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The Who

'Hope We Get Old Before Any More Of Us Die'

Introduction
The Who Sing 'My Generation'
          A Quick One 
The Who Sell Out
Magic Bus
Tommy
Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy
Live At Leeds
Live At The Isle of Wight
Who's Next
Quadrophenia
Odds and Sods
The Who By Numbers
Who Are You
The Kids Are Alright
Face Dances
It's Hard
Who's Last
Who's Missing
Two's Missing
Join Together
Live At The BBC
Blues to the Bush
 

The Lineup Card 1964-2002

Pete Townshend (vocals, guitar, synths)

Roger Daltrey (vocals)

John Entwistle (bass, French horn, vocals) died 2002

Keith Moon (drums, vocals) died 1978

Kenny Jones (drums) 1979-1983

also of The Faces and The Small Faces

The Who, at their best, crafted beauty from chaos, meaning from confusion...they gave a voice to the fucked up teenage boy who didn't give a ratfuck about love and romance, didn't really give a crap about holding your hand, or even buzzing 'round your hive....he just wanted to get off as quickly as possible and then go seeking after the next kick: sex, drugs, violence, clothes, or rock and fucking roll. Roll up that handful of Reds, kick it until the chandelier quakes, and bash your fucking brains out until a fight happens, and then turn it on someone else. The Who were a product of their time and place: they aligned themselves with the sharp-dressing, head-cracking Mods of London, consciously crafted a violent and ultra-modern 'pop art' image, and considered playing blues 'so 1964'. Prior to the Who, bands didn't pay much mind to the misfit spot-faced kid in the audience, they made their money off of talking to the girls and the cool kids, but the Who gave a voice to the kid who didn't get invited to the parties. This band was led by Pete 'Fucking' Townshend, a guy awkward and ugly enough to give anyone in the audience a run for their money for Geekiest Person In The Room. But, Christ, could he play the guitar...like a frigging lightning rod, turning it up louder and tapping more sounds from it than anyone outside of Jimi Hendrix (who, for all his effortless pyrotechnics and spiritual resonance, never could quite nail the energy of being fucking pissed off like Townshend could).

Like any good dork, Pete surrounded himself with street toughs and psychos for protection. He had horsey-faced punk Roger Daltrey on vocals, a guy who started out as the next Mike Love and developed into the perfect Golden God frontman for the group. Bassist John Entwistle, a slightly less emotive dude than the Chief in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Next, played the bass with such volume and dexterity as to revolutionize its use as a solo instrument rather than just foundation. Plus, the man could write songs, too, in a dark and witty style that acted as a nice counterpoint to Townshend's neuroses. And Keith Moon, the original jokerman nutball, constantly laughing, clowning, boozing, tossing Bentleys into pools, and playing the drumset as an orchestra of his very own, substituting unhinged tom-rolls for solid grooving and subjecting the audience to his leering, loony backup commentary between spaz-outs. There's only one Keith Moon in the history of rock music....and definitely in the history of the Who. This is a band who made music that dismissed cutesiness and roots reverence for the unadulterated worship of volume and energy...I'll go on record and say right now that I doubt that anyone ever rivaled the Who during their live peak, if for nothing but sheer fucking balls.

What's particularly striking about the Who is that they didn't limit themselves to simply being ballsy...they also had to go and push the limits of rock music in ways that didn't involve amplification and attitude. They created the Rock Opera, a pretty cool idea for 1966, but it changed the world in 1969. The Who went from proto-punk guitar smashers to Serious Artists damn near overnight...and suddenly all eyes were on Townshend to top himself. He spent the early part of the 70's trying to do just that, frequently driving himself over the edge of sanity in his quest...one which did, in fact, see him making some of the best material of his life. But his band was rusting from chemicals and age, and the increasing distance he felt from his audience was irreconcilable. The final straw was the alcohol-related death of Keith Moon in 1978, one that came after years of sad decline. The Who were never again the same, through their last gasp attempt to continue on at the end of the 70's and their crassly commercial reunion blowouts of the late 80's and 1990's. The Who never could get old gracefully...they'd damned themselves before the age of 30.

The Who, though, even at their very worst, has a majesty and spirit that is extremely rare in music of any kind...they were a group with no virtuosity but all the musical impact imaginable. They pushed new technology and new ideas on a change-resistant hard-rock audience. They crafted sincere, honest feeling out of pure power...there's only one Who.

Capn's Note: The lineup listed above is technically incomplete...it doesn't list current road drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo's son and the best fill-in for Moon they've found yet) or their long-running keyboard player 'Rabbit' Bundrick because I don't think the Who ever really felt they officially were part of the fold, anyway. With only two of them left, though, they may want to stop pulling these Denny Jones maneuvers and just name some of their long-term folks actual Who members. Or not. Whatever.

Another Capn's Note: Almost all the Who albums (all of the 'first run' ones, anyway, not counting their reunion live issues) have been reissued with bunches of bonus tracks. I've reviewed these where possible, but the emphasis here is on the regular albums. I'll only spend time on the bonus tracks when I feel it's called for. I would recommend getting the expanded versions instead of the old pastel-back-covered crap original issues, all things being equal.


The Who Sing 'My Generation' - Decca 1965

If you're keeping score on paper, you know, for the Great Brit Invasion Faceoff Competition (First Prize: Free wheelchair and an IV bag full of Wild Turkey), The Who Screech 'My Generation' is probably the most impressive debut album of the mid-60's: there's only two frigging covers on here! Both by James 'Bad Muthafuha Number One' Brown! And Roger can't sing the fucking things to save his life! So there he goes, shakin' and shimmyin' all over the studio floor, all 'huh!'-ing and 'ow!'-ing himself into a small puddle of his own rummy phlegm until he chokes and dies...no more Who cover versions, see? All because Mr. Roger singing soul music makes about as much aesthetic sense as a vagina with teeth. Of course, that drawback knocks some value off of album tracks like 'Out On The Street', where it sounds like Roger is trying to dislodge something large and pointy from his sternum. Gick...the soul stuff was obviously played for the benefit of the spade-luvving Mod crowds. Instrumentally, the soul sound is a horrible fit for the band, and they don't really lend anything extra to it.

See, I got all that whining and white-boy bitching out of the way early because I wanted to justify not giving this album an A+ (it really doesn't, though)...the rest of this record is killer. The first real great song is 'The Good's Gone', a heaving, chiming kick in the aorta that somehow reminds me of 'Heart of Stone' in terms of attitude, and right here on Townshend's first attempt at an album, too...that's impressive shit. 'La-la-la-la-Lies' (or whatever it is) is held buoyant by Nicky Hopkins' piano, which even at this early date is just as frigging awesome as it was 7 years later when he revolutionized Who's Next and all those Stones albums. 'Much Too Much' has Roger lending his drunken sneer much more threateningly, rendering this song a nasty, rocking punk blast that still makes room for the word 'levee', as in taxes. Odd...and I thought Pete was a Woman's Studies major in art school....

Oh right, this has the Two Chord Doo Wop Maelstrom 'My Generation', ('I'm not tryin' to cause a bbb-ig sssssss-ensation, I'm just trying to fff-finish my Mu-muh-masturbation!') the first song I can think of that includes both a frigging awesome bass solo and molesting a Rickenbacker's pickup-selector switch until it sounds like a fire alarm on an elevator going by you. Cool shit. Of course, their angry generational warfare stance has been discussed so much that I find tanking about it fucking tiresome, especially when I feel like the song replicates the attitude, stance, and aggression that amphetamines give you much more than, you know...a 'call to arms' or whateverthefuck.

Nah, if there's an anthem here, it's 'The Kids Are Alright', a singalong gem that shows there was some honor among Mods, in terms of It's No Fun If The Niggers Don't Get Some, if you know what I mean ('I don't mind...someone else dancin' with my girl...it's fine, I know 'em all pretty well...'). Anyway, this was the track that embodies whatever community the Who's audience must've had in those tiny clubs, and it shows that the Who are worth more than two chords and a lot of drumset rolls. The instrumentals 'The Ox' and 'Instant Party (Circles)' have plenty of grit and speed, and further convince that this was one fine rock band, and that Pete Townshend is best with shitloads of Marshall fuzzzzz all over his guitar tone. Oh, and that Keith Moon is the most spastically fantastic surf drummer Ever In The History of Everything.

The copy I've got of this album has both a cover of Bo Diddley's cover of Muddy Waters' cover of some ancient Mississippi sharecropper's 'I'm A Man' that used to finish up the British version of My Generation (it was the Americans who somehow determined that the Who 'Sing' My Generation on the US debut rather than, you know, hawk it up and spit it on the front row). I've also got a fuckload of early singles and alternative versions at the end, but I really dunno if this adds to much. See, the other Who releases had all these extra tracks added some years back upon reissue, but producer Shel Talmy (best known for generating the Kinks not long after this) kept the rights to this album, and the reissue of this one isn't quite as we-executed as the others. There's great differences in the sound quality, the remixing is haphazard...you get the idea. Probably, though, you should pick this one up and forego all the endless odds-and-ends packages that tried to fill in the gaps before the advent of the CD reissue. Which stole all my fucking cash, anyway.

The Who Politely Discourse on the Subject of My Generation has clear and unavoidable flaws (the Who were awful at covers and soul music), but there's plenty of sections where I feel like this album is FAR ahead of its time. There's no embarrassment in finding that 'My Generation' and 'Kids' and 'Legal Matter' and 'The Ox' and 'Instant Party' all kick your ass across the pavement right out into traffic, causing a scene with the motorcycle cops. ESPECIALLY if you haven't ever heard the hits, or like 60's hard rock in general, this album is a must for you.

Capn's Final Word: Yup, the early stuff had all the greatness as what was to follow, and did it all without synths or a decent singer. All you need is to crank up the amp and face the motherfucker...oh, and GET PISSED OFF!! A classic of anger mismanagement.

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A Quick One - Decca 1966.

Townshend and crew were jacking stages and beating crazy with their equipment every dang night, so even though they'd had all these hits and stuff, Number 3 in Holland and Top 10 in Bulgaria and stuff like that, they were broker than they'd ever been. Pete used to go into Marshall's Music Shop (yup, home of the Mother-of-Pearl inliad Tiny Tim Signature Gibson Ukelele) and steal Mr. Marshall's experimental amplifiers, just to trash them at the end of the gig and dig the debt grave just a few inches deeper. It came to the minds of the Who's management (now being another of those homo Swinging Brit slick-dude rock managers ala Andrew 'Loogie' Oldham, Mr. Kit Lambert) to have each and every Who member write songs on their second album, to spread around the royalties and maximize profitability on the 3 1/2 cents per unit the boys were making. Now, I'd like to personally thank A Quick One for bringing to the attention of millions the songwriting skills of John Entwistle, master of the creepy crawly 'macabre' song, always a little disturbing and a lot funny. Townshend's never-ending struggles with his emotions can get a bit tiresome when uninterrupted (i.e. his solo career), but when mixed in with the occasional 'Boris The Spider' or 'My Wife', becomes a lot more bearable.

Anyway, I wish I could say the same things about Keith's and Roger's songs, but I'm afraid I'd have to commit Suicide of the Integrity Center of my Brain if I did. Shit, I'll even go on record and say that Keith's 'I Need You' and the instrumental 'Cobwebs and Strange' are decent little tunes that give young Animal the chance to bash the living fucknose out of his kit to compensate for, you know, the lack of songwriting/lyrical/singing talent. 'I Need You' especially comes across like Keith's been listening closely to Pete's melodies...the chorus is genuinely great. The rest of the song, especially the arrangement, is a mess, but Who Cares? 'Cobwebs and Strange' sounds like an early version of 'Tommy's Holiday Camp', but dumber, and the less said about Roger's 'See My Way', the better. Roger just could not write songs, and if he ever learned to, he's been hiding it better than Michael Jackson hides the fact that he's actually 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin.

Pete's songs are, of course, the best of the material (besides the bass-o-matic tossoff 'Boris the Spider', which is probably the best song on the fucking album, hands down), but he didn't seem like he'd put the best of his recent stuff on the album, keeping it on singles and shit instead. My CD copy of this doesn't even have 'Happy Jack' on it, a cool little tune about a Manx outcast who guns down his entire high school cafeteria because he doesn't think he'll ever be accepted and loved in this life because 'he takes the wrong key'. Not really, but wouldn't that be topical now? Isn't it funny now that Marylin Manson isn't cool anymore that no one claims he's causing kids to kill each other anymore? Isn't it funny that disgusting teen pop 'perfect girls' are never blamed for causing teenage girls to resort to bulimia and sluttdom to match their particular image, but the minute some tattooed crossdresser begins to rabble a little rouse, the entire Christian Gestapo breaks out the crucifixes and lynchin' ropes? Isn't it funny that the entire record industry is now so marginalized that NO ONE, especially not fucking Marshall Mathers, is willing to step out and say anything controversial that they really feel strongly about except for the motherfucking Dixie Chicks?  Okay, well, I doubt the Who ever caused anyone to kick the bucket or ban any records, other than those kids who were 'dying' to get into their concert back in '79. So much they were crushed against the glass doors because the promoter didn't want to et them in and see a free Who soundcheck! Hardy har! Kids dying is fucking hilarious!

