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Rock - Released January 1, 1971 | Geffen

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released January 1, 1971 | Geffen

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Geffen

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Rushed out in 1970 as a way to bide time as the Who toiled away on their follow-up to Tommy, Live at Leeds wasn't intended to be the definitive Who live album, and many collectors maintain that the band had better shows available on bootlegs. But those shows weren't easily available whereas Live at Leeds was, and even if this show may not have been the absolute best, it's so damn close to it that it would be impossible for anybody but aficionados to argue. Here, the Who sound vicious -- as heavy as Led Zeppelin but twice as volatile -- as they careen through early classics with the confidence of a band that had finally achieved acclaim but had yet to become preoccupied with making art. In that regard, this recording -- in its many different forms -- may have been perfectly timed in terms of capturing the band at a pivotal moment in its history. There is certainly no better record of how this band was a volcano of violence on-stage, teetering on the edge of chaos but never blowing apart. This was most true on the original LP, which was a trim six tracks, three of them covers ("Young Man Blues," "Summertime Blues," "Shakin' All Over") and three originals from the mid-'60s, two of those ("Substitute," "My Generation") vintage parts of their repertory and only "Magic Bus" representing anything resembling a recent original, with none bearing a trace of their mod roots. This was pure, distilled power, all the better for its brevity; throughout the '70s the album was seen as one of the gold standards in live rock & roll, and certainly it had a fury that no proper Who studio album achieved. It was also notable as one of the earliest legitimate albums to implicitly acknowledge -- and go head to head with -- the existence of bootleg LPs. Indeed, its very existence owed something to the efforts of Pete Townshend and company to stymie the bootleggers. The Who had made extensive recordings of performances along their 1969 tour, with the intention of preparing a live album from that material, but they recognized when it was over that none of them had the time or patience to go through the many dozens of hours of live performances in order to sort out what to use for the proposed album. According to one account, the band destroyed those tapes in a massive bonfire, so that none of the material would ever surface without permission. They then decided to go to the other extreme in preparing a live album, scheduling this concert at Leeds University and arranging the taping, determined to do enough that was worthwhile at the one show. As it turned out, even here they generated an embarrassment of riches -- the band did all of Tommy, as audiences of the time would have expected (and, indeed, demanded), but as the opera was already starting to feel like an albatross hanging around the collective neck of the band (and especially Townshend), they opted to leave out any part of their most famous work apart from a few instrumental strains in one of the jams. Instead, the original LP was limited to the six tracks named, and that was more than fine as far as anyone cared. And fans who bought the LP got a package of extra treats for their money. The album's plain brown sleeve was, itself, a nod and nudge to the bootleggers, resembling the packaging of such early underground LP classics as the Bob Dylan Great White Wonder set and the Rolling Stones concert bootleg Liver Than You'll Ever Be, from the latter group's 1969 tour -- and it was a sign of just how far the Who had come in just two years that they could possibly (and correctly) equate interest in their work as being on a par with Dylan and the Stones. But Live at Leeds' jacket was a fold-out sleeve with a pocket that contained a package of memorabilia associated with the band, including a really cool poster, copies of early contracts, etc. It was, along with Tommy, the first truly good job of packaging for this band ever to come from Decca Records; the label even chose to forgo the presence of its rainbow logo, carrying the bootleg pose to the plain label and handwritten song titles, and the note about not correcting the clicks and pops. At the time, you just bought this as a fan, but looking back 30 or 40 years on, those now seem to be quietly heady days for the band (and for fans who had supported them for years), finally seeing the music world and millions of listeners catch up. ~ Bruce Eder & Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released May 23, 1969 | Geffen

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Rock - Released November 1, 1973 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1965 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1967 | Geffen

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Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | Geffen

Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy has the distinction of being the first in a long line of Who compilations. It also has the distinction of being the best. Part of the reason why it is so successful is that it has an actual purpose. Meaty was designed as a collection of the group's singles, many of which never appeared on albums. The Who recorded their share of great albums during the '60s, but condensing their highlights to just the singles is an electrifying experience. "The Kids Are Alright" follows "I Can't Explain," "I Can See for Miles" bleeds into "Pictures of Lily" and "My Generation," "Magic Bus" gives way to "Substitute" and "I'm a Boy" -- it's an extraordinary lineup, and each song builds on its predecessor's power. Since it was released prior to Who's Next, it contains none of the group's album rock hits, but that's for the best -- their '60s singles have a kinetic, frenzied power that the louder, harder AOR cuts simply couldn't touch. Also, there is such a distinct change in sound with Who's Next that the two eras don't quite sound right on one greatest-hits collection, as My Generation and Who's Better, Who's Best proved. By concentrating on the early years -- when the Who were fresh and Pete Townshend was developing his own songwriting identity -- Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy is musically unified and incredibly powerful. This is what the Who sounded like when they were a great band. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 1975 | Geffen

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The Who by Numbers functions as Pete Townshend's confessional singer/songwriter album, as he chronicles his problems with alcohol ("However Much I Booze"), women ("Dreaming From the Waist" and "They Are All in Love"), and life in general. However, his introspective musings are rendered ineffective by Roger Daltrey's bluster and the cloying, lightweight filler of "Squeeze Box." In addition, Townshend's songs tend to be underdeveloped, relying on verbosity instead of melodicism, with only the simple power of "Slip Kid," the grace of "Blue Red and Grey," and John Entwistle's heavy rocker "Success Story" making much of an impact. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released September 4, 1982 | Geffen

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Driven by Pete Townshend's arching musical ambitions, It's Hard was an undistinguished final effort from the Who. Featuring layers of synthesizers and long-winded, twisting song structures, the album featured few memorable melodies and little energy, with only the anthemic "Athena" and the terse "Eminence Front" making a lasting impression. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released August 18, 1978 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1981 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1974 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1966 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 1970 | Geffen

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Rock - Released August 18, 1978 | Geffen

On the Who's final album with Keith Moon, their trademark honest power started to get diluted by fatigue and a sense that the group's collective vision was beginning to fade. As instrumentalists, their skills were intact. More problematic was the erratic quality of the material, which seemed torn between blustery attempts at contemporary relevance ("Sister Disco," "New Song," "Music Must Change") and bittersweet insecurity ("Love Is Coming Down"). Most problematic of all were the arrangements, heavy on the symphonic synthesizers and strings, which make the record sound cluttered and overanxious. Roger Daltrey's operatic tough-guy braggadocio in particular was beginning to sound annoying on several cuts. Yet Pete Townshend's better tunes -- "Music Must Change," "Love Is Coming Down," and the anthemic title track -- continued to explore the contradictions of aging rockers in interesting, effective ways. Whether due to Moon's death or not, it was the last reasonably interesting Who record. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Pop - Released February 3, 1995 | Geffen

