Going into this record it is clear from just looking at the track list that, while Daltrey’s name appears as one of the headline artists, this is, in essence, a Wilko Johnson record.
Backed by Wilko’s band of some years, Norman Watt-Roy (bass) and Dylan Howe (drums), and playing a selection of Wilko’s songs (along with one Bob Dylan cover) this presents possibly Wilko’s most complete album since he left Dr. Feelgood, and that is where Daltrey’s input really comes in.
During his time with Dr. Feelgood it was Lee Brilleaux that brought Wilko’s words to life with a force and attitude that grabbed you by the throat and let you know that these were a bunch of guys not to be messed with.
What Daltrey brings here is, understandably, different, but you can hear in it something of the attitude and power Brilleaux had, tempered by age and experience and given a new twist all with a sense of the Maximum R&B that pervaded the music of both Dr. Feelgood and The Who.
That said the album doesn’t just feel like a retread either, it starts out with real power on Going Back Home and this pervades the album with I Keep It To Myself, Sneaking Suspicion and All Through The City all keeping that rolling.
Alongside this the album has some slower moments in the middle in Turned 21 and Keep On Loving You, that balance things out, adding dynamic and demonstrating Johnson’s varied songwriting abilities.
What is really striking here though, compared to Wilko’s straight solo records, is how well Daltrey’s voice and Johnson’s guitar work together. On the solo recordings it was the guitar that was the star whereas here, once more, the balance is complete at the front of the band.
Added to this, along with the always-exceptional Watt-Roy and Howe, is the piano and organ of Mick Talbot and harmonica of Steve Weston that build on the standard three or four piece band to create a package of some great rhythm & blues/rock ‘n’ roll music.
With all of the background story going on of Wilko’s health over the last year it is hard to view this album totally impartially but, if this is to be his swansong, it is a fine celebration of a career that has included some excellent songs and having Roger Daltrey bring the vocals back to life in such style really tops it off to create something that has the potential to be a special record in years to come as well as a great listen right now.