Pete Townshend, All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982)

The Who's two early 80s albums with ex-Small Face Kenney Jones taking over for the late Keith Moon were received less than warmly at the time (though I think both actually have some solid material, albeit falling far short of the band's earlier masterpieces) -- leading some to contend that Townshend was hoarding his best material for his solo albums.  Which isn't a crazy suggestion, given how great his contemporaneous solo albums were.  1980's Rough Boys contained some of the best songs he'd ever written, a far better album than the Who's 1981 album Face Dances, and it's not hard to imagine some Empty Glass tracks as band numbers (indeed, the title track was originally recorded by the Who).  In contrast, 1982's All The Best Cowboys... was distinctively Pete, music that is much harder to envision working as well on a Who album.  (Though a band version of "Somebody Saved Me" showed up as a bonus track on the Face Dances CD.)

While I love both albums equally, Cowboys is particularly interesting given the stylistic range and sophistication on display.  You've got the odd opening track, "Stop Hurting People," with spoken word narration over a jazzy, orchestrated little number, an earnest ode to love and humanity seemingly at odds with some of the darker material found elsewhere here.  And at the other end of the album is "Slit Skirts," a thoughtful (and joyously catchy) look at aging that stands as one of Pete's most durable songs, solo or otherwise.  In between he bounces among keyboard-driven new wave ("Uniforms"), light, fluffy pop ("Face Dances Pt. 2," which does not appear on the Who album of the same name), the gentle, largely acoustic "North Country Girl," and the sprawling alcoholic immolation of "Somebody Saved Me," the closest thing to a throwback to the prior album.

Throughout, the album sounds great, with Pete in great voice, drawing from a variety of sonic palates that makes this sound far less like a Who album than much of his solo catalog.  A few of these have enough of a rock edge and punchy energy (i.e. "Exquisitely Bored," "Stardom in Action") that you have to think It's Hard might have been a more consistently strong Who album had Pete allocated them there; but I have no qualms with a Townshend album that stands up ably alongside much of the Who's finer moments.

Here's a video for "Slit Skirts":
...and an odd little video for "Uniforms": a live take on "The Sea Refuses No River," one of the album's most sweeping, ambitious songs: