Saturday, February 6, 2010


I've been listening to The Who a lot lately, I'm excited for their Super Bowl performance tomorrow. A have a lot of "bonus reissues" and while I am a big fan of the "dexlue edition" format, oftentimes the added tracks are more of a curiousity than essential stuff. In the LP era, decisions had to be made as to what did and didn't make a record, and I would say that The Who generally choose well.

I love the original version of the 1971 album Who's Next. Some don't like it: at this point, they were no longer a "mod" or even a "garage rock" band. It kind of transformed music: they added lots of synths and loops and keyboard stuff, but without losing their muscle or thier hearts. It was very widescreen.  It kind of changed the course of FM radio, and also helped to create stadium rock. It wasn't the short, sharp "Can't Explain" type songs.  Which was appropriate: Pete Townshend was developing very quickly as a songwriter and producer and this album reflects that. 

Anyway, the reissue: The Who has released and re-released lots of their albums, and sometimes I really do end up skipping through some of the extras. Not here. Disc one includes the entire original album, along with sessions from New York's Record Plant recorded in March of 1971. There's a great cover of Marvin Gaye's "Baby Don't You Do It" which featured Leslie West of Mountain on lead guitar, a weird alternate not-totally-finished sounding version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" and my favorite, a totally different version of "Love Ain't For Keeping." This is an electric version (the album version is played mainly on acoustic guitars) and features Pete singing (Roger Daltrey sings on the album version). You can also get this version on the 1998 re-release of Odds and Sods.

Disc two is a live concert recorded at the Young Vic in London on April 26, 1971, and it's the band in top form. It opens with an electric "Love Ain't For Keeping," this version with Roger singing. It also has their incredible version of Mose Allison's "Young Man Blues," Bo Diddley's "Roadrunner" and some rare Who tracks, "Time Is Passing" (sung by Roger, but Pete later recorded his own version for his solo debut, 1972's Who Came First), "I Don't Even Know Myself," "Too Much Of Anything," "Water" and "Naked Eye."

I'm often a bit suspicious of re-issues, but this one really hits the spot. It has enough alternate versions of songs to give some context to the "official" versions, cool rare songs and some really powerful live performances.  It's a great portrait of a band at a huge point in their collective evolution, but more than that, it's a great collection to listen to on a long drive (or run).


Ryan McGowan said...

I agree with you. Great reissue. The Live at Leeds Deluxe Edition is also fantastic. Although I prefer the first three Who albums their more garage feel their later work is still excellent. Just different.

Kent said...

"oftentimes the added tracks are more of a curiousity than essential stuff" . . .

the concert from 1981 added to the Maximum R&B Live DVD comes to mind.

Minority said...

thanks for reading and commenting Ryan and Kent. Yeah, I would think that a live concert from 1981 wouldn't be essential viewing. And I go back and forth over whether I prefer The Who's earlier more garage rock-y stuff of the later arena-ready rock better. I think I love them both!