Anyway, I'd really like to say a whole lot more about the record, but there isn't that much to talk about, really. I supposed the big news is Pete's first extendo-operatic piece, the hilarious 'A Quick One' (my favorite part is when they chant 'cello! cello! cello! cello! cello! cello! cello! cello! cello! cello!' before the climax part because they didn't have any real cellists around in the studio) about, you know, longing, cheating, and forgiveness, I suppose. The version here is pretty weak and suffers for a total lack of spontaneity, but their subsequent live versions (especially the one on The Kids Are Alright from the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus performance) were a lot better. 'Don't Look Away' is Byrdsy competence, and 'So Sad About Us' is great and sweeping, but I really miss the lack of a 'clincher' like 'My Generation' or 'I Can See For Miles' that seemed to always grace the Who's Sixties albums.

The additional tracks on here are a real teat (no sic), however. They're damn near as good as the regular album! 'Bucket T' is bodacious and nutso, 'Disguises' and 'Doctor Doctor' are top notch, and there's even 'Batman' for you kitsch lovers! Listen, anyone who tells you this album is kinda disappointing is probably right, but anyone who tells you this album is bad is dead wrong, sucka.

Capn's Final Word: Not real strong, rather attempting too many experiments and things at the same time, and forgetting about what made them unforgettable on their debut. Still, seeds must be sown....and there's enough good stuff on this album to make it a very enjoyable time.

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The Who Sell Out - Decca 1967

Who music, in the studio at least, from about 1966 until 1971, was pretty light considering the Who's 'hefty rock' reputation. Even when compared to early tracks like 'Substitute', most of A Quick One and this record would be considered poppy. But the simple fact was that outside their massive live reputation and the smattering of hits they'd managed on radio, they'd really not been too successful, and their albums sold slowly. So for the band to come out with the idea for Sell Out was automatically ironic. Of course they weren't gonna sell out...not when there were Fifth Dimension albums out there to buy. The other part poked fun at the fact that the Who were, you know, 'selling out' and hawking products like Heinz Baked Beans and Odorono on their cover. Certainly, they did everything as loony as possible, keeping that essential Who-ness and chaos even between the radio spots and cool punchy pop novelties...this is a unified Who effort, and while it may not sound just exactly like you think it should, it's still a brilliant album.

Of course, the main concept as stored on all those 1s and 0s on the disc surface is that the Who have their own Brit-style pirate radio station, complete with station identification and ad spots. Some of the song-ads are funnier than others, 'Heinz Baked Beans' is just goofy ('wha's fer tea, mum?'), 'Odorono' is a cruel, full-fledged song-story about a girl who 'looked her best, really couldn't look any better' who still fails because she used the wrong deodorant and missed her opportunity to realize her groupie dream. Straight from the insecure mind of Pete Townshend, no doubt. There's a real-life copy of their Rotosound Strings ad, but they failed to include their creepy-as-fucking-Donald-Rumsfeld ral life anti-smoking ad 'Little Billy' on the original LP. No worries...it's in the additional tracks and on Odds and Sods. I also prefer the surfin-bird 'Jaguar' ad, which probably should've been used by the company but wasn't, but we've got the track as an outtake...it's fucking great, but I can't tell who's singing it...is that Keith? In all, the ads are cool if a little distracting, but easily ignored, 'cos these songs are tha jack.

Song-wise, we're all over the map, each one an oddity...'Armenia, City In The Sky' means jack shit, but it makes a massively stoned noise, all french horns and squalling backwards feedback, sort of like a sativan 'I Need You' for the bong generation. I did hear that Pete was a regular smoker of hard hashish around this time, so it's not surprising that he would be visualising Armenians in the Sky. 'Our Love Was', 'I Can't Reach You', and 'Sunrise' are these echoey Townshend pop vehicles that make me wonder why the guy wasn't the lead singer all along. The way he sings the aching, 'soaring' lead line on 'Our Love Was' convinces me. If they'd put a bunch more effort into the production, I have no doubt this would've been considered a classic, but all the rhythm section is crammed in the left channel, the guitars are dinky, and the mix is nasty. 'Sunrise' is similarly gorgeous. Townshend's pop sense was really well-developed, but since it wasn't what people thought they wanted to hear out of him, he pretty much abandoned it. Our loss.

Nah, people wanted to hear the Who rip their guts out like on 'I Can See For Miles', which has a nasty reputation as a cruel dude, and fucking A right. It's savage...this is the first time I've heard Roger do something truly fucking irreplaceable using only his natural voice. Pete couldn't have done this one, not spitting those words out like Roger does. Pete has his hands full wrenching the cries of the damned from his guitar, including a one-note guitar solo that contains more huevos than most songs that use three or four different ones. But the real power is all from those lyrics describing some guy's fantasy of using his superpower to catch his girlfriend in the act of infidelity. Dirty bitch. No wonder we found out Pete was kind of a fag, he's got a lot of hangups with the chicks, you know. Don't even get him started on how adults screw up kids. We'll get to that on Tommy.

There is a share of filler material here. I don't like 'Silas Stingy' at all, and 'Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands' is trite even when compared with some of the ads they came up with. 'Tattoo' is great, another one that would grow muscle onstage, but no one can rescue the second of Pete's extendo-compositions, 'Rael', which sucks ass. The only thing interesting about it is the introduction of some of Tommy's main musical themes, but really, it's a long, hard suck.

Capn's Final Word: Sell Out is the last we'll hear of a certain kind of Who, one that didn't bet everything on the big concept or the huge noise, but rather made it happen with interesting songwriting. Maybe they were still just fucking around, but I like it.

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David K. Ordonio SolomonsOther@aol.com    Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: It's important that you buy the 'bonus track' version, because the original release is very much incomplete. It leaves out many of the better songs which made up the Sell Out project, like Melancholia, Jaguar, and Hall of the Mountain King. They didn't have enough space on the vinyl to include everything they wanted, and the band wasn't 'important' enough yet to be able to pull off a double album, like Bob Dylan or the Beatles. So if you buy this album, DO NOT get the basic 13 track version. Instead get the 23 track version. It's the same price and it's a gazillion times more enjoyable.

Kelly  jimimonroe@gmail.com   Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Relax, Melancholia, Rael 1 and 2, Glow Girl (pre-cursor to Tommy) are wonderful songs, eacah very unique in its own way.  Agree that the Jaguar ad is awesome, but I totally disagree with the assessment of Rael.  As I said, I love both parts of it and would have loved to know what else Pete had in store for this mini-opera.  Also, Pete didn't write Armenia City in the Sky, his roommate did.  I also really enjoy Keith's song Girl's Eyes; it's not up to Pete's level, of course, but it's a great song. 

 


Magic Bus - Decca 1968

If Magic Bus had actually had 'The Who On Tour' as it was billed on the cover, instead of just a bunch of singles and b-sides not on the regular releases, maybe it wouldn't have been perforated with a new exit ramp by the critics. But really, it was the only place at that time anyone was ever going to hear such great tracks as 'Disguises' and 'Bucket T' and the title track, which takes Bo Diddley to it's logical extrapolation straight off the deep end and into a land where a song can be written about a guy who wants to buy the bus that gets him to his girlfriend's house, goes through a negotiation heard in the bridge, and ends up buying it. There's also, inexplicably, 'I Can't Reach You' and 'Our Love Was' from Sell Out, 'Run Run Run', from Quick One (unless that one was the one replaced by 'Happy Jack' on the US release, but where the hell am I going to find that out now? AMG? Well, maybe, but that means I have to go connect to the internet and my wife is already pissed I'm not finished writing yet. There's also a bunch of crapola songs that are also now available on the second half of all the Sixties reissues, but I guess there's 'Jekyll and Hyde' which isn't available anywhere else. But That's OK, Because It Sucks Linda Grey's Massive Pink Aereolae. Oh, and 'Pictures Of Lily', the best song about insomnia cures ever written. Not the best one about jerking off, though. That's Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby (One More Time)'.

Capn's Final Word: Definitely worth picking up cheap, which is probably what you are if you can't afford the reissues of My Copulation, A Quickie One and the Who Put Out with all the cool bonus tracks at the end.

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Tommy - MCA 1969

Of course, Tommy was the kid who pushed the Who into superstardom, taking them from guitar-splintering Brit Invasion oddities to the position of being the Avatars of the Generation. You know, people saw meaning in this convoluted double-album 'rock opera' about a kid who loses his powers of sight, hearing, and speech and later becomes a prophet to a bunch of hippies. Whatever. The main thing I get from this record is how deep into his complexes Pete Townshend really was. Here's a story about alienation, manipulation, the psychedelic powers of music, hero worship, religion, drugs, ego, and acceptance of the huge amount of power being a public figure gives you. Of course, there's also the good ol' Townshend-esque themes of infidelity, child abuse, lying, and gross misuse of power. Really, he's tried to cram so much into this here story that it really ends up being this big jumbled thing that sounds important, but I doubt even most of the band members really understood all of it.

The story, to expand y'alls vision a li'l bit, is that there's this Captain Walker who has a son while he's off missing and presumed dead in some unnamed war, who's Tommy ('It's a Boy'). Captain Walker, being the cool fatherly figure he is, survives, and one night returns home to catch Mrs. Walker in bed with some villainous dude who is the 'wicked stepfather' in the story. The stepfather kills Cap'n Walker in front of little Tommy ('1921'), who is then told 'you didn't see it, you didn't hear it, you won't say nothing, not a word of it', thus, you know, fucking up the kid for life ('You Didn't Hear It'). Kids are like that. You try to teach them something useful like how to put the correct end of a spoon into their mouth for months on end and they never get it, but do something inadvisable just once (like, one time I was playing with Katia and I had this enormous booger in my nose, and just had to get rid of it right then...my daughter happened to see the extraction and now likes to see how far she can jam her finger up her nose. Just try to reason with that.) and you're stuck with it for good. Tommy's life from there on out is pretty neato musically, living in a 'quiet vibration land' where he dreams of music ('Amazing Journey' and 'Sparks', the highlights of the album for me). Tommy's mom and stepdad are concerned that little Tommy won't go to heaven if he doesn't know who the fuck Jesus is (great logic there in 'Christmas') and Tommy keeps getting physically and sexually abused by his 'Cousin Kevin' and Uncle Ernie ('Fiddle About') so they take him to healers like 'The Acid Queen' to try to break him from his shell. The only thing that seems to interest Tommy at all about the outside world is Pinball, which he's a genius at despite his handicaps ('Pinball Wizard'). Well, since he can play pinball, he must be able to see and hear, so they take him to a doctor ('There's A Doctor I've Found') who ends up smashing Tommy's psychsomatic problem by showing him a mirror (no, I don't get it either). Tommy regains his senses and decides to lead a new religion (all those songs after 'Smash The Mirror' about him being such a superstar), but the power goes to his head and he begins to make things a bummer for his followers ('We're Not Gonna Take It'), who then revolt, causing Tommy to realise his ego has taken over, repent himself, and decide he needs the Love of the People, not power (the 'See Me, Feel Me' section).

Okay, now with a fairy tale like that to try to break into, it's no wonder that most people either find this thing hilariously campy and overblown or, you know, flakily find meaning in it. To me, anyone who praised this album was doing it for one of two reasons: One, Pete Townshend does make a glorious noise on Tommy, his musical themes are rocking and memorable, and it's obvious that shitloads of work went into this record. It's a product of craft. Which brings us to #2....rock critics and a lot of rock fans in the late-60's were very envious of more 'serious' and 'respected' forms of music like jazz, and, well, opera, and were very insecure that people would never see the validity of a music that relied on 3 minute tunes that combined silly, vaguely sexual lyrics and rudimentary chord changes. Ever wonder why there was all this huzzah about all those 'hyphen-rock' trends in 1969-1970, like 'jazz-rock', 'country-rock', 'singer-songwriter', and 'prog-rock'? It was people attempting to make rock music 'grow up' a little, drag it from being makeout music to something more 'artistically valid' (they were mixed in their success, to say the least) and Pete Townshend's dream of a 'rock opera' fit right into that ideal. If the idea of an opera played by rock musicians appeals to you, I'd certainly recommend this over such bullshit as fucking Hair or Jesus Christ Super-Flaming-Faggot-Star. Personally, I could give a shit about 'rock opera'...what I care about is how much this album rocks, which is a slight disappointment.

