on 17 May 2008
This is a more technical comment on this re-release - obviously this is a full five star album, genius at its very height, etc.
However having listened closely to the "Deluxe" (2-CD) version of Who's Next against the earlier 1995 "Remixed and Digitally Remastered" (1-CD) version - they ain't the same (if you use iTunes, use Apple Lossless - you'll never go back to MP3, BTW - or FLAC with other players). The track lengths give this away, but on a good system, and particularly with good headphones, you will be able to tell the difference easily. Essentially the Deluxe sounds like a remaster only - i.e. taken from the original stereo master tapes, and a harsh one at that - whereas the 1995 version is clearly a remix from the original multitrack master.
OK, so what? Well, in almost every case (every case in my own view) the remixed versions - while sticking closely to the original mixes and overall production quality (and quite rightly so, this recording was also Glyn Johns' own masterpiece) have a clearer and more transparent quality that makes the vinyl/Deluxe versions sound sonically limited. Subtle details in the mix, tambourines, vocal inflections, even creaking studio chairs and background whispers become clear on the 1995 remix versions - it's uncanny, and for music/Who fans who really care about this album the effect is much like the (also remixed/remastered) 2-CD Tommy - which is frankly breathtaking and sounds like it might have been recorded last week. Studio technology was quite advanced from the sixties onwards, only the need to adjust things for vinyl messed up the sound quality. Revisting the master tapes allows modern listeners to hear what Glyn Johns would have heard in the studio. That is a precious thing for an album as important as this one and John Astley did an impressive job on the 1995 remix version - to my mind the Deluxe version lacks this added magic. So, my recommendation is buy both versions and check out the differences (and enjoy the additional live tracks on the Deluxe version, some of which are on the 1995 CD as well) - but if you only buy one, and for the original album, then get the 1995 1-CD version. It's subtle, but it takes this beautiful recording to another level.
Addendum: I recently got and compared the infamous Steve Hoffman-mastered MCA Canada CD version for comparison (available on Amazon.ca) - all of the above still stands true and the 1995 Remix/Remaster is still the best overall, however the MCA remaster is way better than the Deluxe CD1 version, more true to the original LP sound (and much clearer) but very organic, and is probably the best way to hear the original mix of the album in all its glory. It's certainly a great companion to the 1995 remix. Personally I can't listen to what they've done on the Deluxe version any more - most of it sounds hard compared to either of the other versions. Thank God for choice, eh?
Thanks for reading.
on 11 May 2007
I love this album. I love the Who as they were in their glory days (approx up until the 'by numbers' album); no matter how often I listen to them I never get bored. It is absolutely timeless, great, CLASSICAL music what you hear on this album and others like Quadrophenia.
So why is this album their best?
Because of the sheer musical craftsmanship in every song. Because of the glorious collaboration of four totally different, at times violently clashing personalities - but when they really get into their groove, when all that energy and determination is channelled toward musical collaboration, oh boy they bring out the very very best in each other. Then it's sparkling, flowing, moving, rocking and breathtaking all at the same time. Four front men, each one capable of carrying the band alone, with corresponding big egos, but somehow managing to work with, rather than against, each other, and driving the whole to unparallelled musical heights on this album.
My favourite track is Behind blue eyes, because it epitomizes the Who's musical greatness: going from quiet+sad to bitter hard rocking (oh the bitterness! those lines, like When I smile tell me some bad news, before I'd laugh and act like a fool) and back to quiet, within three brief minutes, during which the listener is kept hanging onto every word and every beat.
