyway, next comes one of Pete's all time best introspective songs 'Keep me turning' which catches Pete in much more independent mood than By numbers and that's why it even beats 'Behind blue eyes'. Yeah, and the lyrics are great, too, - even if you don't know Pete's talking about himself.

Side two, as well as this paragraph, opens with 'Catmelody'; a cool pseudo-50s rocker with obligatory brass (but it doesn't sound annoying at all!), simple by-book solo from Pete (he's not soloing much on here, admit it) and quite a funny cry from Ronnie in the middle: 'Goodnight, babe!'. I like it much because unlike many retro rockers, this brings a new wonderful hook so Ronnie scores again. 'Misunderstood' is actually another introspective song (it's not so obvious from the first listen); if you listen a bit closer, you'll realize that Pete's talking about his teenage problems and the efforts to become more original. And again, great lyrics. I didn't like 'April fool' after the first full listen but now I see it's a good song, one of these songs that make cozy atmosphere when are played as background music. As for 'Streets in the city', it's very unusual for Who fans, I think, because of orchestration (there's not so much orchestra on regular Who albums, even Tommy (1969)), but the lyrics and Pete's voice seem to go very well together so there should be no problems. 'A heart to hang onto' (hey! I can play this one on guitar!) strikes me with it's deep melody and emotional strength both Pete And Ronnie put in it and the 'electric part' of this song rules. Also it's the only song from the album, which Pete plays sometimes in front of small audiences. The only cover, 'Till all the rivers run dry' seems to be a 'goodbye' and I have nothing against it after listening to 10 really good songs.

Well, too bad Mr. Nose had only one collaboration during his creative years; I suppose that Pete needs control from someone else, otherwise he gets too pretentious. Well, and of course this 'someone' has to be a quiet guy himself; just look at White city and you'll know what I mean. But thank God this record is a different case; I rate it with high 13.

Jason Motell <> (04.05.2003)

I couldn't agree more. This record is like every good Grateful Dead song put on an album with cooler arrangements, better singing, superior playing, and more resonance. Anyone that has read your review doesn't really need to hear anything from me, as I agree with almost everything you say-my only add on is that I absolutely adore the song "April Fool." Lane's vocals are so heartfelt and I love the melody, lyrics.everything. But the best part in the whole tune is the ending jam. God, it has feeling and twang. And "Street in the City"=gorgeous! Out of left field, the orchestra shocked me on this album-but it fits. This whole record just works. Easily the most overlooked album of the 1970s, I will be listening to this for years. You all should too-go get it!

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