The Who seem to be operating as a unit on Tommy much more than previous, which is probably the product of Townshend's writing almost everything on here (besides the disturbing 'Cousin Kevin' and 'Uncle Ernie' about two sicko relatives who abuse the unaware Tommy). The song structures are very rigidly constructed, almost as if everything had been written out on a page prior to recording. Roger, as the role of Tommy, does a much better job at filling the 'lead actor' role than he might've a few years earlier, but I think a lot of the album suffers from the restraints imposed by Townshend. For however much I love musical interludes like 'Sparks' and 'Underture' (which I've never thought to be too long...it's a bit thin as presented here when compared to later concerts, but so is the rest of the whole fucking record!), I find that the music, especially on side 2, takes a back seat to the story and suffers badly as a result. Still, when looking for great music and ignoring the story, you've still got the acoustic-thrashing classic 'Pinball Wizard', Roger's 'I'm Free', and 'Christmas', which I always thought was a really cool little song. As a progression from Who Sell Out, it's clearly more powerful and mature work. Yet, I think, though, that most people who enter Tommy from the Who's Next side, or from similar hard-rocking backgrounds will be very disappointed in the strikingly thin sound of the band and the sacrifice of power for story.

In short, Tommy was an ambitious sonembitch that really took off when performed live, where a lot of the subtlety could be tossed in the incinerator right along with all this echoey thinness that makes the album seem so wimpy when listened to on speakers (on headphones it's much better, FYI). As with most concept albums, I could give two Mexican shitbricks about the story and Townshend's mixed up messages, I'm really in it for great songs. Tommy kinda fails to deliver on that, but there's a lot more decent songs than bad ones, so there y'are.

Capn's Final Word: Double record rock opera that still confuses me, even after reading the libretto, seeing the movie, and reading every interview with Pete I can get my hands on. Musically it's tight, but the balls would come in concert.

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Kelly jimimonroe@gmail.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: You're confusing the movie version with the album version.  In the album version, Captain Walker kills the lover, and in the movie it's the other way around. 
BTW, best tracks are Overture, Sparks, Christmas, Go to the Mirror, Welcome. 
 


Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy - MCA 1971.

All there is to love about the early hit-single Who (that frankly makes you wonder about the quality of the later, hit-record Who) collected in one great package. 'Substitute', 'Happy Jack', 'My Generation', 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere', 'I Can't Explain', 'I Can See For Miles', 'Pinball Wizard', and more. Of course, now supplanted by the endless number of CD-era money-hungry Greatest Hits packages, but for simple pleasures...this is the one to get. Buy the records for the later hits, why doncha?

Capn's Final Word: If the pompous fat of 70's-era classic rock bands gets you down, please look this way. An experience in young, intelligent, angry fun.

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Live At Leeds - MCA 1970/1995

Eh, yeah, it really is that fucking chunky peanut buttery good. Maybe not the best live album I've ever heard...that's still Spiritualized Live At The Royal Albert Hall, but yeah, frigging aces. The band is really at their full complement of ass-whoop, at the time in their career when they'd just reached their loudness/heaviness potential, and hadn't quite gotten too big and bulky and playing too many crappy songs from the late 70's records. As far as I can tell, the Who had about 3 good huge tours in them during their 'golden years'...the endless Tommy tour of 1969-70, the synthesizer-ed Who's Next tour, and the 1976 'getting old quickly tour'. The Quadrophenia tour was supposed to be a mess, I'd rather've missed the '79 bloodbath and the ridiculous '83 finale tour, and c'mon...these latter day tours are a pretty huge joke. This ain't the Stones, who still manage to come up with music every bit as good as what they were doing 25 years ago. Plus, without either Moon or Entwistle, this becomes the Roger and the Hard of Hearing tour, and I can do without. But, yeah, I'll go on record and say that the Who, on a good night, was the greatest live band from 1969 to 1971. And that's a pretty ripe section of years, sucka.

The album shows a savage Who, where Pete's guitar sounds like the weight of the world is packed into the back of his Hiwatt and is being shot forth into the galaxy with each open-chorded STTWWWANNNGGG!!!!! that he wrenches out of it. His soloing is elemental and laser-scoped....one listen to the power and heft he is able to fling out on 'Young Man Blues' is all one needs to be convinced. Keith Moon is also at a peak of sorts: his kit is probably at its most bigass vulva manyanker and he's probably downing a coupla-three quarts of hootch a night in-between executing Rube Goldberg-esque practical jokes with Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr. Roger's in probably his best voice, before he got too flippant with it in the latter 70's, and, well, The Ox is. And what's more, it's all captured here, the essence of the maniacally perfect live show: equal elements of chaos and organization, of meaning and complete abandon.

The concert this was taken from ended up having a complete performance of Tommy, but we only get a very well-selected 'Amazing Journey/Sparks' excerpt. Great, because that was my favorite song on the album anyway. If you need a live Tommy, go for Live at the Isle of Wight. I personally need more Tommy about as much as I need an Original Cast Recording and a Movie Soundtrack and a Broadway Recording of it. Which I won't be reviewing because, last time I checked anyway, I haven't yet had my testes excised and still enjoy my sugar sweet and my TV loud and my beer strong. Anyway, if Tommy'd been left on, we wouldn't have had room for Entwistle's 'Heaven and Hell', a 'Fortune Teller' that kicks the Stones version off the end of the Earth, and my favorite of all: 'A Quick One While He's Away', which may not really be as good as the one on The Kids are Alright, but is still Great Gonzos and Intensities in Ten Cities all wrapped up together. Catch the hilarious riffing of Moon during Pete's ponderous introductory banter.

Part of the real fun of this record (CD, to be fair, the 1970 LP release is about 1/3rd the length and has some really bizarre editing noises...definitely get the 1995 reissue for full metal jacket funsies) is that though there seems to be a huge contingent of covers being tossed around (one of the best versions of the old cover-version war hammer 'Summertime Blues', 'Shakin' All Over', the aforementioned 'Young Man Blues' and 'Fortune Teller') and a lot of the other songs are not necessarily the big hits. 'My Generation' is here in a jammy extendo-version, 'Substitute', 'I Can't Explain' and 'Magic Bus' I guess were somewhat successful, and, as Pete hilariously points out, 'Happy Jack' was, like, #10 in Sweden. But where's 'Pinball Wizard', 'I Can See For Miles', 'Kids Are Alright', or 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere'? Yeah, but they know what works live, and they only give us that stuff. This isn't diluted like Isle of Wight...it's just finely purified hard rock that's probably better than any you've ever heard elsewhere.

Capn's Final Word: Essential live album from a band at it's peak, no caveats or excuses. White hot.

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Billy Williams     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: This here is my favorite Who album. Live At Leeds is the best live album ever made. Loud, powerful, energetic, great song selection. A definite highlight in the annals of rock history.

 

Mike     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I think you said it best in an AC/DC review, which I slightly modified:

76 minutes of YEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The best live album ever, the best Who album ever. So good it'll make you feel more human.

 


The Who Live At The Isle of Wight 1970- MCA 1996

Archive live release recorded some months after Live at Leeds, and though this album can't match Leeds for uninterrupted adrenaline-mainline rock and roll hootchie coo, you really need to own both to get a clear picture of the Who at their live peak. The main news here is a complete live Tommy that absolutely rips the original (not to mention...ugh!...the nasty overstuffed version on Join Together) to shreds...this is not a performance of a 'rock opera', this is a fucking ace live band masterfully ruminating on Tommy and his various and sundry handicapped adventures for an hour or so. Pete Townshend's gorgeous guitar playing on the 'Overture' says it all: this performance is what Tommy was (and is) all about. What's so impressive about Townshend is that he's the motor in a band full of rocket engines: Moon has more energy than a thousand suns as he crashes perfectly around his 70-piece orchestra of drums, Enwistle is constantly inventive, playing counterpoint, groove, and melody in equal measure, and often at the same time. And Roger's endurance throughout this performance is just astounding...to think that there are really no long jammy sections here (nothing like, say, Robert Plant had the luxury of, anyway) to rest on, he's singing a lot, and singing well...lots of grit and heart, and you know he had to belt it out fucking loud to make it over the fully functional Death Star that was the Who. But Pete, he does it all. He leads the band, he sings backup, he does flying leaps, flesh-shredding windmills, wiggles his gay ass....you know, just about everything a rock star with his very own band is supposed to do. There's times where I really think that, all things being equal, Pete Townshend is the most impressive band leader I can think of. He writes damn near all the songs, has to play all the melodies himself, solos magnificiently, has a mastery of dynamics, and never really limits himself to playing what's on the page. This band is really, really good, and if you haven't checked them out, you simply must already.

Back to the performance....Tommy is cut slightly short, but I don't see any of the cuts (the fillerish 'Welcome', the redundant 'Cousin Kevin', some other trifle from the point where Tommy fucking wakes up already) as subtracting from the power of the story. On the contrary, this is a lean, lightning-fast run-through, and I don't miss any of the story at all. Of course, Tommy isn't a perfect work, even with the edits and additional dick-kick they produce, so certain parts drag and I long for the succinct Live at Leeds. It's just that, well, after you've heard them do it this way, you'll never want to go back to the studio version again. And when they blister through 'Christmas' or 'Sparks' or 'I'm Free' or 'We're Not Gonna Take It', Tommy reaches complete dendricular nirvana....pleasure at the cellular level. It's hot, to say positively the least possible.

The second disc is less valuable than the first due to the overlap with Leeds, and the slight drawbacks of this performance begin to let themselves be known. First, on headphones at least, this album sounds as good or better than Leeds, but on speakers (the difference between headspace listening and room acoustic listening is often a big one with the Who: nothing beats full-bore speakers-at-11 Who's Next, but Quadrophenia on headphones is a revelatory experience) this sounds thinner and the inability of Townshend to stay in tune is a real annoyance. Also, there's only like 7 songs on CD 2, including 'Summertime Blues' (which is great), 'Young Man Blues' (nearly identical to Leeds) and 'Shakin All Over' (which isn't so much...the wanking here is a little lengthy. They do 'Twist and Shout' too, though, which isn't listed on the credits) as covers, plus 'Magic Bus' and of course their deconstruction of 'My Generation'. They also do 'Pure and Easy' and 'Rain' from the primordial Lifehouse project. Those two are great for trivia collectors, but 'Rain' is pretty nasty anyway (Roger goes pretty overboard here...I think it's just gross a lot of the time. Pete has some awfully pretty chord progressions in that pointy head of his, tho) and most real Who freaks probably have better versions from other concerts already.

As with most archive double albums, I'm convinced that while this performance was historically important (hundreds of thousands in the audience! One of Jimi Hendrix's last shows!) and probably one of their better ones, there's probably a stack of bootlegs that are as good or better than this one waiting for free download right there on WinMX. Of course, so is this album, but that's no matter. I really suggest you get this for the Tommy and Leeds for everything else. And count yourself happy you aren't deaf, dumb, and blind. Especially deaf.

Capn's Final Word: Less rancor for the rouble than Leeds, but still indispensably great live work. Get this and then seek out some bootlegs.

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Michael Bleicher      Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: Dirtier, rawer rock-and-roll than Leeds, where Pete was able to focus a little better because of the small studenty crowd and thus tried to impress them by pulling all sorts of lead guitar tricks. Here, his guitar tone is a more sharp, aggressive one and he matches it with some of the greatest fucking-pissed-off rhythm work I've ever heard. The Tommy performance on here is still better than the one on the new Deluxe Leeds; they were phoning it in there. Not so here.

 


Who's Next - MCA 1971

Argh....no, this is still a perfect grade. Not the sort of perfect album where every song in indispensable, but absolutely the kind where the total effect that this album has on me, each and every time I listen to it, is so strong as to be undeniably deserving of an A+. This is pretty much where it all comes together for the studio Who...they've taken all the power and guts of their last two years of touring and thrown it into their performance here, which Pete reports was completed in about a week. Some credit can be given to producer-genius Glyn Johns for mastering such a hot, spacious recording that sounds like you could walk around inside of it, credit can be given to Moon and Entwistle for keeping up the perfection they'd shown during their live tour (Moon in particular is a highlight of this album...his two-fisted 'orchestral' drum conducting has never been put to better use). Roger, too, finally comes into full bloom here...it's now no mic but his. The times when Pete coopted the singing chores about half the time are over....

But, again, it's Pete's show. Not only does he provide his strongest-ever group of songs, one that is arguably also his most durable (this does sound like an album of the early 70's, classic rock at it's best, you know, but many of the effects and ideas have never really been equaled elsewhere), but he also goes and pioneers the use of synthesizers at the same time. Pete never really got around to using them in any other way than he does on the opening 'Baba O'Reilly' (no, not 'Bill O'Reilly', you fascists! And not fucking 'Teenage Wasteland', you brick-headed WinMX user!), where the Arp just dances all over overdubs of itself flying through arp-eggios that - surprise! - fall perfectly in time with the crashing, heaving drumbeat that Moon lays down. They continue throughout the whole tune, just cruising through their chord programs, fluttering in the background. I shouldn't have to tell you the effect is mesmerizing...without them (I heard a live show once where you couldn't hear the synths) this song is amazingly simplistic, but their effect is crucial. Their use is always supportive, always humane, never overbearing, and the band plays along with them, not in competition with them, and that's vitally important. This is still a hard rock band, probably the hardest they'd ever be, and these twinking and twoinking arpeggiators don't change one bit of that. If anything, they make the album sound more human (at the ending of 'Baba', where the whole band pops into a sort of Jewish dance jig, the synths almost sound like Pete's old banjo...that couldn't have been a mistake). There's only once where the synths play an antagonistic role, and that's on 'Won't Get Fooled Again'...but that's entirely, and brilliantly, intentional. More on that later.