Having said this, we have two more masterpieces on the album in Baba O'Reilly and Won't Get Fooled Again. I could make a similar case for WGFA being the best song on the album; in fact it probably IS the best one - a unique rock anthem that has never been equalled by themselves or any other band, owing to the pioneering use of synths and That Scream near the end - but do listen to the lyrics please! And then make up your own mind as to their meaning (speaking of lyrics: in between all the social/emotional/psychological seriousness, there is some lighter stuff as well, e.g. on Going Mobile, and especially John Entwistle's My Wife - pretty hilarious)
on 3 June 2000
A lot has already been written about this, one of the most important albums of any genre of all time. Much has been made of Townshend's pioneering work with synthesisers and the fact that each band member gives as good an account of himself as he ever had or would. The thing that strikes home when listening to this masterpiece is that it serves as the best reminder of The Who's live form when in the studio. Indeed, it demonstrates that which made The Who unique - the band contained 4 lead performers out of 4. Only Moon and Entwistle could make their drums/base work so well in the forefront of a song-witness 'Song is Over'. Only Daltery, ostensibly the 'front man' could blend his perfect rocker's tones with the more delicate vocals of Townshend to come up with such emotion as is released in 'Behind Blue Eyes'. Entwistle excels with 'My Wife', brilliantly demonstrating his macabre sense of humour as well as his ability to lay down a great, no frills rock song. Fans of the band will know that this was to be the basis of the yet-to-be-realised Lifehouse Project. New listeners will be awe-struck by the concept of the project (detailed in the sleeve notes) and the genius of Townshend. Only he could have attempted something so audacious. In short, only the insane, tone deaf or those who already own a copy should refrain from buying it. Go on. Buy some history.
on 22 May 2006
A fantastic album, definitely up there with the best rock has offered over the last 50 years. A slightly more grown up and `rock' sounding Who compared to some of their earlier work, but still with all the classic sounds and features that made the Who so great, from Keith Moons rather mad drumming to Pete Townshend's huge chords and excellent guitar playing.
This album starts with Baba O'Riley, opening with a synth line that flows through the whole song (at times in the forefront, other times hidden under guitars) to which a simple few chords on piano are added and drums and the song gets into swing, Daltrey's vocals of teenage years and feelings, and the huge crashing guitars. Before later stripping right back down to the basics before building up again for the crash of the ending.
Bargain is another five plus minutes of classic Who rock, starting with some violin inspired guitar swells before launching into the song proper, a song of chasing that one girl.
I don't want to go through all the songs individually, but `Behind Blue eyes' must be mentioned, more lately known from a Limp Bizkit `cover' of it (some would say massacre) this is the original version as it should be. A heartfelt song of not fitting in and being the outsider, simple acoustic and bass playing and vocal line for a few verses until the song opens up with Keith Moon coming crashing in on the drums accompanied by Pete Townshend with huge crashing chords and riffs.
And on to `Won't Get Fooled Again' the original ending to the album (more recent versions have some extra songs added, and even more recently the release of the deluxe version with a second disc from one of the first gigs playing the new material, with some live versions of the earlier tracks and some old favourites) Another song with synths going in the background, opening up with one chord being hit on the guitar and the synth line opening, kicking in again. A song about moving forwards and advancing in life (I tip my hat to the new constitution.) and not getting left behind, the song advancing and breaking down, coming crashing in and moving along until everything is stripped back to just the synth lines playing along and modulating until the drums come kicking back in, and Daltrey's huge scream - one of those brilliant moments of rock.
The album was originally written as the concept album `lifehouse' which was deemed too complex and it was stripped back into the collection of songs you have here (properly released years later by Pete Townshend) but this album definitely isn't the remains of something else, as I said above, Definitely up there with the crème of the last 50 years of music
I can remember as a teenager seeing the album cover to "Who's Next" in a record shop on Talbot Street in Dublin in the late summer of 1971. I laughed out loud. There was our favourite Rock Reprobates pissing up against a concrete monolith in the middle of some slagheap somewhere. Only The Who! I knew I had to own it. And like so many other fans of Seventies Classic Rock - I've been in love with this deceptively deep album for over 40 years - to a point where I've something like 7 different pressings of it on vinyl alone. Which brings us by swift of shore and bend of bay to this fabulous 2CD DELUXE EDITION celebration of "Who's Next" - which only makes me want to wee-wee my initials on even bigger walls. So here are the new bosses, marital bargains and the baba o'riley behind those blue eyes...
