Various Artists

Substitute: The Songs of the Who (Edelton Entertainment)

Need proof that the tribute-album concept is as played out as Keith Moon's life span? This collection offers it in spades. Granted, there are a couple of bright spots. Phish's "5:15," complete with a live horn section, provides just the right touch of shagginess accompanied by a swagger that's as inviting as it is unexpected. David Bowie's "Pictures of Lily," on the other hand, sounds simultaneously eerie and intimate in the way only Bowie can. But the remaining innovations on this CD come by way of default. Pearl Jam's "The Kids Are Alright," for instance, strips out the Who's trademark harmonies as if to emphasize Eddie Vedder's stick-in-sphincter tonality, a monochrome so unintentionally menacing it suggests the titular kids are, in fact, about to get their asses kicked. Similarly, Sheryl Crow, who takes on the once-anthemic "Behind Blue Eyes," strains when she should be crooning and inexplicably mellows out when she should be rocking. But at least these artists have attempted to handle hoary classics with something like creativity. In contrast, the rest of the album sports by-the-numbers imitations, including the dead-on Daltrey that Paul Weller does in "Circles" and Fastball's why-bother retreading of "The Real Me." Slightly better is Stereophonics singer Kelly Jones's get-me-a-teabag take on "Who Are You." Still, you can't help but wonder what was running through surviving Who members' melons as they backed Jones's surprisingly dispirited live attempt at the title track. Beyond that, Substitute proffers so-what songs like "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere," "Naked Eye," and "The Seeker" performed by nobody groups -- Ocean Colour Scene, Unamerican and Cast, respectively. Who the fuck are they?

 
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