Wilko Johnson’s and Roger Daltrey’s ‘Going Back Home’ [Album Review]
British rock and roll legends from two generations have teamed up to record one of the most solid old-school rock and roll albums in ages. ‘Going Back Home’ brings together Who singer Roger Daltrey and Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson for the most down-to-earth, gritty rock and roll album you are likely to hear this year.
Though not be a household name in the U.S., Johnson’s significance and influence in his native England is without question. Dr. Feelgood symbolized the entire pub rock movement of the early-’70s, preceding the spirit and attitude of punk by a few years. The Feelgoods were a rough and tumble R&B band, who, in the era of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, tore things up with a la Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and the early Rolling Stones. With albums like ‘Down By The Jetty’ and ‘Malpractice,’ they inspired the likes of the Jam and the Clash, helping to guide the next few years of British rock and roll.
Early last year, Johnson was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and instead of withering away his last days, he decided to spend that time doing what he does best, kicking out the rock and roll. Daltrey quickly agreed to join in on the recordings that make up this farewell. Backed by Johnson’s touring band, and comprised mainly of gems from Dr. Feelgood’s past, Daltrey fits the songs perfectly. In fact, he hasn’t sounded this invigorated in years. Perhaps the return to his roots has inspired the 70-year old singer.
The album kicks off with the Feelgood standard ‘Going Back Home.’ Written by Johnson and Johnny Kidd & the Pirates guitarist Mick Green, it’s a blues-based raver that swings to the hilt. ‘Ice On The Motorway’ and ‘Keep It To Myself’ chug along, radiating a genuine spirit of authentic rock and roll. Raw and bluesy harmonica tangle with Johnson’s lead guitar in a perfect battle. A cover of Bob Dylan‘s 1965 single, ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?’ shows up as not only a nice surprise, but as one of the high points of the album. Wilko’s playing throughout the album is as sharp as ever. “He’s one of those British guitarists that only the Brits make,’ said Daltrey in a recent interview, “Wilko is a one-off, he really is.”
‘Turned 21′ is a heartfelt ballad, with Daltrey’s voice ringing pure. Yes, he shows signs of his age as he delivers the plaintive vocal, but it comes off as nothing but sincere and genuine. ‘Some Kind Of Hero,’ ‘Sneaking Suspicion’ are two more prizes from the Feelgood songbook that rival the original versions, and ‘Everybody’s Carrying a Gun,’ from his first solo album, 1978’s ‘Solid Senders,’ takes on a a new meaning in 2014. The album ends up with one of the most beloved Dr. Feelgood songs, ‘All Through The City,’ matching the feel of the original with Daltrey capturing the spirit perfectly.
The album never once comes off like a nostalgic run-through of dried-up old tunes. From start-to-end, this is a vibrant and joyous album of soul, spirit and pure, no-frills rock and roll made by two veterans who are not ready to throw in the towel just yet, and why should they when they can still come up with the goods like this. Wilko continues to thrive despite the death sentence issued by doctors last year, and Daltrey is donating his royalties form the album to Britain’s Teen Cancer Trust, of which he is a Patron.
“So much music today is overpolished,” Daltrey said in a press release for the album, “This record has a freshness that can only come from the pressures we’re under.” Johnson then adding, “You mean me dying?” “Yes,” says Roger. “Because of that inconsiderate lump inside you. Who the hell does it think it is?!”
Watch Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey Perform ‘I Keep It to Myself’