Nine solo albums in (and a quarter century since his last) and now at the ripe age of 74 young years, The Who’s frontman Roger Daltrey can be forgiven for not wanting to push music boundaries with an innovative, new sound no-one has heard of. What As Long As I Have You offers is a predominantly covers-based set consisting of eleven songs, seven of which Pete Townshend contributes guitar on, and a full band sound equal to Daltrey’s masterly, rock-opera vocal.
The opening title track finds Daltrey emulating Garnet Mimms’ original version with an uplifting, rejuvenated return to R’n’B, supported by horns, keys, bass, and gospel backing. However, How Far slides away from Mimms’ slums into banjo strings and a country rock sound, followed by an organ-led, country take of Dusty Springfield’s Where Is A Woman To Go?, re-titled Where’s A Man To Go?. If beat poet Jack Kerouac’s On The Road was the shining light behind Daltrey’s choice of material, then it would not be an entire shock; it’s all dollar bills and jukeboxes from the London-born singer.
Daltrey’s snarl returns on the anti-war sentiments of Parliament’s 1970 monster Come In Out Of The Rain, re-titled Get On Out The Rain. Electric guitar and keyboards fade away for Daltrey’s compassionate delivery of Boz Scaggs (Steve Miller Band) I’ve Got Your Love, sped up by Townshend’s alluring guitar.
Arguably the most similar-sounding cover on the record is the divine Into Your Arms by Nick Cave. Daltrey is wise enough to not over-egg the vocal and remains true to Cave’s original sentiment, accompanied only by a piano. In contrast, a thick electric guitar sound and rock n’roll tampering of Stevie Wonder’s You Haven’t Done Nothing is supported and delivered in full by horns and gruff, unquestionable Daltrey bluster.
It is the lively horns and seraphic gospel support which keeps Daltrey’s record sounding as authentic as the beginning of his career half a century ago. With further nods to The Five Keys and Joe Tex, Daltrey allows his own songs some breathing space with the tender-hearted Certified Rose and ballad Always Headed Home closing the record awash with violins and piano.
There are not many artists who can command respect in the way Roger Daltrey does, but it is the respect he shows to the innovators which allows that respect to be returned in full. The record’s title is both a mutual appreciation for those before him, and what we have for Roger.