Sunday, November 2, 2014

The Who Hits 50

Or is that The Who Greatest Hits Part 50 considering how many times their greatest hits have been reissued.

For me, in the 70s The Who was the world's greatest rock and roll band.  The unpredictable Keith Moon bashing away on drums, John Entwistle's complicated and swooping bass lines and Pete Townsend's three chord barrage on guitar made this a band on the edge of explosion.  And perhaps the weakest link may have been Roger Daltrey's vocals although his scream toward the ending of Won't Get Fooled Again opened up new horizons.  In all honesty I enjoyed Roger's vocals, but he was in a band of chaos.  And sometimes chaos can bring out classic rock and roll.

Alas, classic rock radio or modern rock has forever ruined some of the songs due to overplay. Baba O Riley is one, Pinball Wizard another and fuck Cumulus Radio anyway for overkill.  There was much more to The Who than just that or Won't Get Fooled Again.  If it wasn't for The Who Sing My Generation, there would be no punk rock.  If it wasn't for The Who Sell Out, we would not have concept albums, and if it wasn't for Tommy there would be no rock operas.   Granted, The Who released a lot more singles than actual albums, which explains the scattershot track listings of the early albums.  In reality they were one of the best singles bands out there, they had strong B sides to the A, and sometimes getting a track that has never appeared on any of their albums, namely Baby Don't You Do It, a 6:17 live romp of the old Motown classic done by angry guitar and Keith riding on crash cymbals on a track destined for a followup to Live At Leeds, one of the five all time best  live albums ever recorded.  And has yet to appear on a US Who album although it did appear on a Polydor UK comp. 

For Who compilations  there are more of them than actual albums.  What's maddening to a Who fanatic is how Universal has continue to repackage and repackage each and every album with the same hits but with very little other tracks to showcase what The Who was like.  Some of my favorite Who singles have been ignored with occasional appearances; The Relay for one, after being left off previous collections (Sea And Sand was on the last Who best of, not Relay GRRR) has made the cut on The Who Hits 50, but that's the 2 CD set rather than the single, which is a repackage of the last Who best of  and the one before that. The single edition of Who Hits 50 is for newbies only and a waste a money and time if you have any other Who Greatest Hits.  Unless you want that new recorded track Be Lucky, to which you're better off downloading somewhere. 

So let's talk about The Who Hits 50 and why you should invest 21.99 into yet another throwaway best of that I'm sure Universal will rehash once again if and when Pete and Roger decide to hang it up.  Or maybe make your own mix cd.  It starts out with an early High Numbers track called Zoot Suit.  A UK only single called Dogs makes a debut, you get part two of We're Not Gonna Take It, the single edit of Won't Get Fooled Again (whoopie).  The second CD is where Universal finally gives John Entwistle some single loving with the forgotten 1974 single Postcard and Trick Of The Light which was released as a single in late 78 which didn't chart.  And The Relay returns to a spot.and we get the full blown Love Reign Over Me all the way down to Keith Moon smashing his cymbals in a coda that is the price of admission of that song alone. But after Trick Of The Light, we get some spotty choices from the Kenny Jones era, the which The Faces drummer held his own with The Faces but with The Who, even he was outmatched by the ghost of Moon.  Face Dances was a departure from Who Are You but I still don't have much to say about that album, You Better You Bet is a wise choice but Don't Let Go Of The Coat is a subpar number and perhaps Another Tricky Day would have been a better choice.  Or John's The Quiet One to which that song winks back to the past and wishing that Moon was still alive to tackle this tune.  The singles from It's Hard (Athena, Eminence Front) are all that you need, the latter song probably the best Pete sang song.  By the time we get to It's Not Enough from the post John album Endless Wire, the world quit caring.  Not a bad song to these ears but really it's not worthy of a best of spot.  And Be Lucky is just a way to get people to buy the whole thing all over again if they're not computer savvy.   And to piss off Bob Lefsetz who thinks you should be streaming rather than having actual albums too.

Despite it all, the best Who Greatest Hits album remains Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy which is still available as an import.  Had Universal left that alone or just remastered it for up to date sound standards the world would be better off and not full of past discarded Who best ofs filling up the landfill.  And any new Best Of The Who does not improve nor lower the value of their music.  It makes no sense to have Who Hits 50 being overpriced at 20 bucks when you can get the Essential Kinks for 16 bucks and have a better song selection.   And it's funny how the remaining major labels think the key to declining music sales is to up the price on CDs two fucking dollars more.  It just makes Universal look greedy, the Koch Brothers of the Major Label world.  To which I say, bills need to be paid off, your family needs food and clothes.  They don't need a luxury like The Who Hits 50, certainly not the overpriced single cd which is no different than Who's Better Who's Best or Amazing Journey The Story Of The Who.   The 2 CD Who Hits 50 has a few more offerings to temp you but unless you don't have Hooligan's the 1982 2 LP attempt for a Who overview, you can live without this.  But to further temp you, The Relay on 50 is 20 seconds longer with Moon beginning his patented cymbal bashings on the fade out.  But even that's not worthy of the 21 dollars to pony up.

In other words, another money making venture that Universal hopes you'll buy.  But if you're smart enough to know better, you probably have these songs already.

Grade C (single version)
B (2 CD version)

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