Who's Next was actually almost entirely built from the bits and pieces of Townshend's famed never-finished second rock opera Lifehouse (all the pieces now somehow collected onto 6 discs as a Townshend solo venture, including parts of Psychoderilict and other projects that were all Lifehouse spinoffs...but Who Cares?) about a personally Internetted future where one dude (Bobby, is it?) decides to throw an ilicit rock concert, hits the magical lost chord, and everyone within listening distance disappears simultaneously. Really? Well, it's actually a lot more complicated and a lot less cool than the Moody Blues Do the Matrix that I just described. Let's just leave it that it drove Pete to a nervous breakdown, and he's obsessed about it and released little bits of it on nearly all of his albums since (ala Brian Wilson's Smile). Most of the songs here (if not all of them) have roots in Lifehouse, and might make a little more sense now that you know what 'teenage wasteland' and 'there once was a note, pure and easy' are supposed to mean.

My main criticism here is that there are a few songs that just don't really cut it, but are here anyway. For one thing, they're all together in the middle of the album, which doesn't help matters much when you have to make it through this big block of not-quite-great between the opening and closing, which are both just about perfectly awesome. After 'Baba O'Reilly', there's the macho-rockin 'Bargain' which is definitely Roger's show, then the acoustic, mid-tempo rocker 'Love Ain't For Keeping', which almost sounds like something off of G'n'R Lies, fer chrissakes! Entwistle's only contribution (he doesn't even get any of the bonus tracks! No wonder he started a solo career not long after this!), the flat rocker 'My Wife', is pretty good and, thank God, is a good change of pace right when the album starts it's down time. Finally, a song not about Big Controlling Dictatorial Governments, Achieving Inner Peace, or Striving After Perfect Love. It's about running from your wife after being hauled off to jail after getting too drunk. Hi-larious, I says. 'The Song Is Over' is not at all as good as 'Pure and Easy', the similar Lifehouse 'Lost Chord' song. 'Over' has both some really good Nicky Hopkins piano and Roger acting like the biggest inflatable balloon at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade...'I Sing My Song Out To The Wide Open Spaces!!! I Sing My Song Out To The Invalid Seas!'...oh Christ, I think I left the real Who in my other pants. Don't worry, folks, these kinds of lines are going to become par for the course in the late 70's, so just you hold right on, okay? 'Getting In Tune' is okay, if not reaching the heights of the great songs on here, and 'Goin' Mobile' is just really silly, a goofy little tune somewhere in between 'Magic Bus' and 'Squeeze Box', but not anywhere as good as either one. Must be the lack of a decent riff, maybe. It's got a bassline, sure, but no riff. Got a neat bridge, no riff. Got a dumb guitar-through-Arp solo, no riff.

No matter, though, 'cos the next two songs will make you forget all about it. 'Behind Blue Eyes' is either the most successfully self-loathing of Pete's Teenage Angst songs, an achingly beautiful chord progression matched to lyrics that are poetic in their innate melody, but are sincerely frightening when you realise how spitefully they're spat out ('My dreams, they aren't as empty....as my conscience seems to be...' Ouch! Hitler Youth, sign up here!) And the rockin' part kicks in the second-best release of the album. Savagely rocking, with guitar rips straight out of Leeds '70. ('If my face clenches, crack it open, before I use it and lose my cool!') A scary song that I hope very few people actually identify with, otherwise there'll be a whole hell of a lot more Jeffrey Dahmers and Ted Bundys on the loose.

'Won't Get Fooled Again' is probably in my Top 3 greatest rock and roll songs ever. It's a protest song turned upside down on the protester, a marching song that shows how ultimately useless it is to march, it shows the struggle between man and machine (man wins, or at least he thinks he does) and the utter futility of humans striving for Earthly power over other men. In other words, it just about sums up a whole host of my personal prejudices in a righteously rocking, inventive, raw, alive 8:30. I won't try to describe it all, but just list a few of the details you may have missed. First off, ever noticed the part where Roger sings 'I know that the hypnotised never lie!' and Pete goes, very faintly 'Do ya?' a few bars later. Also, notice how, after the completion of the 'The party on the left...is now the party on the right' (very astute line, that) and the corresponding chorus, the band launches into what amounts to being a three-person simultaneous solo for about a minute? And still holds it together? Oh my God, this is why I buy all these fucking albums....then it breaks down into the synth, but notice this: the acoustic guitar is the last thing other than the synth you hear....it's the dying of humanity into this series of Arp blips. Life is compartmentalised....you are under their control.

But something, no someone, breaks us out. Motherfucking Keith Moon beats the machine to death, and Roger cries the scream of 10 million years of Ur-men against their fucking tools that never cease being less frigging useful than a pair of hands and a willing pair of tits. This is rock music. This is music not to be forgotten.

Capn's Final Word:  'YYYYYEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! Meet the new boss....same as the old boss!'

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Kake     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: The album is great, of course, but..

Is "Won't get..." really about the struggle between man and machine? To me, it's an anti-realpolitik statement by Townsend, where he shows his hopelessness against politicians and their viles. So, its useless that one tries to bring about a revolution, cause "the new boss...same as the old boss".

Anyways, how about reviewing Radiohead next?

Nathan Harper nator9999@comcast.net     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: It's constructed to LOOK like a great album, even though it's really not. How did they pull it off? Well the 2 opening tracks and 2 closing tracks kick ass. The Who at their best. Everything in between is a bit iffy though...'Love Ain't For Keeping' is decent. 'Getting in Tune' is pretty good if you ignore the embarrassing cheesiness of it all. 'The Song is Over' is is just intolerable though. and while 'Going Mobile' might have sounded good done by The Kinks or somebody, Townshend just sounds like an idiot.

But Man, those four good tracks just bring the rating up SO much...definitely no less than an A.


(Capn's Response: Are you claiming the Sergeant Pepper's Effect here? Sounds like you are - Begins with a flourish, ends up by shaking your world, but is really kinda lame in the middle? I can buy that. Still a great record, though...some of the best of the early 70's.)

Simon B.     Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: For a while there, I thought this album was overrated. At first I only liked "Baba O'Riley", "The Song is Over", and "Won't Get Fooled Again". But then I listened to it more, and discovered that ALL the songs are good in their own right. (ie. Before, I thought that "My Wife", "Getting In Tune" and "Going Mobile" were not very good - and even a bit annoying - but now I think they're pretty good and catchy).
Pete's slashing guitar and sweet vocals Keith's crazy drumming, John's thundering bass, and Roger's tough-guy vocals all make this album a close runner-up to their best album (and one of the best albums of the early 70's).

 

Peter Haley    Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: You said 'If my face clenches, crack it open, before I use it and lose my cool!'

I always thought he said, 'If my FIST clenches, crack it open, before I use it and lose my cool!'

It fits the more street-fighting theme rather than some psychotic self hate.   Of course they both fit the song in different ways.

(Capn's Response: Ahhh, you know I could never understand Welsh.)
 

Michael Bleicher     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: I agree with you in that there are some duds on this album but the good stuff is too good to let it get away with anything less (although Sgt. Pepper's is just as good, and follows the same "make a good one look great" formula, if not more so). My main gripes are that "Song is Over" and "Getting in Tune" sound too similar and both go on too long. "Song is Over" is really pretty though.
Great reviews by the way, funny like Prindle but more insightful and helpful like George Starostin's old site.

John Mc     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: As it presently exists, this is an A, but not quite an A+. *My* vision of Who's Next/Lifehouse, the one that gets an A++, is as follows:

Baba O'Reilly, Bargain, Love Ain't For Keeping (Odds and Sods remaster version), I Don't Even Know Myself, My Wife, Water, Time is Passing, Song is Over, Pure and Easy, Naked Eye, Long Live Rock, Join Together, Relay, Goin' Mobile, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again.

I mean, this would be just about perfect in every way. On vinyl, it would be four sides of four songs each, and yet it all fits easily onto 1 CD.


Jack     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Fantastic Album. Probably My Favorite Hard Rock Album of all time. Won't Get Fooled Again's got a solid place in my top 10 rock songs ever as well. I'm curious to know what the other members of your "top 3" are.

(Capn's Response: Ummm...'Happy Birthday' and 'Stand By Your Man')

Ben Valerius brv@uwm.edu Your Rating: A

Any Short Comments?: Excellent album, probably the best all around Who studio album. This one shows a post-Leeds sense of maturity and sophistication, yet it retains the ferocity of their live shows. "Won't Get Fooled Again" is also one of my favorite rock and roll songs. The sheer intensity of Pete's playing, Keith's pounding drums, John's fluid bass, and THAT scream of screams, those lyrics...ahhh it's amazing. Words can't do it justice. I always liked "My Wife," it's a good, driving rocker. "Love Ain't For Keeping" is way too short, I prefer the electric version with Leslie West on second guitar. The song itself is great, though. "Song is Over" and "Getting in Tune" drag a bit, although I always liked the latter, just the way the "I'm gonna tune...right in on YOU" bit is sung...it sounds good to my ear. "Behind Blue Eyes" is another favorite of mine. Maybe it's because my eyes are blue, or the quiet desperation of the first verses really gets me. I really dig the electric! /acoustic bridge section too, reminds me of the chorus from "Pinball Wizard." Like John Mc, I have to wonder *why* exactly "I Don't Even Know Myself," "Water," "Time is Passing" or "Naked Eye," were left off - I consider those three among the Who's best songs! ESPECIALLY "I Don't Even Know Myself," with its effortless transition from all-out rocker to the skiffle chorus and back. Great lyrics, too. I remember the first time I heard that song, it really struck a chord with me, about how if you don't know who you are, then no one else can know you as well. Neat idea. Too bad it wasn't on the album, it fits well with Who's Next's themes of anger, despair, searching and loss. All in all, a really, really good album.

 


Quadrophenia - MCA 1973

The last true show of Who greatness...after this it was all down to earth. Quadrophenia is another double album, another rock opera, even more muddled and convoluted than the first and aborted second (at least this doesn't really involve anything supernatural this time around, and no futurama sci-fi fantasies that hit a bit too close to home, neither). This album also continues Townshend's newfound love of the semiconductor-originated sound, and much of the material here is based on synth charts every bit as complicated and not near as affecting as those on Who's Next. It's also almost infinitely more ornate and layered...there's sound effects, thousands of overdubs, all kinds of hoo-ha and woo-woo in these grooves. And it's long. All in all it was seen at the time to be a pretty monumental disaster for Townshend, who swore off rock operas for a long time after the Quad tour sputtered to a halt. At first it was released only on Quadrophonic sound (the reasons why will become maybe a little clearer when I explain the plot), which failed to take off in popularity as Townshend had hoped it would. Then it was mixed to stereo, but the mix was so muddy as to require remixing not once (in the mid-70s, by Entwistle), but also again in the 90's. The live tour demanded playing along to tapes of the synthesized backgrounds (something they'd already successfully done on the Who's Next tour), but they never quite got it all in sync, probably no small blame going to Moon, who was already fading from too much boozing.  However many iterations it goes through, Quadrophenia never quite feels finished, not to the level of Who's Next, which was dashed off in probably the same length of time it took Pete just to write the horn charts for this one. The mix is wall-of-soundish without the impact, and while there's frequent instances of sheer beauty here, my first reaction is to call this album overblown and messy. Very much fitting the statement 'his reach exceeds his grasp', Quadrophenia is where Townshend finally stops being a rocker and starts being a...gulp!....composer.

The story here, as illustrated in the indispensably awesome packaging (do yourself a favor, get a used vinyl record with the huge, gorgeous insert book intact...you'll beg to come and wash my car and buy me beer once you do), revolves around Jimmy, a mid-60's London Mod (and nascent Who fan, natch). Jimmy does the usual Mod stuff, buys the clothes, goes to the fights, and mostly idolizes the trend-setting faces (not Faces, as in Rod Stewart's old band, but now you know where they got the name, anyway) who have all the chicks and influence. Jimmy's got the usual teenage punk problems, his parents fear and try to control him, he wants chicks he can't get, he involves himself in senseless violence for the hell of it...except he's also going utterly insane, splitting off into four personalities (supposedly represented by the divergent personalities of the four Who members as illustrated by the album cover) on his way down the spiral. He ends up seeking out the Face and finding out he's just another working stiff, running luggage in a hotel, he loses his potential girlfriends to the rock stars in the Who (most people miss this part), and decides to go on a rampage before finally resigning himself to suicide at the hands of the ocean. On his way down to sign an eternal lease with the Great English Channel Flats, he has a spiffy epiphany and decides it's better to live.

