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4.4 out of 5 stars48
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 17 May 2010
I have all the Who's studio albums, plus various best ofs, live albums and compilations, and it is my considered opinion that "Who Are You" is the Who's most underrated album. When I first got it, it seemed closest to "Who's Next" (probably The Who's greatest album, for me anyway). The songs have the same muscular rock sound with big climactic choruses, and the synthesizer is quite prominently used.
There are 3 John Entwhistle compositions on "Who Are You", an unusually large proportion. The liner notes include a quote from Entwhistle complaining that the main problem with the Who was that he didn't get to sing enough of his compositions on their albums. The main problem for Entwhistle, maybe, but good for the rest of us. The Who's popularity was based on Daltrey singing Townshend compositions. If people wanted to hear Entwhistle singing his own compositions, his solo albums would have sold better than they did. So the Entwhistle tracks are among the weaker on this album, especially the very heavy and very turgid "Trick of the Light". The best of them is "Had Enough", sung by Daltrey.

The excellence of the album is, in my view, in the Townshend songs. The opener "New Song" is a full-on rocker, with provocative lyrics: "I sing the same old song with a few new lines, and everybody wants to cheer it." It could come across as a "me fans are stupid pigs"(Simpsons reference)-type rant, but Daltrey doesn't do cynicism or irony, so the mixture of Townshend's thoughtful and acerbic lyrics with the full-throated gusto of Daltrey's singing makes for an excellent hard-rocking opener.
The theme of musical creativity is prevalent throughout the album. "Music Must Change" is another exceptionally insightful, searching and honest lyric from Townshend and a powerful performance from the band. "Guitar and Pen" details the frustrations and ecstasies of the creative process, with changes in tempo and dynamic mirroring the moods of the composer.
The bonus tracks include alternate versions of three album tracks, including the title track with a completely different second verse. There's also two other songs from the sessions not on the original album: "No Road Romance", which is fairly forgettable, and "Empty Glass", with Pete on vocals, an excellent song, Townshend at his angriest, which is always good. It was to become the title track of Townshend's second solo album.

"Who's Next" aside, this is possibly the Who album I return to most often. It's generally one of their less-admired works, but the songwriting is high quality, with the harder edges that disappeared from their next album "Face Dances", and that brought the best out of Daltrey's voice. Overall, a very good listen.
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on 12 December 2001
The Who were never, ever content to cruise in the comfort zone. Having started the 70s with "Live At Leeds", and then released the cutting-edge "Who's Next", before crowning their own achievements with "Quadrophenia" in 1973, The Who had burnt brighter and better than any other band of the period.
But the edge was being blunted. The sheer slog of re-writing and re-recording the score for the Ken Russell film of "Tommy", filmed in 1974, released in 1975, had taken a heavy toll on the band. Pete Townshend in particular was suffering. His vital working relationship with co-manager Kit Lambert had fallen apart from 71 onwards, and he was already unsure about the relevance of The Who by 1974/75.
He was terrified of them becoming just another bunch of aging rockers, unable to match their younger fire, or to move beyond to something fresh.
Also, the whole band were living lives of excess, especially Keith Moon. Hence the deep pessimism and self-loathing of the ascerbic "Who By Numbers" in 1975. After a proudly defiant series of live gigs in 75/76, The Who had once again slipped into a period of dormancy. In the meantime, younger, stroppier, snottier youngsters had taken the British music scene by the throat. The Sex Pistols, The Clash and all those who followed in their phlegm-flecked wake wanted to erase all memories of fat-cat rock bands grown older and lazy. The Who were still granted respect, but mainly for the danger and drama of their younger days.
By early 78, Moon's health and technical abilities had deteriorated sharply. He was in no great shape when the band reconvened to record this album.
So it's astonishing the album is as good as it is.
Townshend wants The Who (and their followers) to realise that times are changing. The trouble is, they're all that bit set in their ways when it comes to writing and playing. Instead of trying to speed up The Who's harder-edged tunes in what would have been an embarrassing attempt to "ape" the raw thunder of punk, Townshend wisely steered into other, newer styles. So what we get is a mix of Rock (with a capital R), jazzier material, and even a tongue-in-cheek nod to Gilbert and Sullivan. When it works ("New Song", "Who Are You", arguably "Sister Disco"), The Who sound great. W.A.Y. itself is probably the very last great Who song. When they move into territory they're less sure of ("Love Is Coming Down"), it can be hard to take.
John Entwistle contributes three songs, all with his own dark vision to the fore. And "905" may just be his best contribution to the Who cause since "Boris The Spider".
Should you buy this CD? If you're already familiar with The Who, yes, certainly. If you're not, maybe you should try a compilation such as "My Generation - The Best Of...", or "Who's Next". But if you DO take the plunge, give it time. There are very, very few utterly useless Who albums - and this isn't it. By the way, the utterly useless album is called "Who's Last". Avoid like a stinky dog.
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on 24 October 2008
After "Who's Next", Townshend threw himself into producing what would eventually become "Quadrophenia", and couldn't get his head around the fact that the music he had wanted to make for "Who's Next" (originally the "Lifehouse" project)was not forthcoming from his frazzled mind.

