Last Updated on June 7, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 426
[Who Came First is a valid attempt,] but anyone who tells you [it] succeeds in anything like the way it could—or should—is buffaloing himself.
I am inclined to believe that Meher Baba is probably the best spiritual master Pete could have, if he has to have one. Baba books and such have always seemed trite to me, without a whole lot to add to the body of cosmic aphorisms, but since he spent most of his life in silence, one doesn't expect much. Whatever Townshend finds in Baba, he generally tempers it well, without the humorless posturing John McLaughlin, for one, has lost me with.
But, liking Baba and Townshend and the Who as much as I really do, I still don't like much about Who Came First. It's inconsequential stuff, for the most part, and one of the best songs on it, Ronnie Lane's "Evolution," is almost indistinguishable from the version on the Faces' first album. The other two good ones are much better: "Let's See Action," a song which the Who made a British hit and which is something like the answer to the quandry that "Won't Get Fooled Again" set up, is far superior to the single version, with a lot more texture. Its philosophy is a lot clearer, as well. It's not a great song, as these things go, but it's a lot better—and a lot more honest—than "Join Together With the Band," which was mostly just an AM annoyance. "Heartache," which is a remake of Baba's pick-hit of the lifetime, "There's A Heartache Following Me," by Jim Reeves, is just good music. Nothing special, really, although it says a lot more about why people engage in guru pursuit than anything any other rock star has shoved down our throat.
Not that Townshend shoves anything here. Who Came First is there, if you want it…. It's a curiosity, more than anything, or an idiosyncrasy. But what I really want to get at is that Townshend has the best perspective on all this cosmic jive, that he is sincere and that if Baba is the most important influence in his life, it's probably been a good influence, for the most part. I would rather recommend the Meher Baba benefit album, with the long instrumental version of "Baba O'Reilly," though. It really is far superior to anything here, with all the fire and imagination I'd hoped for from this solo work. (pp. 68-9)
Dave Marsh, "Who Solo Albums," in Creem (© copyright 1973 by Creem Magazine, Inc.), Vol. 4, No. 8, January, 1973, pp. 68-9.