Now, more so than Tommy, the story here is really not very important. It takes place in Mod London, but that never seems particularly important...Jimmy could easily be a futuristically ultraviolent Burgess punk, a Fitzgerald 20's hipster, or even a Spartan fag...youthful punk confusion and angst isn't very time-specific. Mod culture really was pretty stupid with all the clothes and haircuts and shit, and totally incomprehensible to an American outsider who never suffered through the postwar deficits that England did, but what I'm saying is that Pete just set it there because it was familiar. Also, the whole madness thing is kinda glossed over...I never would've really gathered that had I not been told it a thousand zillion times ('Jimmy is as Nutty as a Frankfurter! He's got multiple personalities!'), and certain songs make absolutely no sense at all in the context of the story, but in general I get a good feeling about the overall progression of the songs around the central theme of Jimmy's progressing disillusionment. This is a Townshend rock opera that I can actually sorta get into, identify with...while I liked Tommy almost in spite of the story element, here I feel like I like the music as a component of the story.

Musically, Quadrophenia is the densest, most complicated material Townshend ever produced, but it seems to lack the resilient recurring themes that made Tommy memorable despite its shortcomings. The music also marks a retreat from the no-bars-held hard rock of the last two albums into more moderately rocking stuff....tempos are more languid, songs tend to float rather than thrash...it's like an entire record based around 'The Song Is Over'...quiet, melodic opening, bombastic rocking section with an overweening chorus that never takes off completely, all of it ornamented by Pete's neverending bag of guitar tricks and various synth noises. 'I'm One', 'Is It In My Head', 'Cut My Hair', 'The Dirty Jobs', 'Sea and Sand'...they're almost all the same song. They serve the story, I suppose, but they sound about as similar as American beers taste. Add to this that Moon especially is hamstrung into playing 'beats' the whole album through and I still can't hear the bass work most of the time and it all adds up into sounding very important, but ultimately only dimly memorable.

Now, the best songs here really are special, not to the level of Who's Next, maybe, but the last real great, big motions that Pete allowed himself within the Who. I'm talking here about 'Doctor Jimmy' ('were talking unchecked aggression here!!') and the riotously hopped-up '5:15', which invokes the sadness associated with getting fucked up loaded as well as the unfathomable rush of being young and invincible and fucked up and horny. I also especially enjoy the 'Sparks'-y 'Quadrophenia', which shows off Pete's impressive synth work in an almost progressive light. The ending sequence of the instrumental 'Rock' and Roger's signature 'Love, Reign O'er Me' (which manages to top 'See Me, Feel Me' for sheer release) also reaches a level of transcendence that really equals anything the band ever did.

Quadrophenia is a very impressive work that ultimately only partially satisfies me. There's simply too many of the samey-sounding 'Quad-songs' in the middle of the album, I feel at a loss as to what emotions this album is supposed to instill in me, and quite a bit of it seems to be all bluster with very little lasting effect. I feel like, if the Who had spent last time fucking with each and every last track on here, layering and overdubbing the album into a sort of overloaded limbo, and had just dashed it off with the guts they gave Who's Next, we'd have a much better record. Or possibly not...the cracks were already beginning to really show in the band's performance level by this point (especially Moon, who's flashes of genius went from a nearly constant thing to being rarer than a hot chick at a Rush concert), and maybe it had been one too many crackups for Townshend, who spent most of 1971-1983 careening from nervous breakdowns to nervous exhaustion to alcoholism to drug addiction and back again. It's no wonder Quad wrung them out as completely as it did: it's huge, ambitious, and artistically loaded. The final product, though, is only pretty good. They'd never again attempt to wade in such choppy waters.

Capn's Final Word: Tommy squared, this time returning as a creaky Mod, sounding like it was played by an army and written by a man with more than a couple of his strings broken. Too many unfinished ideas and musical half-efforts, but enough excellent moments to save it.

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Tony Souza     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: Your review of this is pretty much on the money (my grading isn't as lenient as yours, this album has too many flaws for me to give it a higher grade). The review itself comes closest to articulating how I feel about this album. I think the concept is there, but the project was too ambitious. There are a lot of high points on here ("The Real Me", "Bell Boy", "I've Had Enough", the title track), but it's still too bloated musically for me. 
 

David Dickson     Your Rating: A+
Any Short Comments?: Barrgh, you're BOTH wrong.  This is the best record of the Who's career.  And I think the mixing is MUCH better on here than on any other Who album--I can hear the bass a lot better, and Moon drums his life out, both on the thrashy sections and the symphonic, calculated ones.  This is growing to be a theme between you and me, Capn--you seem to despise most "calculated" rock records, with the exception of certain records by Beatles and ex-Beatles.  I, on the other hand,
tend to enjoy rock that has more time put into it than the opposite.  All these ideas about rock and roll needing more guts than craft--bull, I say.  Craft can be just as valuable--just look at Pink Floyd and contemporaries.  That's just my opinion, of course.  But I do think you brought up an important point.  You weren't fucking kidding about those Rush concerts--I was at one a couple of summers ago.  Nothing but pasty white males with ponytails and glasses as far as the eye could see.  And it was sold out. 

Brrrr.  Scary image, that.

 

irrelevant     Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: I've got it! The secret is to commit yourself to repeated listening.  The 'samey-sounding' songs start to emerge as individual melodies.  If we all dimissed 'Exile on Main Street' after a few listening for having 'samey-sounding' songs then we'd be missing out.  the same goes for this, there are many little things happening that only come out after many listenings.  I hated it at first, but stick with it and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

(Capn's Response: Dude, I think you underestimate me.  I had the guitar tab to this album once, and learned to play a bunch of it.  It's samey, believe me. But I still like it enough to give it an A-, eh?)

Dane J. Hitt dane.j.hitt@gmail.com     Your Rating: A+
  Any Short Comments?:	Well, I'm not gonna contest your grade. This is mostly because I personally appreciate the story so much that it makes the music that much easier to appreciate. Samey-sounding filler? Oh yeah,
  can't be denied. As far as musical diversity goes, Tommy STOMPS this puppy into the ground. I just got so much into the story I guess it helped me love the music more. The two weakest tracks to me are "Drowned"
  and "The Dirty Jobs," the former of which should have been recorded on the album as the acoustic solo version that Pete Townshend now performs on his tours. It's so much better and doesn't sound like a carbon copy
  of "5:15." And as for the latter, well, I do love the "My karma tells me..." line. And while I think the album's prime moments are SO powerful and awesome (side four anyone?) that they compensate very much for
  stuff like "Drowned." If we can pardon "Providence" (which is a healthy chunk of Red) because everything else rocks I think we need to cut "!Drowned" some slack. But like I said, I appreciate it all because of
  the story. Without understanding of the story it's a much tougher album to enjoy. So fine, A-, go ahead. That's not what inspired me to write this little complaint.

  "(especially Moon, who's flashes of genius went from a nearly constant thing to being rarer than a hot chick at a Rush concert)"

  THAT'S it. No, sir. Keith Moon's super-drug-o-rama period didn't start (as far as I'm aware anyways) until after his wife left him and took their daughter along. This was just shortly before the 1973 tour, which
  to my knowledge started just before the finished album actually released.Drugged up or not, you can't possibly tell me Keith Moon's drumming took a step down from Who's Next. "The Real Me" is plenty
   enough evidence, isn't it? Sure, we all know Entwistle carries the weight of the song's power, but listen to Moon. At the beginning it's just a minor part and thirteen seconds in, he's already jamming little fills and rolls
  and so forth in the beat. And he only gets more and more berserk as the song progresses. "5:15?" There's no way that kind of drumwork was under the kind of drugs that murdered his talent in the late 70's. 
And sometimes it's not even in how fast he's playing, it's what he's playing. The drum
  intro to "The Rock" is so simple, yet so...powerful. "Bell Boy?" "I've Had Enough?" Damn near everything else on the album? I don't see evidence that Keith Moon's drum work faltered. I gotta defend the loony
  bastard. I hate to be a George Starostin-parrot, but the man was right: Keith's work on the album is fucking amazing. Compare Keith's drumming on Who Are You to Quadrophenia. I think it's pretty clear when
  Keith really DID lose his genius.


 


Odds And Sods - MCA 1974

Odds and Sods is Pete Townshend's third rock opera, one which seems to tie in all of the different previous rock concept records he's ever dreamt up. I realised he was already running thin on ideas after blowing his wad on Quad, but I never thought he'd sink so low as to what he presents here on Odds and Sods (I hear the album title refers to John and Keith as 'The Odd' and Pete and Roger as 'The Sods', which is short for 'sodomite', in case you didn't know).

Pete unimaginitively writes this story about a fictitious (?) rock band called 'The Who' (inexplicably called 'The High Numbers on some of the early tracks) who start out as ambitious Mods ('I'm The Face', which sounds like it was recorded in 1964, not 1974) and get so lucky as to be put on a package tour of the British Isles ('Leaving Here'). They have a few early hit covers which establish the band as the 'wildest thing on eight legs' as singer 'Roger' puts it, but they meet misfortune when they hire a poorly coordinated tour bus driver ('Mary Anne With The Shaky Hands') who very angry when second guessed as to which way the A7 motorway is, flips out, and begins to act irrationally ('My Way') The band is now held hostage by this dangerous Mary Anne, who is doing three-wheeled slalom turns along the Cliffs of Dover. Even though they pride themselves on not being very religious, the situation demands they all get together and pray in the bus bathroom ('Faith In Something Bigger'). Jesus Christ, hears their prayers and materializes in front of the Who, and by laying hands on the disturbed bus driver, breaks her of her madness ('Glow Girl') and the band make it to Sheffield safely for their gig.

At their gig, 'The Ox', still shaken by the supernatural phenomenon that he witnessed early that afternoon, proceeds to remove his penis from his trousers while in the middle of their set ('Little Billy') and begins to lament the diminutive nature of his organ  ('Young Man Blues'), and while the band and audience look on in shock, relates the story of how he wishes he could just have a smooth, flat crotch like the mannequin in the local Harrod's window ('Cousin Kevin Model Child'). 'Pete', touched by this show of honesty from his bovine bass player, exhorts the audience for applause ('Love Ain't For Keeping'), but they refuse, and many begin to leave out of sheer boredom of 'The Ox's' story ('Time Is Passing'). The Who leave the stage in a huff, declaring that any willing virgin groupies can meet them backstage ('Pure and Easy').

Within minutes, a small horde of pubescent chicks is there waiting to entertain the boys, who enthusiastically indulge themselves. 'The Ox', however, is having problems with his male performance and pleads with 'Little Billy' to cooperate (he serenades his penis with the touching 'Long Love Rock', and of course, a showstopping reprise of 'Faith In Something Bigger'). Unfortunately, 'The Ox's' girl has decided it's time to leave, and demands payment for the aborted services ('Put The Money Down'). 'The Ox' is appalled, mostly because he hasn't yet gotten paid for the evening's show. He slowly rouses the other members of 'the Who' from their various states of backstage depravity, and they set off for the promoter's office, only to find it locked ('We Close Tonight'). 'Pete' sinks into a deep depression and runs off with the bus driving Mary Anne for a romantic holiday in Brighton ('Postcard'). He only contacts his bandmates on rare occasions, usually with either damnations of their immoral rock 'n' roll ways or one-line updates on his current occupation ('Now I'm A Farmer'). 'The Who' is dead, 'Pete' is now a grumpy hermit, and the other members quickly grow old and die. The End. Talk about your overblown bummer rock operas! Pete can't even give it a happy ending, the earhole-rapist!

Oh, and there's 'Water' and 'Naked Eye' from the Who's Next bonus tracks tacked onto the end.

Capn's Final Word: Umm, am I missing the point here?

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The Who By Numbers - MCA 1975

The Who begin marking a lot of lasts from here on out as the Who machine finally begins to slowly (and looooonggglly) peter out after such a sustained and impressive peak that has lasted since, well, a case could be made that they've been peaking since 1965...But the late 70's were not a kind time for the band, as Pete careened between addiction and breakdown nearly on a monthly basis, Keith now very obviously lost his battle with drink and, as some say, schizophrenia (he was a righteous violent little fuck to his wife, Kim around this time, and reportedly stalked her for years after she finally fled to the protection of pianist Ian McLagan) John even began to slowly but surely lose his songwriting grip. Only Roger seemed to escape unscathed through the end of the Who in 1983, but as he was a slave to the quality of the material given to him, well, maybe his reputation suffered some irreparable damage, too. The results are easily seen in the steadily declining quality of the studio releases after QuadropheniaWho Are You would be their last album sections of brilliance on it, Face Dances had Townshend's last classic, 'You Better, You Bet', and It's Hard, well, I guess it had Townshend's last pretty good song for the who, 'Eminence Front'. Yup, it took 'em 10 years to finally croak after Quadrophenia, and I guess a lot of you feel like you can skip all this stuff. You'd be a fucking fucknose if you did that. The Who By Numbers is better than Quadrophenia, I say...gasp all you want. It's their overlooked great second-tier album. Of course, it ain't My Generation or Sell Out or Who's Next, but after those, yeah...

