who went soft rock?!

Rocks in the Head (Atlantic)
Roger Daltrey

By Hilary Braun

Pops in the Head would be a more appropriate title for Daltrey's latest effort. Fans accustomed to his hard-rocking anthems will be not-so-pleasantly surprised by this radio-ready, danceable (yes, danceable), almost adult-contemporary collection of songs about middle-age guilt and doubt. Having not really listened to Daltrey since the Who's It's Hard back in the early '80s, I was disappointed to find out that, like Steve Winwood, yet another of rock's strongest, most inspiring vocalists had gone the soft route.

Perhaps the main reason why this album seems so unlike Daltrey is the fact that he really wasn't the chief contributor. The album was produced, directed and arranged by Gerard McMahon, who also wrote or co-wrote all but one song and provided guitars, keyboards and background vocals to boot. The album is well engineered and mixed, using the new "digalog" process — successfully hiding, for the most part, the flaws in Daltrey's strained pipes (recent late-night television appearances have not been so kind).

Still, his vocals are full of emotion and sincerity, although the music and lyrics are generally trite, unoriginal, and suffer from an extreme lack of subtlety. Daltrey wears his middle-age on his sleeve in the "Who's Gonna Walk on Water," "Before My Time Is Up" and "Time's Changed," songs which, as you might guess, question life, death, the existence of God and reflect on the good old days. "Perfect World" weakly laments how sex and love are so darned complicated these days, what with AIDS, racism and all. "Everything a Heart Could Ever Want (Willow)," which I assume was written about his daughter, sounds more like one of those bad Olympic video songs. "Days of Light," the album's first single, comes up short in its conspicuous attempt to appeal to youthful listeners.

With this album, Daltrey may exchange some of his loyal rock audience for older, mellower fans.