Friday, February 21, 2014

The Who - Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy

Another band that I am surprised that I haven't written more about is another of my all-time faves, the
Who. This was their first best-of collection, released in 1971, and gathered all of their hits in one place, which makes it a wonderful listening experience and was especially great for the British fans, since the English albums didn't include the singles!

Opening with their first smash, "I Can't Explain", the rockin' world of the Mods comes through with the first vicious power chords. John and Keith come barreling in and then Roger speaks to the entire mod experience by admitting he "don't know what it means, but I can't explain'! Pretty much their perfect single and this came as their debut (if you discount the High Numbers) - few groups can match that feat!

Pete continues to outline the mod experience with the equally fantastic opening, ringing "D" chord in "The Kids Are Alright" and the rollicking tale of male camaraderie built on huge chords, cool vocal harmonies and powerful dynamics. "Happy Jack' never really clicked with me - just seemed too silly and inconsequential - but then we get the monstrous "I Can See For Miles" with more gigantic chords and an impossibly catchy chorus - this became their first real break-through in America, and rightfully so! Pete's ode to masturbation, "Pictures of Lily" follows, with yet more staccato power chords and Entwistle's french horn "climax". Of course, the gigantic anthem "My Generation" appears in all its glory - who hasn't sung along with this, or even covered it, at some point in their life? - and then there's "The Seeker", which was never a hit, per se, but its groovy, infectious rhythm has always been one of my faves.

More bright, Rickenbacker chords introduce Daltrey's boasting "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" - apparently his answer to the somewhat mincing lyrics of songs like "I'm a Boy". Of course, this tune is where Pete throws in tons of feedback, "Morse code" pickup switching and general noise, thereby changing the sound of r'n'r forever! The single from their huge smash, Tommy, was "Pinball Wizard" - the record that brought them back from the brink of bankruptcy! Townshend's excellent rhythm playing is highlighted here and drives the song and gives it its hook. Pete takes lead vocal for "Legal Matter" - again, not a real hit, but a cool tune about divorce and a change of pace, though his thin vocals makes it plain why they wanted Roger be the main vocalist. John's spooky-sounding "Boris the Spider" was always a fan favorite, so had to join the proceedings, and "The Magic Bus", while only reaching number 25 in the American charts received plenty of airplay and is another concert favorite - though the studio version is much superior to any of their meandering live versions. But a tune that worked in any setting was "Substitute", a fantastic rocker with Pete's patented staccato chord "riff" and propelled by John and Keith throughout, especially in the dynamic bridge section. The collection ends with Pete's fight with cross-dressing, "I'm a Boy" that still sounds somehow menacing, with the stomping beat and Entwistle's french horn in the break.

One of the perfect Who albums - as they say "all killer, no filler" - while there are some points that aren't as fantastic as others, it's still great all the way through. Any lover of r'n'r should own this one!