Who By Numbers is the Who's 'strip down' record after going over the edge of the Big Top on Quad, and it presents the band more or less as themselves, no keyboards, no strings, just normal rock guitar overdubs and, umm, perfectly normal stuff, that's all. This was Townshend's Big Downsize after he found that Quad stubbornly refused to be played correctly onstage. There's a concept here, one of Townshend's relentless self-doubt, depression, and loathing of the world and himself, but I would say that's probably the songwriting state more than, you know, the intended plot. Most of all, though, this is Mr. Generation's 'I'm Getting Fucking Old! And I'm not yet dead!' freakout album. Ahh, the irony is so thick that David Spade is even getting nauseous.

Some call this Pete's 'Singer-Songwriter' album, and as much as that term makes me want to firebomb the nearest granola shop, I can see their point. Pete's always been a 'Mr. Self-Aware', writing veiled songs about his complexes and frustrations, but he's never been so baldly autobiographical as he is here. This is a guy who is aging rapidly and has already learned Rule Number 1 about being an old-guy writer:

Whine. Whine a lot. Make it sound like we should just shoot you in the face to let you out of your misery and keep our houseplants from wilting with your old-person smell.

Yeah, he lays on the self-pity pretty thick here, but he's still deft enough to make things sound clever and beautiful even as he plays the 6th straight tune about how much he really dislikes himself and most of the people around him. In less capable hands (like, maybe, his own three years later) these songs would be untenably portentious, but he allows them to breathe with humanity and loads them with some ringer lines to make them likable. Sure, this ain't no Plastic Ono Band or Darkness at the Edge of Town or The Many Moods of Tiny Tim in terms of soul-baring classics, but it certainly doesn't embarrass newly old whiny fart Townshend at all, either. Moon also plays his last-ever 'Moony' drumming here - though sporadically. At times he's merely normal, as he would sadly be on all of Who Are You.

Musically we're looser than we have been in a long fucking time, and there's not a whole lot of 'ass kicking rock nose-splattering' considering the new stripped philosophy. There's only one 'heavy rocker' by Pete, the Piano-driven Lifehouse layover 'Slip Kid', and I can't really see kids pumping fist (that just sounds sleazy) to the line 'there's no easy way to be free'. But I still dig the song. Entwistle's thickly ironic music-industry sendup 'Success Story' (probably his last great song, too. Jesus, did these guys self-destruct simultaneously, or what? Did they have a plan, or something? Maybe their contract with Satan ran out.) is also in his trademark metallic boogie style, but that's to be expected. Nah, lots of the rest is just competent and unspectacular upbeat rock that might fool you into thinking it's boring, but each song has a discernable sound and tone and I think they've done a great job keeping things inventive. 'However Much I Booze' is oddly snappy if quite a bit too long, 'Dreaming From The Waist' is kinda vulgar, but the singing on the chorus is gorgeous, as is all of 'Imagine A Man', which, to me, matches the ballads of just about anybody for bittersweet glory. Not for 'They're All In Love', which despite some really excellent singing by Roger and the best line on the album ('Where do you fit in PBBBLLTTT!! magazine, where the past is a hero and the present a queen?'), one that sums up the Rocker Growing Old thing perfectly, is kinda repulsive. 'In A Hand Or Face' grinds heavily and probably compares well to some tracks on Quad for bombacity, but I'd rather not make the comparison. 'How Many Friends' is where the self-pity gets the deepest and hardest to take, though at times I want to shout out the same question, too. You?

(A little aside here...'How Many Friends' is also where Pete first alludes to his bisexuality, and no one ever seems to catch it. It's the very first verse, the one about some guy buying him drinks 'but maybe he's just after my ass'. I just wanted to scoop y'all, you know?)

But no, the best song on the album is one of the sweetest love songs ever written, the banjo/French Horn/Trumpet trio 'Blue, Red, and Grey', which fits in superbly with the negativity on the rest of the album...and neutralizes it with a sublimely attractive summing up of what makes life nice. 'Some people have to have the sultry evenings, cocktails in the Blue, Red and Grey, but I like every minute of the day...I like every second that you are on my mind....') Of course, Pete probably wrote it for the Meher Baba rather than some chick (or dude, you know Pete as well as I do), but it's still multi-applicable. What a great little song, one that makes me smile and forget my troubles and the troubles of you and everyone else I care for in two minutes.

There's also the very last Who Big Hit Single, the well-hated 'Squeeze Box', which I fucking LOVE. I mean, it's like 'Magic Bus' again, except with accordion...a big ol' joke song, sure, about as far from the Second Coming of Who's Next as can be, but Who Cares? It's the closest the Old Who have been to the Young Who in a loooong time and as catchy as anything ever written by just about anyone.

The bonus tracks are just part of a pointless live excerpt including a very poor 'Squeeze Box' (how can they fuck up the song's essential pop? Dumbasses!) and, for God knows what reason, 'Behind Blue Eyes'. 

Historically, I've wanted to listen to Who By Numbers more often than any other Who album besides Who's Next. I seriously don't think there's a bad song on here besides possibly 'In A Hand Or Face', and while it certainly doesn't come close to the heights of Quad, it has an internal compass that keeps it more consistent (not to mention more concise) than that four-sided monster. I can see some balking at Townshend's sometimes-relentless crybabyism, but most of the time I don't even feel bothered by it (hell...it's genuine) and I hope you won't either. 'Cos after this, I can no longer be this generous.

Capn's Final Word: A completely different Who album, conventionally arranged, but with bleeding-wound lyrics. Fascinating.

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Angelmo645 Your Rating: A-
Any Short Comments?: Probably the band's most underratted album, In my opinion, although I do admit that Pete's whininess does go a little overboard at times (I have a tendancy to roll my eyes whenever I hear However Much I Booze).  Other than that, I think the muscial quality here is top notch.  Slip Kid is really, really friggin catchy, Dreaming From the Waist rocks (I like to think of it as Pictures of Lily part 2), and I cannot listen to Success Story without picturing John shooting gold records with a machine gun.  Hilarious! Most of all, Blue,Red,and Grey is probably the most genuinly sweetest love song I've ever heard.  This is damn good stuff.

Michael Richardson  foxtrot001@msn.com   Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: i think this one has alot more impact without the bonus tracks later tagged on.

the original version with just the 8 or 10 songs on it is one of my favrite who albums (it was also one of the first ones i discovered as a
kid, tho)......i think the songs are just greatness!

Alan Brooks  kerry_prez@yahoo.com   Your Rating: C
Any Short Comments?: 'In a Hand Or Face' is the song I listened to in 1976; it has lyrics such as, "There's a man going through your dust bin, only this time he's looking for food..." Another line: "Isn't it funny how they're all Cleopatra, when you gaze into their ass?..."

 


Who Are You - MCA 1978

Desperate this time. This is the Who clamoring for some of their old glory like they were letting it slip away forever (very perceptive), and what I see as the first real step backwards on a Who album. Oddly, the opening song fesses up to the story: 'I write the same old song with a few new lines, and everybody wants to cheer it' ('New Song'). Right. And that's one of the better songs on here...probably the one that would've fit in on the self-flagellating good fun of Who By Numbers. But c'mon, while Who Are You definitely has its moments, this isn't Star Time for the boys...the very ill Moon sounds very hesitant and uninspired, a lot of the songs are hidden under loud synths which mask a lot of the banality of these tunes, and I feel like a lot of this stuff had been hanging around for years, waiting to be put on a record. Didn't we already have a tune with the hookline 'I've had enough?' on Quadrophenia? 'Sister Disco' and 'Music Must Change' (and others, I'm sure, but I can't remember specifically...lots of the songs, anyway) were again from those ancient Lifehouse times, but this, friend, ain't no Who's Next. This album is blubberingly poorly paced, with each song being will over 4 minutes and each frigging one played at a soul-flaying mid-tempo. Some have cool bits but are otherwise awful songs, like '905's cool opening synth sequence or 'Sister Disco's moments of near-complication (that mask it being, you guessed it right, Buckaroo Banzai! an extremely pretentious 4-note mid-tempo hack at Who audience members!) I hate 'Sister Disco' and have for decades...I just keep finding new reasons to despise this song!

But the worst offender is 'Love Is Coming Down', which you really ought to just scratch right off of your CD/vinyl disc/IPod hard drive directly with a dull Bic disposable razor. Use the shavings to start a fire in the woods using only sunlight or something, but don't listen. I've warned you.

As for good songs, I've always thought the heavy groaner 'Trick Of The Light' was wicked good (if still TOO FUCKING SLOW...I guess Moon just couldn't bash 'em any faster in 1978...) and I've recently rediscovered 'Music Must Change', a jazzy little assdumpling. But the only real classic here is the title track, one last blast from The Who as we knew them for a few years in the early 70's: a snarling, cocky panther of a song that lets the synth play off the beat like nothing else in the Who catalog. It doesn't have any of the stealthy, subtle genius details of the Who's Next biguns, but it rocks mercilessly and sounds like Pete was ready to break your nose when he wrote the lyrics. And the re-entry of The Rock, while a pale imitation of 'Won't Get Fooled Again', is still able to give me goosebumps as the piano/guitar duet part plays out into the distorto-riffage. Oh yeah! The synths are a definite star here, as is Roger, as is....Keith? R.I.P. Moonie.

Capn's Final Word: Closer to the end of the book than turning a new page. I sincerely have no idea (outside 'Who Are You'), why this album is preferred over Who By Numbers. A messy, often boring attempt.

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andrew r     Your Rating: B+
Any Short Comments?: That grade is tentative (I don't have the stones to go into the A range at the moment - in fact, do you think I could submit these things without a grade?) but I mainly wanted to say I like 'Love is Coming Down'.  I normally resent broadway-style singing but the way Roger sings "I'm not a loser, but did I really win" just plain tears my soul out.  That synthy-sounding string melody is also very nice.  Maybe I like my Who sounding ballsy and pretentious, and Roger really is the star of this album.  '905' is the only song I don't care for and that's because it feels weird having the Who do sci-fi thematics. 

 


The Kids Are Alright - MCA 1978.

Now for a band with about as many compilations as I have embarrassing college episodes involving me puking drunkenly on a pretty girl in my bed (though not quite that many), The Kids Are Alright is definitely the one that wins the 'most intriguing' prize. If you're interested in scoring as many great Who radio hits at once, get Essential Who. If you want all the 60's gems in one place, get Meaty Beaty. If you want to totally get raped roughly in the nether quarters, there's Greatest Hits and Hooligans. But if it's interesting live shit you really can't get too many other places, I say seek out Kids (no, not the nauseatingly preachy, creepily paedophiliac guilt-flick Kids, but the soundtrack to the excellent Who documentary The Kids Are Alright, which each and every one of you out there needs to see...NOW!).

Now, maybe if you bought the boxed set and all the reissues, you'd have quite as much cool live stuff as they packed on here, but probably not, and why, anyway, if you can just go to your local used crack dealer and plunk down $8.99 (or less...it seems like all the used CD stores are constantly going out of business nowadays and selling their stock for half price. Damn sales! Where were you 5 years ago when I was starving and didn't have WinMX to satisfy my every musical need?) We open with a brilliant clip of 'My Generation' from the old Smothers Brothers 60's show that ends with instruments being demolished, including Tom's ukelele (or is it Dick? Oh who gives a fuck...it's not like they were ever funny anyway with their recycled fucking Abbott and Costello humor), but the real fun part is the interview section at the beginning. There's some ancient and muddily recorded clips from old Ready Steady Go! performances, a blistering and hilariously giddy 'Quick One' from the Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus (where it's widely recognized that the Who wiped the stage with the Stones on their very own TV show. I'd even say that Jethro Tull and Dirty Mac did better...in fact the Stones played so draggy and so poorly that the only people who performed worse than the Rolling Stones were Yoko Ono and the guy nasally raping the circus elephant backstage.), the part of the Tommy performance at Woodstock that occurred right as the sun was breaking over the stage (extremely cool 'rock and cosmos synchronizing' moment there, I have to say), a really boring 'My Wife' and a sky-tearing 'Won't Get Fooled Again' from the band's last-ever live performance with Keith Moon. Apparently this show was performed more-or-less only because they were making a film, and Pete was in an especially disgruntled mood, so he got po'ed at the audience and said something along the lines of 'If anyone wants to take this guitar off me, come right up here and try!' right before they gun right into 'Fooled' and smash up their instruments. Which is pretty funny because if some one had tried to come up on stage, Pete would've just brained him just like he did old white-man 'fro fuck-sayer Abbie Hoffman at the aforementioned Woodstock performance. Good ol' apolitical rock music...gotta love that shit.

