Roger Daltrey - As Long As I Have You album review

A soul master class from Who man Roger Daltrey. Accept no substitute

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Roger Daltrey - As Long As I Have You

1. As Long I Have You
2. How Far
3. Where Is A Man To Go?
4. Get On Out Of The Rain
5. I've Got Your Love
6. Into My Arms
7. You Haven't Done Nothing
8. Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind
9. Certified Rose
10. The Love You Save
11. Always Heading Home

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Such is Daltrey’s long-held reputation as a turbo-powered rock belter, it comes as a bit of a shock to hear his first solo album in 26 years kick off with an out-and-out mod stomper. The title track was first recorded by Garnet Mimms in 1964, feasibly something The Who heard frequently when they were a jobbing club band, and Roger rolls the clock back 50-plus years with a soulful growl that Wilson Pickett would have been proud of. 

Soul is very much the touchstone here, the testifying in full throttle on the gospel glory of Where Is A Man To Go?, while southern grooves are mined to great effect on Get On Out Of The Rain and a spirited reading of Stephen Stills’ How Far. And if you like your funk low down and dirty but peppered with howling horns and a frenzied axe attack, look no further than the rigorous reupholstering of Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothing

There are key collaborators in the shape of producer Dave Eringa (who was behind the desk for the near chart-topping two-hander Going Back Home with Wilko Johnson) and a tightly wound band including keyboard whizz Mick Talbot (Dexys, Style Council). Meanwhile, Pete Townshend, weighing in on seven of the album’s 12 tracks, sounds like he’s having the most fun he’s had in years. 

Towering above it all, however, is Daltrey’s extraordinary voice, which has rarely been stronger, or better. His tougher-than-tough lungs get a proper workout on Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind, the Ivory Joe Hunter weepy almost unrecognisable from the 1956 US hit version by doo-wop mainstays the Five Keys. It’s a struggle to think of any of Daltrey’s similarly aged contemporaries (Steve Winwood, Van Morrison) having such a convincing stronghold on the nuances of blue-eyed soul, but Rog knocks it out of the park every time. 

Don’t be fooled, though – it’s not all bellow and bluster. The biggest surprise comes courtesy of the reserved and audaciously faithful handling of one of Nick Cave’s most affecting and uncomplicated ballads, Into My Arms. It’s a beautifully understated performance, Daltrey’s deep baritone caressing every note like they were fragile flowers. 

Inevitably, a new Roger Daltrey album is unlikely to set the world of 2018 on fire, such is the way of things in an increasingly fragmented music industry. That’s a pity, because As Long As I Have You surpasses expectations at every turn, a high-water mark in a career already boasting a fair few triumphs.