"Quadrophenia" went on to have massive success, and the rest of The Who's 70's output was widely regarded as dross until "Who Are You".
On release it was met with a genuine anticipation, and initial reaction was that it was a return to form. But, is it that good?
Ok, so it will be remembered for the fact that it was the last album The Who did before Keith Moon shuffled off this mortal coil, but it should also be remembered for a temporary return to The Who of old. The title track is what this album is all about, a huge bombastic mini-opera all of it's own.
"Who Are You" has become a staple of later-day Who shows, and rightly so as it is probably the last great song Townshen wrote. It is immediate and when Daltrey weighs in with his splendid set of pipes, it really lifts off.
Although there are a number of decent tunes on here, it kinda feels like it was cobbled together from bits and bobs...or should that be Odds n Sods? If you are looking to invest in The Who....try "Who's Next" "Tommy" and the incomparable "Live at Leeds", it's a much better bet.
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on 11 December 2008
The Who made this album mainly because John Entwhistle was flat stony broke and in debt to the tune of several million after a number of failed projects. It's therefore a surprise that this album is as good as it is. it's also the last album with Keith Moon before he managed to kill himself.

The music? Well, the title track is pretty good. Moon pounds away manically and it all hangs. Unfortunatley, a lot of the rest of the album sounds tired and slightly anodyne. Sister Disco is alright. Guitar and pen sounds like it was missed off Tommy as does does "love is coming down".

An album that sounds like it was made for the US market from bits left over from other albums. Probably because Pete Townsend was feeling the strain of being the main creative genius.

There is little other than the title track that makes this album really stand out. That, for me relegates it to the type of album for hardened Who fans only.
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VINE VOICEon 26 October 2006
The Who's last album to feature the original line-up arrived in 1978, at a time when disco and new wave music were the headlining styles. Some of the song titles betray Pete Townshend's preoccupation with his feelings about music, but if you're going to give opinions on the subject, your credibility depends partly on your own efforts. For once, Townshend's efforts are ineffectual. Attempts to shoe-horn in synthesizers result in them often sounding intrusive and, these days, embarrassingly dated. Ironically, their use on the earlier 'Who's Next' album doesn't suffer from this problem.

John Entwhistle's three songs, musically at least, compare favourably with Townshend's often uninspired efforts. 'Sister Disco' and 'Guitar And Pen' are a slog, while the slushy 'Love Is Coming Down' is okay, but not what you'd expect from the author of 'My Generation'. 'Music Must Change' is more ambitious, a rare success, while the technical gifts of the band shine through as ever. Having heard Townshend's 'Empty Glass' album of a couple of years later, however, I can't help thinking he may have been stockpiling some of his better songs. The inclusion here of a version of the title track as a bonus serves as a nudging reminder in that direction.
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on 24 September 2012
To me as a dedicated Who fan, The Who By Numbers was a bit of a let down, following on from Who's Next and Quadrophenia. Then came this album - a true return to form. Pete Townshend's songs were a return to the style that made Who's Next so superb. And the unusual arrangements on songs like Guitar And Pen just serve to show the maturity in his songwriting. Not to be outdone, John Entwistle provided three songs for this album one of which, Trick Of The Light, is (for this reviewer) the greatest highlight of the album.

Roger Daltrey's vocals on this album are rough and raucous without degenerating into a growl.

It has been written that Keith Moon was threatened with having one item of his drum kit removed from the studio every time he made the drumming over-complicated. This shows most on 905: when I first heard the drumming on this song I wondered if they'd brought in a session drummer, the drumming was so tame! Never mind "give the people what they want": give the people what the producer wants.