UK released April 2003 - "Who's Next DELUXE EDITION" on MCA/Chronicles 088 113 056-2 (Barcode 008811305628) breaks down as follows:
Disc 1 (79:30 minutes):
1. Baba O'Riley
3. Love Ain't For Keeping
4. My Wife
5. The Song Is Over
6. Getting In Tune [Side 2]
7. Gong Mobile
8. Behind Blue Eyes
9. Won't Get Fooled Again
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "Who's Next" - their 6th album released August 1971 in the UK on Track Records 2408 102 and Decca DL 79182 in the USA (CD Disc 1 uses the Track logo while Disc 2 uses Decca)
NEW YORK RECORD PLANT SESSIONS - BONUS TRACKS
10. Baby Don't You Do It
A band fave - a cover version of Marvin Gaye's Tamla Hit recorded 16 March 1971 with LESLIE WEST of MOUNTAIN guesting on Guitar - runs to 8:20 minutes
11. Getting in Tune [Previously Unreleased Alternate Version]
12. Pure And Easy
The 'Original Version' recorded 17 and 18 March 1971. A later different version turned up on the 1974 compilation LP "Odds And Sods"
13. Love Ain't For Keeping [Alternate Version recorded 17 March 1971. First appearance was on the extended CD of "Odds And Sods" in 1998]
14. Behind Blue Eyes - this 'Original Version' recorded 17 and 18 March 1971 features AL KOOPER on Organ
15. Won't Get Fooled Again [Previously Unreleased] - an early version of the full album cut at 8:46 minutes - it features a different synth pattern to the released version
Disc 2 (74:51 minutes):
1. Love Ain't For Keeping
2. Pure And Easy
3. Young Man Blues
4. Time Is Passing
5. Behind Blue Eyes
6. I Don't Even Know Myself
7. Too Much Of Anything
8. Getting in Tune
11. My Generation
12. Road Runner
13. Naked Eye
14. Won't Get Fooled Again
Tracks 1 to 14 are all PREVIOUSLY UNRELEADED except for "Naked Eye" which appeared on the 1974 compilation LP "Odds And Sods". All tracks were recorded live 26 April 1971 in front of an invited audience at The Young Vic Theatre in South London. "Young Man Blues" and "Road Runner" are Mose Allison and Bo Diddley cover versions. "I Don't Even Know Myself" turned up in studio form as the non-album B-side to the UK and US 7" single edit of "Won't Get Fooled Again". A studio version of "Water" was eventually released as the non-album B-side to the "Quadrophenia" single "5:15".
The oversized 28-page booklet has an introduction from Pete Townshend about his beloved "Lifehouse" project that eventually became the album, a poster from their concert at London's Rainbow Theatre, period photos of the band in full on-stage flight, an indepth history by Who expert JOHN ATKINS, track-by-track details and even a photo of KEITH MOON in ladies underwear (an alternate album cover). ANDY MacPHERSON and JON ASTLEY have carried out the remixes and remasters at Close To The Edge and they rock - full of muscle - perfectly capturing the sheer sonic power of the band. Two examples of where this is most evident is the amazing rocking work outs of "Baby Don't You Do It" on Disc 1 and "Water (Live)" on Disc 2 - wow!
While plaudits always go to the cool "Baba O'Riley" opener on Side 1 bookended by the monster Who anthem "Won't Get Fooled Again" playing out Side 2 - I've always loved those album tracks in-between. "Love Ain't For Keeping" and "The Song Is Over" both showed the depth of Townshend's writing and Roger Daltrey's raspy vocals. That same Rock soulfulness permeates both "Getting In Tune" and the ache/anger that runs through "Behind Blue Eyes". And the brass break in John Entwistle's acidic "My Wife" still kicks you in the teeth. Can't really resist the "beep beep!" and brilliant treated guitar on "Going Mobile" either - what an album.
The Live Disc opens with an incendiary take of "Love Ain't For Keeping" with the band sounding confident - ripping into great new material. I like the plaintive "Too Much Of Anything" which features NICKY HOPKINS on piano and the jangly "Naked Eye". It ends on a barnstorming "Won't Get Fooled Again" with the audience left in shock and awe.