Of course, there's some head scratchin' on this record, not the least of being why they deemed it necessary to include the usual studio versions of songs like 'I Can See For Miles' that you can buy untold other places, and why there isn't anything that was released after 1971 on here at all. No Quad songs, nothing from Who Are You from that last performance...that's pretty weird, folks.

I could sit here and pick nits all day (Lord knows I've got some after that visit to the whore last week. Yeeeouch!) but it's simply said that Kids packs enough surprises for even the biggest Who fanatic that I think it's still a viable purchase even after all the compo-mania and rarity-slinging that the Who has unleashed in the last 20-odd years. It's, for once, the best stuff, with not a single bad song, in versions you probably don't have. And definitely see the movie....you may finally be convinced that the Who were indeed the most kinetic rock band ever.

Capn's Final Word: Great live compilation from the Who movie that probably could've stood to have even more live stuff on it. I mean, you already have all the studio versions of these songs, don't you? Don't you?

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Face Dances - MCA 1980

Well, can't blame them for not trying to change following the death of Keith Moon, but this is just not the Who. The title Face Dances is a brassily non-funny pun on the former employers of perfectly adequate new drummer Kenney Jones (The Faces are much, much better than this kind of latter-day Who, by the way...completely different animals, sure, but that kind eats this kind), and the album Face Dances is a joke on anyone who ever thought the Who stood for ballsy rock and roll music. And the jokes don't stop failing there, either. Even on the best songs here the lyrics are, well, embarrassing (I remember being with my dad one day and 'You Better, You Bet' came on the radio. He said 'That's one stupid song', and when he was told it was the Who, he refused to believe it. Of course, my Dad lives in his own little world of Ventures and Johnny Mathis records, which might explain his refusal to understand that, yes, The Mighty Who once made a song with the line 'she met me with open arms...and open legs!' Duuuuurrrpp!! *slurps drool off chin* 'That thar's poh-tree, Cletus!'

The Who are attempting to reshape themselves into a non-threatening synthy New Wave band for the 1980's, and you'd think that after all of Townshend's pioneering 'hypnotic' synth programming, he'd do better than he does here, but no diz-ice. The 'There ain't no bears in there' song ('Cache Cache'? Is that right? My MP3 doesn't say, and I'm not looking it up. Fuck you. You suck ass. And your well-wrinkled collection of early 80's doink-rock sucks ass, too.) really sends me on the verge of the purge with it's cloying New Wave cutesieism. Funnily, it starts out near punky, like Entwistle's shrill failure, 'The Quiet One', but then it just denegrates into doinky preschool shitola. 'The Quiet One' denigrates into a primordial soup of tin-eared metallic cliche, so you could say there's a modicum of variety on Face Dances. Except it all. sucks. in. it's very. own. way. Fuck...'How Can You Do It Alone' sounds like Billy Joel....Billy Joel doing New Wave. AAARRRRGHHHH!!!!!

Okay. Good things: Some level of effort went into making this album...it wasn't tossed off, but that's maybe more of a damnation than a praise. Someone worked to make it suck like this. Probably Pete. There are, however a few decent songs...but while Who Are You had good (even great) songs as well as a heapin' helpin of what the horse had last week, the best here are merely decent.  The Eaglish 'Another Tricky Day' doesn't suck much, and 'You Better You Bet' has it all over this new synth-rock obsession musically (and even might rock, in a very poppy sense), and 'Don't Let Go The Coat' is kinda cute and light, but this album is really not what you think of when you think of the Who. And it's not what you think of when you think of good music. And it's not what you think of when you think of a deep-dish Chicago cheeze pizza and a cold pitcher of Russian beer served by a well-oiled topless 17-year old beauty queen while watching the Super Bowl, but if it was....

Oh, I don't have the extendo reissue version of this. Fuck, and I heard it had a bunch more great songs on it in the same glorious vein. AHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAHA!

Capn's Final Word: Fearlessly Crossing the Pretenders and Abba and Coming Up with Little Crisp Apples of Shit.

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Tony Souza     Your Rating: D
Any Short Comments?: You are correct - the song is "Cache Cache". I
like Entwistle's songs - "The Quiet One" and "You" - on here best.  Now, those songs aren't any great shakes compared to past Entwistle songs, but they are the only ones on here that have any resemblance to the old  Who-like energy. "Daily Records" should annoy me, but somehow doesn't. The rest, though, doesn't hold up for me at all. I've always thought "You Better You Bet" was one of the most overrated songs in the Who's catalogue. The lyrics are dumb and the music gets old fast. But everybody else seems to love it. Also, the production on this album is too clean, which only adds to the overall dull feel here. There's no edge at all to these songs. For me, it's still the worst album by the Who. 

 

Dermot Mitchell dermot_mitchell@hotmail.com     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: I agree with what you say, in the main, except that I LOVE the two tracks that you like - You Better You Bet and Another Tricky Day (one of the Who's finest). The Quiet One is self-serving rubbish - "It only takes two words to blow you away!" and the rest is so un-Who like, it's frankly dull.


 


It's Hard - MCA 1982

No, it ain't really any good at all, but it's a better at being a bad album than Face Dances was, that's fer soitain. What bothers me about Face Dances in comparison with It's Hard is that they obviously didn't give a fuck about It's Hard, and it sucks as a result, but they put a lot of effort into Face Dances, and it still sucks like a Bull Queen in an alley next to the Rio De Janeiro Gay Pride Parade. Don't let the Supercuts fool ya...while the Woo are still trying to court the New Wave crowd, they're back at their old hard rock tricks again. Of course, it's boring, leaden hard rock...'the same old song with a few new lines' indeed. They dashed this off as an excuse to have a multi-gazillion dollar 'farewell' bank buggery and then fuck off and never have to see each other again, and it's obvious. Pete was supposedly hiding all of his good material for his solo albums (Empty Glass has a few good hits, but the rest of it and The Best Cowboys Have My Dick In Their Arsepockets just suck that saddlebag. Sorry to break it to ya.) and Entwistle had forgotten how to write a decent song 6 years previous. Kenny finds a bazillion new ways to make all of his drumbeats use as much hi-hat as physically possible, and Roger....is Roger, thank Christ. It's not like he turned into Kermit the Frog or something ('You will be...you will be'), but he's still singing Pete's underwritten, messy failures.

Okay, I'm not going through all the songs on here that blow, because I feel like I've already done that bit a few times tonight, but I'll name the songs here I'll deem 'fair'...not embarrassing enough. The title track has this new-Who march-tempo fanfare they like so much but also sounds a lot like Bruce Springsteen's 'Thunder Road' in places, and I'd even say Pete's guitar work is, you know, inspired and shit. 'Eminence Front' is the best thing they've put out since 'Who Are You', which makes it the second best thing since 'Squeeze Box'. I love the jazzy piano intro, the paranoiac two-note riff, the flickering synths, the rudimentary drumming, Pete's alienated howl....this is the real Pete, the 'My Generation' and Tommy Pete, sending us a postcard from whatever little closet in Hell he was then cowering in. This is like an outtake from Tangerine Dream's fantastic fucking soundtrack to the concurrent film Risky Business (still the best film Tom Cruise ever lent his preppie smirk to, and still the very best film of 1982 not named Das Boot or Scarface or Airplane II.) It's all about the singing, all about the chicken scratch, all about the popping bass on the chorus. Wow...why this band couldn't have done more of this meditative, slow-burnout stuff in the early 80's is a major mystery for me. 'I've Known No War' starts out similarly, but it's just nasty and leaden. 'Cry If You Want' is interesting, if yet another military tune....dude, Kenney was a fucking Small Faces Mod, then a joyously drunken Face, not some military school Ballad of the Green Berets neo-Nazi. Why all the jack-boot shit? Okay, so maybe it sucks, but the 'oooooh, Cry if you Want!' hook is still neat. I guess that's all.

And, yeah, I guess that's all. An inauspicious ending. A flickering out. A retirement into obscurity.

Capn's Final Word: Less ridiculous than Face Dances, sure, but I'm not sure at all it loses to anybody in the Most Pointless, Filler-Loaded, Tossed-Off, Lame-Duck Who Album Ever Released. Just increases the phantom pains from the amputation, really. We know the leg had to go, but it doesn't mean we still have to wear Speedos, does it?

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Tony Souza     Your Rating: D+
Any Short Comments?: I read the reviews on the Who and I have to say they are the best that I've read and the comments come closest to how I feel about all these albums. Good job.

Yeah, It's Hard does suck, but I like it slightly better that Face Dances because at least Glyn Johns is producing. "Eminence Front" is a good song and easily the best thing on here, but it sounds more like a Townshend solo song than a Who song. I have to admit that I do love "Cry If
You Want", especially that buzz-saw guitar solo at the end. Vintage Townshend.

 


Who's Last - MCA 1983

There were few, if any, groups more psychologically tiring for its members than the Who.  Contrary to popular rumor regarding Pete's tendency to 'cuddle', the guys actually pretty much despised each other...Roger was a violent ass, John was a drunken grump, and Keith, well, Keith was pretty much a violent, drunken, manic ass with a sad tendency towards self-destruction. Pete, hell man, he was psychotic depressive half the time and an addictive, pompous goon the rest.  By the time the Who limped through their 'final' tour in 1982 and 1983, their relationship was spiraling down Hell's underpants. Keith was dead with Kenny as the unremarkable replacement, John was doing nothing more than earning paychecks, Roger's energy and voice were both shot like Bonnie and Clyde, and Pete had the curse of being a self-aware rock star who KNEW when he was doing something that sucked, but was too stubborn to stop. Touring with the likes of the Clash didn't help...it wasn't beneficial for the Who to see every night what they COULD be - a vital, provocative, and important rock band instead of old warhorses playing out the string.  Nope, seeing the Who in 1983 was still probably pretty knockers, considering they were in the Guinness Book of World Records as the loudest concert act ever after their tour that year, but it wasn't prime time anymore.  In fact, it was a really great time to quit.

Who's Last has the inglorious task of documenting the final tour, and fails at that miserably.  This live album was obviously smushed together out of various and sundry live tracks from differing sources by some faceless record executive with a copy of the Who's Greatest Hits in one hand and his sales projections in the other.  This, quite simply, is the Who Live for People Who Don't Like The Who. It's human jukebox from top to bottom in terms of the track listing. They play nothing from either Face Dances or It's Hard, though allegedly those songs grew nuts and became decently crunchy when performed live, and only include one song written in the preceding ten years. That's 'Who Are You', but come on! Do we really need another 'Summertime Blues', so blatantly inferior to the version on Live At Leeds, when we could hear, say, 'Eminence Front', which would at least be interesting? Besides maybe 'Boris the Spider' and 'Dr. Jimmy', there's not a damn thing that creates friction. Everything else is predictable crowd-pleasers performed in early-80's no-juice arena rock mode. Is there ever a time in which hearing 'See Me, Feel Me' separated from even a small bit of the rest of Tommy makes any sense? Or 'Love, Reign O'er Me' sandwiched between 'See Me, Feel Me' and a massive three-train derailment of 'Long Live Rock' (quite possibly the worst live performance of any song on any release by the Who ever).

Which brings us to Big Fucking Stick In The Ass Number Two, and that's the fact that the band, John excepted, sounds like SHIT on this record.  If you're a John fan (which I am) who can block out three (or four, if you include the prerecorded synth tapes or the keyboards, which are so quiet you'd swear they were coming from the Human League concert taking place down the street) other blaring instruments of pain (I can't), you might really dig this.  Or you could just make it easy on yourself and buy an Entwistle's Ox album, which are all pretty decent. Other than John, it's ground zero at the suck holocaust...Pete plays his effect-treated guitar like it was an early-80's synthesizer instead of a weapon of mass destruction, having nuked the Big Marshall Tone in favor of a rather wimpy shimmery glitz that fails to cut through the mess and ends up rendering a lot of this material toothless.  Kenny's drumming is steady, but he never generates nearly enough ideas with his many inherited fills beyond 'let's hit the snare a whole fuckload', and even his grooving is questionable.  Listen...the guy's a Rolf on Animal's drum stool, and no matter how I try to remember that Moon is dead and is never to return, I still can't help but wish that Mr. Spaz was back in his rightful place. Without Keith's drum orchestra, the Who sounds as ordinary as the Small Faces. Kenny's a nice dude, I'm sure, and he always acquitted himself well on the Faces material, but joining the Who is like stepping into the big leagues.  Kenny's a bush leaguer.