The bonus material starts with No Road Romance, a pleasant song sung by Pete, but not really up to the standard of the songs on the original release. This is followed by Empty Glass, which subsequently became the title track of Pete's next solo album. This version sounds as though Keith was hearing it for the first time, as his drumming starts maniacally, only to calm down after a few lines (unless someone had removed some of his drum kit while he was playing!). Then come three alternative versions of songs on the original album: Guitar And Pen, Love Is Coming Down, and Who Are You. Musical arrangements are slightly different and Who Are You has a verse not contained in the original. The bonus material doesn't add much to the original, but the fact that this still merits four stars gives an indication of how good the original album is.
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on 25 March 2016
Who Are You is a difficult album to review. I recently heard PT talking about how people slated Face Dances and It's Hard and seeing them totally out of context for what the band was at that time.

Who Are You could be seen as a sad postscipt for Keith Moon. Sitting on the cover with the chair turned around to hide his paunch, the other 3 at the absolute peak of their talents, looking fit ready to go. However its not THAT bad. Its the first Who album since The Who Sell Out that isn't timeless. Its of its time. The 60s bands struggling to find aplace in the world of New Wave / Disco etc. It does sound quite dated with its use of synths, but the songwriting is actually as strong as anything else they've ever done.

The title track, obviously, is huge, and a powerful statement. But also, others like Guitar and Pen, Music Must Change, theres a striving for moving forward, and Townshend has NEVER sat still. The band version of Empty Glass is fantastic, and belongs on the original album in my opinion. Sister Disco is weaker, and one of those songs like Dreaming From The Waist where I think Roger used to look at Pete on stage and smile like they're brothers, except that Pete would be smiling back but saying "You c***" under his breath...

All in all Who Are You is by no means the poor album a lot of people slate it as, but compared to even the lean and mean The Who By Numbers its quite bloated. No band is perfect, and this album is one of the weaker, but if you bear in mind that Led Zepellin were about to release In Through The Out Door and the Rolling Stones the hugely overrated (and limpid 'answer to punk') Some Girls - The Who were doing pretty well.

But all these words are just my own. Everybodys got their own opinion.
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on 12 February 2015
I thought I was going to get the original Polydor 80s CD here, but nope... it was actually the Canadian MCA. I believe the difference in the two discs comes down to nothing more than one is a little louder than the other but it looks (from online comparisons I've studied) as if they're basically from the same source. There is a LOT of bass on this and it can make it seem 'muddy' - so you might want to adjust your eq for this (if you are able to do so.) I wanted the non-remixed version of the album because the 90s mix changes a number of things (like misses horn parts out and has different guitar bits) but does have at least a couple of excellent and essential bonus tracks to mean I will be keeping it... even if I feel this is the way I want to hear the album - they way it was first issued and how I remember it.

The album itself was made under less than the happiest circumstances and maybe that makes it all the more remarkable... how they all pulled together and go it out there and the accolades it received surely just speaks of its quality? The Who have been a top band to me for many years now and and even though I prefer what they did in the sixties (up to and peaking with Tommy) this is an album that we shouldn't be without; not a week song on it IMO and it was made for playing LOUD... but aren't all of theirs? :)
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This album - the last proper Who album when the Daltrey / Townshend / Entwistle / Moon quartet were intact, is at times a difficult listen. To me, the rot set in with 'Quadrophrenia', where Townshend started to over-write, lyrically, to get his point across. What suffers then are the song melodies, when they struggle to be truly memorable (with a few exceptions) because of the over-wordiness of the lyrics. Also, Townshend was trying to apply the same kind of intensity using synthesizers as he had previously applied with guitars. Nowt wrong with synths, of course, but gimme the sheer rock power of ol' Pete with a Les Paul and a bank of Hiwatt amps, and a big fat E major chord every time.

In saying that, 'Who Are You' is far from lacking in great moments - the title track is one of their finest, and all concerned give their customary max to the cause. It's well-documented that Townshend was suffering terrible problems then with drink and drugs, and was questioning the validity of The Who in the wake of Punk Rock. Trouble is, he doesn't seem to come up with that many answers, and making a record as a kind of 'therapy' does not always yield listenable results. Townshend seemed like he was abdicating his throne as rock spokesman (not a role he would have willingly opted for anyway (who would?)), but still wanted a fight!

'Who Are You' is an album to be approached with a modicum of caution, therefore, but is worth time and trouble. It's not, however, up there with 'The Who Sell Out' or 'Who's Next', though.
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on 12 January 2012
First bought in 1978, it cost me £3.79. This CD version cost £2.99 and has 5 extra tracks. If you only know their music from C.S.I. this is a good album to ease you into the band. Intelligent, complex and loud this is quality music. I still get goose bumps listening to this album as Keith Moon died shortly after it was released.
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