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The standard by which all box sets should be judged by...,
This review is from: 30 Years of Maximum R'n'b (Audio CD)
When this came out in the 1990's, it immediately set a new standard in artist career retrospective box sets. Nearly 20 years later very little has changed, this is how all artist box sets should be compiled and presented. (Take note the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, etc.)
The box set is presented in a cardboard long box with four CD's inside, with a picture of a different member of the Who on the front of each. The pictures reflect the two stages of The Who's career with a shot of each member from their time as a Mod band and then as 70's Rock Superstars. It also comes with a glossy, heavy weight booklet with the front made to look like a wreaked Hiwatt Amp, a great design and homage to the Who's destructive live prowess. Inside, there is a witty and poignant introduction from Pete Townsend, a overview of the Who's early career by Keith Altham (their publicist), a timeline of the Who's Career by Chris Charlesworth (long time fan and editor of a Who Fanzine), an account of how the Who broke America by Dave Marsh and a detailed discography for their singles, albums and compilations, as both The Who but also any solo material released by the members of the band, (anything post 1993 though is not covered re: 'Wire & Glass'). Chris Charleworth concludes with an explanation for their reasons for choosing some tracks over others (thereby explaining why no tracks were included from the Isle of Wight festival). There are also many colour photos from throughout the Who's career making this a fantastic and informative read.
The discs are roughly divided up into the four main stages of the Who's career. CD 1 traces their journey from the time as the High Numbers to their role as style setters for the Mod generation. CD 2 then continues the story as they morph into a Psychedelic/Hard Rock band and rocket into the stratosphere on the back of their rock opera 'Tommy'. CD 3 mainly focusses on their early 70's success upto Quadraphenia and then CD 4 documents their slow decline at the back of the 70's and their pottered output post the tragic death of Keith Moon (thankfully kept to a minimum with only two tracks from 'Face Dances' and 'It's Hard').
What makes this collection such as stunning success is not just the inclusion of all the big hits such as 'My Generation', 'Pinball Wizard' 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and 'Who Are You' but the choices of alternative versions and rare goodies. The set starts off with three tracks they recorded as the High Numbers and then moves onto the early output of the Who from their debut album 'My Generation' and 'A Quick One' including most of their singles, a few B-sides, a version of 'Substitute' from 'Live at Leeds' and 'A Quick One' in a unique mix featuring both the original version and their performance from the 'Rolling Stones Rock n Roll Circus'. This format is continued across all the CD's and the almost unerring choice of Chris Charlesworth, makes this a pretty infallible summation of the Who.
The music is mostly all the 1993 remastered versions, including the High Numbers stuff, the exception being the tracks from 'My Generation'. This was due to the Who's long running battle with Shel Tamy, producer at the time who owned the rights, and which was only resolved after this box set was released. The inclusion of many live tracks and, (although since this was released some of them have appeared as bonus tracks on the individual Who albums), previously unreleased rarities will have most Who fans salivating. To top it all, intersperced amongst the music is excerpts of dialogue highlighting the wit and humour of the Who, the best being some scripted Keith Moon recordings on CD4, but we also hear about Roger admiring his arse, John's career as professional survivor and how Pete deals with intruders onstage at Woodstock.
If you are looking for an argument why the Who were one of the greatest bands on the planet (and the loudest), and want to hear more than the usual 'best of' then this is the place to go. For bangs for yer bucks, this is a bargain, the best you'll ever have.