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Who Are You [CASSETTE]

4.4 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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Format: Audio CD
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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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
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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