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John Entwistle So Who's The Bass Player? Review

Compilation. Released 2005.  

BBC Review

He was the Ox, Thunderthumbs, the eye of The Who hurricane. Fellow bassist Bill Wyman...

Simon Morgan 2005

He was the Ox, Thunderthumbs, the eye of The Who hurricane. Fellow bassist Bill Wyman rated him "The quietest man off stage, but the loudest on it." For nearly four decades his revolutionary percussive sound fuelled perhaps the world's greatest rock band. And for over 30 of those years, a parallel solo career had him singing and playing his own songs with some of the finest musicians of the day. Across two discs, So Who's The Bass Player? traces the legacy of the great John Entwistle.

"I'm only interested in heavy metal when it's me playing it," John once said,"I suppose it's a bit like smelling your own farts."Typical Entwistle. But the ex-skiffler and jazz fan was an able listener, interpreter and innovator. Album opener "My Size" is positively Sabbath-esque, while a funk-and-psyched-up "Heaven And Hell" evokesprime-time Parliament. Songs like "Ten Little Friends" have Entwistle masterclassing in the "typewriter" bass technique he created years before funk-pioneer Larry Graham started slapping.

It's mostly hard rock and boogie, á la Aerosmith, ZZ Top and Guns 'n' Roses. Entwistle's beloved brass shines, especially on the trumpet-festooned "Lady Killer". For "Mad Dog", Geoff Daly's saxophone conjures up Born To Run-era Bruce Springsteen. Thunderous live cuts like "Cell Number 7", "Whiskey Man" and "My Wife" feature Robert A Johnson's flashing guitar. Other collaborators include Alice Cooper, Bill Bruford, Joe Walsh and Leslie West.

Entwistle's dark humour prospers. "Do The Dangle" is a '50s rock and roll homage about strangulation; "Roller Skate Kate" takes its lead from The Shangri-Las' "Leader Of The Pack". Other songs have ageing rockers dying unmourned and a would-be suicide weighing up the pro's and con's of life. Eight of the 38 tracks come from 1975 sci-fi musical project Flash Fearless Vs. The Zorg Women and '90s US cartoon series Van-pires.

Not everything's perfect. Absent is 1972's beguilingly discordant "Nightmares". Some songs - like 1981's "Too Late The Hero", with its Phil Collins "In The Air Tonight" vibe - are too of their moment. All the same, So Who's The Bass Player? neatly sums up Entwistle's work apart from the key band he helped forge. In short, it answers its own question clearly - and very loudly.

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