Roger Daltrey's As Long As I Have You, his first new album since 2014's Going Back Home with Wilko Johnson, is a revealing tribute to the early soul music that ended up inspiring one of rock’s most recognizable voices. The work was almost never finished when Daltrey had a major health scare in 2015 that forced the band to cancel tour dates and nearly ended the British rock singer’s life.
The album sees Daltrey returning to his early '60s roots in a work that balances between upbeat R&B-style numbers and quieter, poignant ballads. His lone remaining bandmate from The Who, Pete Townshend, is also featured playing guitar on six tracks, making this probably as close to a new Who record as fans are going to get.
Forever associated with the iconic hard rock and operatic albums of the '60s and '70s (Tommy, Who’s Next, Quadrophenia), Daltrey wanted to return to the "Maximum R&B" style of the Who’s early years. The title track, Garnet Mimms' "As Long As I Have You," was part of the young band's repertoire and shows the influences that shaped their sound. The American singers that he looked up to became the source of inspiration once again more than a half-century later.
The tracklist includes a mix of covers originally performed by soul icons such as Stevie Wonder ("You Haven't Done Nothing") and Dusty Springfield ("Where Is a Man to Go?" adapted from her "Where Is a Woman to Go?"), in addition to singer-songwriters like Stephen Stills ("How Far") and Nick Cave ("Into My Arms"). There are also three self-penned tracks, the blues-rocker "Get On Out Of The Rain," the gentle "Certified Rose," and the piano-based ballad "Always Heading Home."
Work on the album was nearly scrapped after Daltrey contracted a severe case of viral meningitis while touring with The Who. Convinced he wasn’t to going to survive his battle, the British singer reflected on what eventually drove him to finally complete recording an entire album after six months of recovery. He spoke about the process in an interview with NPR:
I was a month in hospital. I was kind of six months recovering. And by the time I went back to what I'd recorded prior to The Who going on tour and the illness, I was completely disillusioned with what I heard. I wanted to just shelve it. And my management, unbeknown to me, sent the tapes to Pete, who called me up and insisted - he said, Roger, you've got to finish this. This is great stuff. You're doing good work. And I'd like to play guitar on it. He said, I think I can strip the stuff down. I'll play some guitar that will give you a bit more of maybe what you're looking for. And, of course, by him saying that, I just got re-energized and went back into it and here it is.
Daltrey’s passion for singing is still clearly evident on every track, bringing vibrancy to what turns out to be an incredibly personal record. The dynamics and ageless quality of his vocals help to elevate the album, especially at its most tender moments, with ballad-driven tracks such as “Into My Arms” and “Always Heading Home” showcasing the compassion of a singer often known for his wild intensity. The more rock-oriented tracks like "As Long As I Have You," "Get On Out Of The Rain," and "You Haven't Done Nothing" showcase that he can still deliver as a gritty and energetic frontman. The setlist should be given credit for shedding light on lesser-known covers, as opposed to resorting to the recognizable hits of each respective artist.
For an album that covers a wide range of genres, including classic R&B, gospel, bluesy rock, folk, and country, Daltrey proves he still has a great deal of versatility to offer. These songs will never reach the 'classic' status of his peak work with The Who, but that wasn't the intent. Instead, As Long As I Have You showcases some of the music that served as the foundation for Daltrey's renowned singing style.
As Long As I Have You is available on Amazon, and most streaming services. Check it out below on Spotify.
For more music, news, and tour dates, check out Roger Daltrey's Zumic artist page.