And then there's Roger the Note Dodger, Falter-y Daltrey, the Phlegmball Wizard...apparently the years of blowing his shit out night after night trying to keep up with the Loudest Band In The Land and screaming like his nuts were being chewed off by rabid chinchillas on the coda of 'Won't Get Fooled Again' had begun to work an Ian Gillan on the man's pipes.  Besides being hoarser than George Burns in a coal mine, he simply doesn't have the clarity to make the notes stick.  'See Me Feel Me' goes from being a cathartic wash of emotion to a grunt fest as Roger desperately tries to find his voice, and 'Love, Reign O'er Me' is delivered in a wavery whisper that only rises to a thin groan when it positively has to.  You'd think the less vocally rigorous tunes would be better, but these are the times in which Roger decides to really slack off almost to the point of inaudibility. He lazes his way through 'Pinball Wizard' like he's too preoccupied with wagging his mike to sing all of the words in the right rhythm, and barely produces much sound at all on 'Baba O'Reilly'.  He's not quite to the Dylan level of vocal ineptitude, but anyone who ever uses Who's Last as proof that Roger is one of the best vocalists in the history of rock music should be prepared to be laughed right out of the bar.

What worth Who's Last retains is all based on the power of these compositions.  These are all marvelous songs (okay, maybe not 'Long Live Rock') that would probably sound good if Billy Bob and the Weiners of Steel cover band down at the local beer joint played them, so surviving an uncharacteristically sloppy tour by the Who ain't nothin'. And John sounds awesome...his bass is clear and laser-focused and he nails every line he's supposed to. Voice sounds pretty good too. So maybe this should've been a John Entwistle and Friends Tour instead of a Who one...we get what we pay for, and in this case it's an ignorant record company committee's idea of a Summer 1984 unit-mover that probably came as much of a surprise to the former members of the Who as it did to a public unsuspecting of how bad the Who can sound in careless hands.

Capn's Note:  There's a live video from this tour called The Who Rock America or something like that, and it presents these songs in much better context and is generally a much more enjoyable experience than this heap of boogers.  I remember they play 'Sister Disco', 'Eminence Front', 'You Better You Bet' and 'Squeezebox', all much more intriguing selections, and seem to be having fun once or twice, probably by accident.  There's also some rudimentary video clips for a few of the songs, one of them having to do with a kid who likes to play video games but yet is not the Pinball Wizard.  Running out of ideas? Quite probably.

Capn's Final Word: Money grubbing of the most advanced degree, except it's grubbing off a pretty grubbed-out source. 

 

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Who's Missing - MCA 1985

Post-break up cash in compilation of Who rarities dating back from 1965 and as late as the Quad era. Essentially just a good chunk of stuff later released as bonus tracks on studio reissues, neither this or the followup Two's Missing are worth risking the jail time for stealing. I mean, the Who wrote some snappy shit in their day, and even their leftovers and B-sides are pretty okay, but this album would require getting off one's butt and actually searching for. Is all that burning of precious bodily fluids and exposure to cancer-causing ultraviolet rays really worth it?

Capn's Final Word: Rarities that aren't that rare anymore.

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Two's Missing - MCA 1987

More rarity and B-side ripoff stuff that might hang together a little more tightly, as if the greasy-backed hairy-tongued Mongolianat the record company maybe had a good dose of that record-company Bulgarian Sleeping Powder before picking these randomly out of a hat and throwing them onto the market with nothing more than a slam of the car door and a screech of the tires. From the ugly running order to the hideous Ted Turner-ized cover, I really don't want to associate myself with this album, but in truth I had some pretty decent listens to it over the past week while trying to psych myself up to reviewing a couple of rarity collections I really don't care to sort out song names for. Ech....though this might have some good Joanna Kerns on it, don't you really just want to settle in between the sheets with a nice, augmented Barbara Billingsley?

Capn's Final Word: More stuff you should already have. No reason to stain onesself, now is there?

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Join Together - MCA 1990

Lo not so many years ago, I brought this double-disc live souvenir from the '89 Tommy reunion bash-up and AARP membership drive and didn't even make it through once. Travesty! I said...Pete Townshend not playing electric guitar because his ears were more worn out and distended than Frank DeCaro at a Broadway after-party? Sadly attempting to compensate for his unplugged status by strumming his poor acoustic at a bazillion trillion times the speed of light all the time?  What about that track listing? Tommy's all there, but who the crap invited 'Dig' from Pete's oh-so-well-received-it-packed-the-cutout-bins-for-an-entire-decade album/career suicide Iron Man? 'Face The Face' from Oops, I Crapped My Pants, the Melodrama? I mean, Pete's so bent he could put an entire herd of elephants reversely into his digestive system in time to the Souza march of your choice, but only including one song from the whole Meaty Beaty 60's era? That's just sick and wrong and sick, my dear.

Oh, and the arrangements. 'Overblown' does not begin to describe Pete's dick after the horde of horn players and backup singers finally 'convinced' the man to let them all join the traveling tour party. Large sections (Tommy especially) are stripped of all their simple rock goodness and replaced by what sounds like Phil Collins' 'Sussudio' band playing covers of Mel Torme songs. I think this is what actually caused me to rip this asunder from my CD-reader and go off and trade it for yet another Velvet Underground live album or whatever I got for it.

Truthfully, now that I'm an old fart myself I have a lot more tolerance for the Big Squishy Who that presents itself here, and I really have a lot of charitable thoughts about the band at this point. Roger sounds great, as good as he ever did, and while John's voice seems to have taken a slight turn south, his bass playing is a consistent highlight of the proceedings. Pete's omnipresent spasmodic strumming orgy is a tad annoying, but he sings well and his presence is always felt...this is still his band, this is his show, and he's running things out there. He was always had a bit of the Little Gay Stalin in him (only Keith consistently stuck needles in Pete's balloons, it seems, and when his wit dulled, well...) and so the role of musical dictator comes quite easily to the competent hands of this guy. But listening to the older live stuff, and even the very recent Blues to the Bush indicate to me that Pete really had his hands full with this bulky touring bonanza, which probably explains why the performance lacks the spontaneity and crazed, riotous chaos of the best of the Who's work. This is the Who, and they're surprisingly still up to the challenge of performing these long sets of songs well, but all that old magic? Gone. 'See Me, Feel Me' is performed immaculately by Roger, but there's no comparison to a version recorded in 1969-1970 when the material was new and still, just maybe, meant a little something.

Though the Who aren't quite in jukebox mode here (there's too many shitty Townshend solo tracks for that), they do seem to have lost a bit of the connection to their material after so many years away. Perhaps it's also a bit of the Late 80's Curse infecting the porridge, too...a listen to a show from the 1996 Quad tour shows the band as loud, violent, and on-the-edge. Here they're playing it safe within the confines of the expectations of a typical 80's rock dinosaur fan who likes their Journeyman and their Bonnie Raitt and their No Jacket Required  It's just me? I liked it when they smuggled in razor blades under their tongues....

Capn's Final Word: LIVE BLOWOUT!!!! That isn't very exciting. Some major fouls committed here by rock's once-greatest live band.

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BBC Sessions - MCA 1995

As with all of the recently released BBC material (Yardbirds, Beatles, etc.) this collection of live-on-the-radio Who from the prime years of '65-'70 both shows the band playing their tightest versions of their best early songs under sound quality so clear you can hear the gizz drip off the ultra-English gay host's pants cuffs. But, well, shit....there's only so far out you can go when it's OKAY GO!!! PLAY REAL WELL!!!! then STOP RIGHT THIS SECOND!!! IT'S TIME FOR AN ADVERT ABOUT SOAP POWDER!!! Of course the Who play well, and pack as much Hawaiian Punch into the three minutes-per that was the government-mandated daily limit for fun music on the radio in Britain in 1965 (it was actually less in Scotland at that time...only 2:25. Any more than that and they cut off your Johnson), but I really miss the peaks of orgasmic bliss that the Who was able to scale after getting warmed up after a few songs. And I don't think the BBC studio's were necessarily the hotbeds of drugs, pussy, and excitement that gets the best rock 'n' roll made. The version of 'A Quick One' here is simply awful in comparison to the roof-raising version played at the Stone's Rock 'n' Roll Circus, not to mention however other many live versions I've heard.

There are some interesting inclusions here that you can't necessarily get very easily elsewhere (checking my beloved WinMX for live Who yields craploads of 70's and 90's concerts, but nothing older than 1969...so maybe this is a great place to get 60's-era Who) like a cover of the Rascal's 'Good Lovin' where Roger kinda over-enunciates the title of the song a bit much, a great version of 'The Good's Gone', 'Dancin In The Street', which has also been covered by artists as similar as The Love Unlimited Orchestra and Skrew and rivals only 'Summertime Blues' for sheer volume of cover versions. And then again, there's a version of Roger's 'See My Way', which I believe hasn't been covered by anyone ever. Perhaps I should make it my life's work to finally release a cover version of this idiotic little tinkle and have it chart...that'd bee all cool and cynical, huh?

In the final misanalysis, I feel that these BBC sets emphasize the studio more than the live aspects of the material, and as such lose quite a bit of value in comparison to something firmly on one side of the road or the other. Is it live or is it studio? It's not exactly clean enough to be studio-quality, but then again it lacks all the boob-bearing hot chicks and splintered Fenders and drunken stumbling around of the best live action. Yeah, the Who are a talented bunch of fools, and they were even convincing in this setting of half-measures, but if I want to hear these songs I'm gonna probably go to the source material first.

Capn's Final Word: Stuck in the Purgatory between studio neatness and live head-bashing. Still great songs, though.

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Your Name: Tony Souza     Your Rating: B-
Any Short Comments?: For fanatics only. When this came out, it was marketed as a great companion piece to Leeds and Wight, but that's a bit of a misreprensentation as the environment on here (BBC Studios) is totally different. It is great to hear live-in-the-studio versions of early Who, but the environment is too sterile, and that's just not compatible with the Who's style when it comes to playing live.

The biggest disappointment for me was the fact that some of the later-period songs were played using backing tapes - sort of like American Bandstand only with live vocals. Those songs aren't completely played live anyway, so it renders those versions moot.

This one is good to have, it's just not essetial like Live at Leeds or Live at the Isle of Wight.

 


Blues to the Bush - Who Website 2000

The Who, in the last 7-odd years, have mounted more than a few summer tours that, most definitely, are their best and most vibrant work since at least 1975, and I seriously doubt they ever performed the Quadrophenia material better than they did in 1996. Hell, the bootleg performance of Quad I've got (complete with ultra-convincing narration by what sounds to be the guy who starred as Jimmy in the Quadrophenia movie) rivals even the late-60's live albums in sheer sweaty execution. They take the jumper cables and just shock the living fuckhead out of the Quad material, and as such render all my old complaints about the music being samey and unmemorable particularly moot. Please try to seek this stuff out if you can....we need a lot more of this kind of music in the world, even if the only people who seem to be able to purvey it are now eligible to get a free bread item before 5 pm at Luby's cafeteria.

This album (only available through the Who website, by the way) isn't quite that good, not nearly so, but it still at least contains that particular soul of the Who's live performances that was so missing from their '83 farewell and '89 cash-em-in tours. Possibly it's because they've stripped down to only the necessary components and the greatest hits, they don't have the pressure of constantly trying to put across the convoluted and complicated Quadrophenia and Tommy material to an audience who just wants to rock out and bang frontal lobes together to the Greatest Hits. And each person does what they were anointed by Gott in Himmel to do: Roger sings, Pete plays impossibly loud lead guitar (apparently the chronic tinnitus didn't stop him this time around), and John does his bass-genius thing...there's a minimum of frills and foo foo, just enough synth to keep the Who's Next material honest. Probably most encouraging is that the band seems to be going for broke...they play with abandon and with such concentration that it's quite easy to mistake this bunch for a younger, sprightlier Who. In fact, when I first heard this on MP3 (and without liner notes) I actually thought this was a performance from the mid 70's for about 15 minutes. And that's some strong praise, man.

On the low end, though, some signs of advancing age do make themselves clearly heard. Roger's voice is sadly inconsistent, able to howl forth the depths of teenage hell one minute, gasping for breath the next. John even has more vocal troubles than he did on the Join Together, but still holds it together better than Roger. Pete's in good voice and his guitar is still essentially vital, but the performance frequently becomes too ragged for it's own good, descending into actual sludginess at times. The Who still remain, though, highly professional, and even if they rarely inject anything new into their human jukebox performance, the bases are covered.

Mostly, though, I can't particularly recommend Blues From The Bush because I can't see the point of it. It's simply another live souvenir for people lucky enough to see the Who on what is probably one of their last tours (no matter what Pete says, after his sex bust and John's sad coke-related death last year, I really don't see the Townshend/Daltrey warhorse marching on any longer. After this, it'd just be....tasteless). If it had been Quad live, I'd be praising it up and down the girl's dormitory. I just can't see myself paying for this particular live album....it definitely has curiosity value, and shows that the Who really could get old and still not die, but sheer professionalism and a simulation of past glory (even if the glory was just four years prior) just ain't enough, Jeeves.

Capn's Final Word: Poorly chosen latter-day live album that shows the Who professionalism lives on.

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