It's been 24 years since the last album by The Who, and the new Endless Wire (Universal) arrives on the heels of countless reunion tours, several half-baked Pete Townshend solo albums, and the death of bassist John Entwhistle. In 2006, how much could an album of just the increasingly raspy Roger Daltrey singing songs about how difficult it is to be Townshend matter? The answer: More than you might think, but less than you might hope. Endless Wire is a not-quite-there return to late-period Who bombast, but the stadium-ready "It's Not Enough" makes an impression, and the second-half mini-opera—a quasi-sequel to Lifehouse and Psychoderelict—gets extra points for ambition. For Who fans, it'll do… B-

On the other hand, Under The Skin (Reprise), the latest from Fleetwood Mac stalwart Lindsey Buckingham, is a revelation. The production has Buckingham's trademark immaculateness, but on most of the tracks, his hushed voice and intricate acoustic guitar work fill the space with reflective songs that sound little like anything he's done before… A-

And speaking of Fleetwood Mac… Willie Nelson's Songbird (Lost Highway) takes its title from a standout Mac cover, and it finds the country legend sounding more engaged than he has in years. Maybe it's the presence of producer Ryan Adams and his backing band The Cardinals. Maybe it was just time. Whichever the case, whether he's adventurously covering Leonard Cohen and Gram Parsons, or trying out his own originals and a pair of Adams songs, Nelson sounds like he's giving it his all, and everyone around him rises to the occasion… A-


David Crosby's time as a punchline has tended to overshadow his considerable musical talent, and the three-disc set Voyage (Rhino) attempts to correct that. Trouble is, fans of The Byrds and the various permutations of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and/or Young will already have the best material. Crosby's reissued 1971 solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name (Rhino) makes a better case. It pits the utopian sentiments of "Music Is Love" against the starker vision of "Cowboy Movie" and haunted, wordless tracks like "Tamalpais High (At About 3)" and "I'd Swear There Was Somebody Here." Filled with contributions from Jerry Garcia, Joni Mitchell, and others, the album is the product of personal loss (it's dedicated to a dead girlfriend) and the uneasy state of the post-'60s nation… A-

But at least Crosby's solo debut managed to stay in print. John Phillips' remarkable lost album John, The Wolfking Of L.A. (Varese Sarabande) never even found an audience. Phillips' first album after The Mamas And The Papas broke up is shot through with a sense of loneliness and personal disappointment. "Malibu people really know how to live," Phillips sings on "Malibu People." It sounds like he knows he'll never really be one of them. B+ —