Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: Universal
Genre(s): Rock & Roll
The Going Back Home title of this one-off collaboration between the two British rock legends indicates its contents. Through eight previous solo albums, Who frontman/singer Daltrey has never consistently captured the essence of gritty blues that informs his lifelong work in that band. And Dr. Feelgood founding guitarist Wilko Johnson, diagnosed with incurable cancer before the week long session that yielded these tracks, has always lived and breathed that vibe.
The Wilko Johnson revival began with his characterful turn in Oil City Confidential, Julien Temple's 2009 documentary about Dr Feelgood. His resilience and good humour in the face of terminal cancer sealed his place in the nation's affections. Going Back Home features versions of some of Johnson's Feelgood-era songs as well as later Wilko faves, and his look-Ma-no-plectrum guitar chops are blistering throughout.
Early in 2013, Wilko Johnson received the news that he had terminal pancreatic cancer and had maybe ten months to live. Instead of whiling away his final days, Johnson set out on a final tour and, finding himself still standing at the end of it, received an invitation from Who singer Roger Daltrey to go into the studio and record an album of whatever songs the guitarist wanted. Wilko had a few new originals, plus the idea to cover Bob Dylan's "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window," but he mainly stuck to the Dr.
Down but not out: Wilko revisits his catalogue in good company…It would be impossible not to feel distress at the prospect of losing Wilko Johnson, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in January 2013. An equally understandable reaction would be to seek solace in those fizzing early Dr Feelgood records and recall with rheumy-eyed nostalgia the youthful verve of a life lived to the full and now drawing to a close. But Johnson himself has favoured a more practical approach.
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltrey’s long-mooted collaboration has been hastened by Johnson’s terminal pancreatic cancer – not that ‘Going Back Home’ is a tranquil trip to the other side. The pair attack a chunky selection of bluesy Wilko originals with gusto, the choppy ‘Ice On The Motorway’ firing up memories of Johnson veering crazily across the stage in his Dr Feelgood days, and Daltrey growling as fruitily as ever on the harmonica-fuelled title track. There’s one cover, an unsubtle holler through Dylan’s ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window’, but this is no time to be reining anything in anyway.
Guitarist Wilko Johnson, who foreshadowed U.K. punk with Seventies pub rockers Dr. Feelgood, was diagnosed with terminal cancer last year. So he and his friend Roger Daltrey have recorded vibrant, legacyburnishing versions of 10 Johnson songs backed by his sturdy touring band – brawling tunes steeped in vintage rock & roll, with Daltrey setting his maximum-R&B yowl on full bluster against Johnson's slashing attack.
I’m not entirely sure, by rights, if I should even be listening to this album. When Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with terminal cancer of the pancreas in late 2012, he was presented with a stark choice; forgo chemotherapy and live for another nine months, or undergo it and perhaps stretch out survival to a year. Remarkably, though, Wilko’s still with us.