"I sing my heart out to the infinite sea..." - Roger Daltrey wails on "The Song Is Over". There's a scene in "The Greater Fool" - Episode 10 in Series One of Aaron Sorkin's brilliant TV Show "The Newsroom". I wrote about it in a book of poems I put out this year called "My Broken Heart (75 Days In The NHS)" about a Quad Bypass I had that took a tad longer than I would have liked. The News Anchorman Will McAvoy (played brilliantly by Jeff Daniels) has tried to commit suicide after a public drubbing and a series of bad events - and he's laid low in a hospital. But his crew from the TV station are with him trying to talk him back to work to report on a story of the Democrats shafting elderly voters out of their voting rights by using 'voter fraud' as an excuse. The opening chords and riff of "Baba O'Riley" by THE WHO begins to play in the background - Will leaps out bed - gotta go back to work - gotta report on this...he's back. I cried my sappy Irish eyes out in my own side room in Whipps Cross Hospital. What other band can elicit this? When you're back's against the wall - can you always rely on The Who?
What is it about this Rock Band that makes so many of us weak at the knees? The sheer British balls-to-the-wall of it all - the lifeforce coursing through their tunes - or is it the uplifting centre that brings you back - again and again. I don't know - but God bless 'em anyway. And here's to 40 more years of naughty boys whizzing all over public structures in our politically correct straightjacket world...
PS: you should buy this reissue...
on 16 March 2007
Who's Next, apart from having a brilliant cover, is for me the absolute studio peak for this band. The songwriting, recording, musicianship and
'feel' of the album remain stunning almost forty years after its release.
It was/is the perfect Who album, although so are The Who Sell Out, and Who Live at Leeds, and.....
BUT, in these days of CD, why do the record companies think they have to fill up the disc to give value? The bonus tracks are excellent and most welcome, of course, but why not (OK, I know it's dollars) put them on a second CD?
Won't Get Fooled Again was the perfect close to the record, but now it closes with Behind Blue Eyes: great song, but not the 'kapow' ending of the original. Of course, in these days of MP3 and IPods, you can re-jig albums in any way you like, but can you imagine Sgt Pepper ending with, say, an outtake version of Lovely Rita instead of Day in the Life?!
Anyway, enough griping. This is great stuff, and I defy anyone to avoid playing along with the drum break in Won't Get Fooled Again.
PS There is another issue of Who's Next, too. This is a 2 CD set which features a terrific, unreleased live collection from the Vic Theatre which was planned to be part of the Lifehouse project, I think. The first CD is the same as the first re-issue reviewed here.
on 21 August 2000
Well, what can I say that hasnt been said before? This album still gives me goosebumps when I put it on. The opener, Baba O'Reilly is Townshend's poem to Meher Baba, spiritual leader. It is uplifting, rocking and extraordinary. Bargain follows hot on the heels, and continues this incredible life afirming feeling. The album seems to grow as it goes on, and then you always have the tumultuous Wont Get Fooled again to look forward to. And the additional tracks are indispensable, especially 'Water'. Daltreys singing, Townshends guitar, Entwistle's rumbling bass and.....Moon. THE drummer of the modern age. I could bore you all for hours and hours........just buy it......give it 5 repeated plays and let it seep into every pore of you... Bliss. sheer bloody bliss.
'Who's Next' may have been compiled from the ashes of one of Pete Townshend's visionary projects, but it comes across like a straightforward album of songs. In my opinion, The Who are better in this mode. They are, after all, a rock band and an incredibly dynamic one at that. Whatever the merits of albums like 'Tommy', you can't beat The Who just getting on with being the hardest rocking band. That isn't to suggest that they play safe here. The most effective innovations tend to be the little touches and on this album they get the balance spot on, displaying imagination without losing the energy or disturbing the flow.
The synthesizer and violin on the classic 'Baba O' Riley' enhance the music, while the synthesizer opening to 'Won't Get Fooled Again' is instantly recognisable. Yet The Who don't overdo it as they do on the 'Who Are You' album, where the synthesizers tend to be intrusive. Though the aforementioned tracks are the stars of 'Who's Next', all of the others are great too. The band's ability to change gear and generate drama mid-song with those emphatic flourishes is testament to the technical brilliance of the musicians involved. You also get a brief opportunity to draw breath with the bewitching, gentle opening of 'Behind Blue Eyes'.