Rushed out in 1970 as a way to bide time as the Who toiled away on their follow-up to Tommy, Live at Leeds wasn't intended to be the definitive Who live album, and many collectors maintain that the band had better shows available on bootlegs. But those shows weren't easily available whereas Live at Leeds was, and even if this show may not have been the absolute best, it's so damn close to it that it would be impossible for anybody but aficionados to argue. Here, the Who sound vicious -- as heavy as Led Zeppelin but twice as volatile -- as they careen through early classics with the confidence of a band that had finally achieved acclaim but had yet to become preoccupied with making art. In that regard, this recording -- in its many different forms -- may have been perfectly timed in terms of capturing the band at a pivotal moment in its history. There is certainly no better record of how this band was a volcano of violence on-stage, teetering on the edge of chaos but never blowing apart. This was most true on the original LP, which was a trim six tracks, three of them covers ("Young Man Blues," "Summertime Blues," "Shakin' All Over") and three originals from the mid-'60s, two of those ("Substitute," "My Generation") vintage parts of their repertory and only "Magic Bus" representing anything resembling a recent original, with none bearing a trace of their mod roots. This was pure, distilled power, all the better for its brevity; throughout the '70s the album was seen as one of the gold standards in live rock & roll, and certainly it had a fury that no proper Who studio album achieved. It was also notable as one of the earliest legitimate albums to implicitly acknowledge -- and go head to head with -- the existence of bootleg LPs. Indeed, its very existence owed something to the efforts of Pete Townshend and company to stymie the bootleggers. The Who had made extensive recordings of performances along their 1969 tour, with the intention of preparing a live album from that material, but they recognized when it was over that none of them had the time or patience to go through the many dozens of hours of live performances in order to sort out what to use for the proposed album. According to one account, the band destroyed those tapes in a massive bonfire, so that none of the material would ever surface without permission. They then decided to go to the other extreme in preparing a live album, scheduling this concert at Leeds University and arranging the taping, determined to do enough that was worthwhile at the one show. As it turned out, even here they generated an embarrassment of riches -- the band did all of Tommy, as audiences of the time would have expected (and, indeed, demanded), but as the opera was already starting to feel like an albatross hanging around the collective neck of the band (and especially Townshend), they opted to leave out any part of their most famous work apart from a few instrumental strains in one of the jams. Instead, the original LP was limited to the six tracks named, and that was more than fine as far as anyone cared. And fans who bought the LP got a package of extra treats for their money. The album's plain brown sleeve was, itself, a nod and nudge to the bootleggers, resembling the packaging of such early underground LP classics as the Bob Dylan Great White Wonder set and the Rolling Stones concert bootleg Liver Than You'll Ever Be, from the latter group's 1969 tour -- and it was a sign of just how far the Who had come in just two years that they could possibly (and correctly) equate interest in their work as being on a par with Dylan and the Stones. But Live at Leeds' jacket was a fold-out sleeve with a pocket that contained a package of memorabilia associated with the band, including a really cool poster, copies of early contracts, etc. It was, along with Tommy, the first truly good job of packaging for this band ever to come from Decca Records; the label even chose to forgo the presence of its rainbow logo, carrying the bootleg pose to the plain label and handwritten song titles, and the note about not correcting the clicks and pops. At the time, you just bought this as a fan, but looking back 30 or 40 years on, those now seem to be quietly heady days for the band (and for fans who had supported them for years), finally seeing the music world and millions of listeners catch up. ~ Bruce Eder & Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Rock - Released January 1, 1967 | Geffen

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Rock - Released January 1, 2014 | Geffen

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Like Who's Missing, this is an assortment of B-sides, UK-only tracks, outtakes, and live cuts from the 1960s and early '70s. Again, there's some notable, even terrific, material here: the fiery 1967 covers of the Rolling Stones' "The Last Time" and "Under My Thumb," the strange 1968 UK single "Dogs," the heavy R&B of the '65 British B-side "Daddy Rolling Stone." Yet much of the rest of the album is extraneous to all but diehards, like a sluggish 1965 cover of Martha & the Vandellas' "Motoring," Keith Moon's novelty B-side "Wasp Man," or the 1969 instrumental "Dogs, Part 2" (which does have some slick guitar runs and manic drumming). The record's haphazardly sequenced as well. Also, Who's Missing and Two's Missing still manage to miss a couple '60s B-sides that Who fanatics might want (Entwistle's "I've Been Away" and Keith Moon's "In the City"), although those two cuts are now available on the CD reissue of A Quick One. In fact, the well-known bootleg Who's Zoo does a much better job of assembling most of the group's early rarities into two albums. ~ Richie Unterberger
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Rock - Released February 3, 1999 | Geffen

Like any record company worth their salt, MCA knows a good gimmick when they see it, and when the millennium came around -- well, the 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection wasn't too far behind. Supposedly, the millennium is a momentous occasion, but it's hard to feel that way when it's used as another excuse to turn out a budget-line series. But apart from the presumptuous title, 20th Century Masters -- The Millennium Collection turns out to be a very good budget-line series. True, it's impossible for any of these ten-track collections to be definitive, but they're nevertheless solid samplers that don't feature a bad song in the bunch. For example, take the Who's 20th Century volume. Yes, there are some great, great songs missing, but what's here (with the possible exception of "Squeeze Box") is terrific, including "My Generation," "Happy Jack," "I Can See for Miles," "Magic Bus," "Pinball Wizard," "Behind Blue Eyes," "Who Are You," "Join Together," and "Won't Get Fooled Again." Serious fans will want something more extensive, and neophytes would be best served by more well-chosen collections, but this disc is quite entertaining, considering its length and price. That doesn't erase the ridiculousness of the series title, but the silliness is excusable when the music and the collections are good. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Artist

The Who in the magazine
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