While the musicians are as good as ever, special mention should be made of Roger Daltrey's vocal contribution, which is easily overlooked. Here, his phrasing, timing and choice of delivery is inspired. He seems to know when to growl, yell, pause or just sing to suit each song. Admittedly, Townshend feeds him some great lines. The isolated lines, 'Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss' on 'Won't Get Fooled Again' stay with you, a masterstroke.
On this release, the bonus tracks are unusually impressive too. I particularly like 'Naked Eye'. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give is that I'm not one of The Who's biggest fans but I'd rate this as one of the ten best albums of all time.
This review is specifically of the 2-disk `deluxe' edition of `Who's Next' and not of the original 1971 album, which is a 5-star classic and contender for the greatest rock album ever recorded by any band.
The first disk of this set is the original album material in the original running order with a few extra tracks: alternative recordings of some of the material with the addition of `Baby Don't You Do It' and `Pure and Easy'. The problem with this particular remix is the overall sound is clearly inferior to the excellent 1995 CD issue: it's harsh, and lacks the richness and depth of the 1995 version, which is closer to the original 1971 vinyl release from the multitrack studio masters. If you have the 1995 CD and you also buy this new `deluxe' offering, you'll notice the difference straight away and will almost certainly prefer the earlier mix which, in my view, is vastly superior as a listening experience.
The second CD is, however, the saving grace of this package. It features onstage material from the WN album together with `Young Man Blues', `My Generation', `Pure and Easy', `Water' and a couple of other gems from the `Lifehouse' period performed by the band to an appreciative live audience at The Young Vic in April 1971 - i.e. prior to the release of the original WN later the same year.
The presentation of the set is also excellent, with a good booklet insert and sleeve notes and some fine photo images.
All in all it's a fine package for Who fans. It would, however, have been better if the superlative 1995 mix of WN with its rich depth of sound had been chosen for inclusion instead of the poor, inferior remix chosen for this issue. My advice would be that if you want to hear WN as it should be heard, go for the 1995 single CD issue - which also has more and better extra studio material in the package.
on 31 August 2009
`Pick up my vinyl and play, just like yesterday'
Have collected so many versions of this album over the years (CD & vinyl) as it is one of my favourite albums. Even after 38 years I still enjoy hearing it, a true sign of a timeless, classic album. I still have my original vinyl copy from 1971 on the Track label (total 122g weight pressing). I wanted a new vinyl version as I suspected after all the years playing it had lost significant audio quality. I first purchased the 2003 Deluxe Edition; re-mastered box set vinyl (3 discs) but was very disappointed and sent it back. It exhibited very high surface noise, several loud audible clicks and very poor sound quality for vinyl (certainly not recommended). The CD version is much better and recommended for the extra tracks available and excellent booklet.
This 2008 Polydor version is far superior in sound quality to the 2003 deluxe vinyl version. Pressed on 180g vinyl (this copy 186g total weight) and is part of the `Back to Black Vinyl' series. There is very little surface noise and the sound is very clear, and crisp. It is very difficult to believe the album was made back in 1971. A magnificent example of how vinyl should be re-issued. It just contains the original 9 tracks and is presented in a single sieve cover (identical to the 1971 version). The paper record sleeve has a plastic film inner cover and two corner vents. This is my favourite inner sleeve design for reducing the risk of damaging the disc when removing.
I always benchmark versions of this album by comparing the sound quality of the tracks: Baba O' Riley, Behind Blue Eyes and Won't Get Fooled Again. I think these three tracks test the audio performance of the recording really well. On the 2008 version they sound absolutely amazing. The synthesizer and violin on `Baba O' Riley' sound so fresh, vibrate and alive. The drum patterns are clear and intense pushing the song along perfectly. The bass and vocals give a perfect balance and depth to the song. The acoustic guitar during the intro to `Behind Blue Eyes' sounds so crisp and the dynamic range in the vocals is pure magic. The synthesizer break towards the end of `Won't Get Fool Again' really hits the high frequencies with intense detail, then the drums come thundering in with excellent stereo separation. It overall sounds very much better than my original vinyl version, which in fairness I conclude has lost audio performance with the extensive playing. If you still collect vinyl and you want to hear a real classic rock album in full, glorious audio quality then this is the version for you.