on April 13, 2003
As most people know, one of the main selling points of Who's Next: Deluxe Edition is that the original album comes from the original stereo master tapes "for the first time on CD". The story is that only copy tapes have been used all of these years. On the other hand, Steve Hoffman, former MCA engineer, has claimed for a long time that he found the master tapes in a file cabinet at the Mastering Lab in LA in the mid-80s and used them for his CD version, one variation of which is still available in Canada today.
Well, between listening to the two side by side and running the tape box pictures past Steve, it would indeed seem the Deluxe Edition is the *second* time (at the very least) the true masters have been used for CD. There's little doubt in my mind that Hoffman's version also used the tapes. Both forms of the album sound quite good, although there are some differences between the two.
The Hoffman CD has an EQ that favors the vocals, with the side effect of causing the cymbals to sound a bit "midrangy". The Deluxe Edition, on the other hand, goes for a slightly more "smooth" cymbal sound, at the expense of the vocals, causing them to be submerged slightly, if you will. The DE is a bit less "open", IMO.
There are also some minor differences beyond EQ. For his CD, Hoffman essentially played the tapes back "straight", without fading the hiss out between tracks. [side note: the Canadian version has the hiss "blacked" between some tracks. The original US and Japanese pressings don't.] The Deluxe Edition takes a different approach. As the songs come to a close, the entire track is faded out, causing the hiss to fade as well. The side effect of this is that in some cases the very last moments of some songs are lost.
Interesting note: the between song gaps for most of the album seem to be just about identical between the Hoffman CD and the DE. However, while some previous versions of the original mix (including the Hoffman) have essentially no pause between Behind Blue Eyes and Won't Get Fooled Again, the Deluxe Edition has a few seconds of silence between the two. Very strange. On the other hand, the old US MCA CD (a version not mastered by Hoffman) does have a small gap as well.
A big question on many peoples minds has been noise reduction (NR). Jon Astley (who mastered the Deluxe Edition) is notorious for using NR on just about everything. This has the effect of sucking the life out of the music and causing nasty digital artifacts. Kind of a "swirling" sound if you will. Just listen to some of Live At Leeds: Deluxe Edition for a good (or bad, I guess) example of this. Well, I've got good and bad news. The good news is that *most* of the album is NR-free. Hiss levels are usually about the same as the Hoffman CD, and in a few cases they actually seem to be every so slightly higher. That said, several intros, quiet sections, and fade-outs do have noise reduction. One key place is Won't Get Fooled Again - the intro, synth break, and fade-out all have NR. There's very little hiss during the break, and then as soon as the drums come in, the hiss level goes *way* up. Fortunately the NR isn't quite as intrusive as it was on some other Astley-mastered CDs, but it is still annoying, and there's simply no reason for it.
As far as the rest of the (bonus) cuts go, I haven't really gotten that far yet. I would note that while Baby Don't You Do It is longer than on the 1995 CD, it is still edited in a few places. What's the point?
On the other hand, some (but not all) of the backing vocals mixed out of Pure & Easy on the 1995 CD are present here. The song also comes to a formal close, rather than a fade-out.
Behind Blue Eyes still only has a single guitar solo, unlike the dual solos on the bootleg mix.
I briefly skimmed through disc 2. Rich "White Fang" Weiner has said he thought the mastering was significantly worse on this disc, but honestly, I don't hear (m)any negative effects of noise reduction. It's certainly better than I was expecting. That said, I haven't heard the mixes prior to mastering, and I believe he has. Whatever the case, the sound is *far* better than some of Jon Astley's prior work.
How would I rate this set? Well, it was certainly better than expected. A key selling point is use of the "original tape" for the original album. While I'd say it does sound *very* good, bits of noise reduction aside, I'm hesitant to say it sounds "better" than the Hoffman CD. Both versions have their own strengths and weaknesses. Casual fans will probably do fine with the DE, although I'd still suggest the Hoffman CD to those who really care about sound quality. You might still prefer the DE, but then again, you might not.
Even ignoring the original album, I'd say the set is well worth picking up. The mixes of the Record Plant material are interesting, and the Young Vic show is great from both a performance and sound standpoint.
Despite its flaws, in my opinion this is the best Who reissue to come out in a long time.
"Who's Next" is definitely The Who's best! Released in 1971 by arguably one of the greatest bands of all time, it followed on the heels of the rock opera "Tommy," and Pete Townshend's abandoned "Lifehouse" project. ("Lifehouse" was originally intended as The Who's crowning achievement - a combination science fiction film, rock opera, double album, and concert cycle, all connected to make a statement.) "Who's Next" contains some of The Who's most outstanding and famous songs, including the rock anthem "Baba O'Riley," "Bargain, "My Wife," "Gettin' in Tune," and "Won't Get Fooled Again," all of them showing the band's tremendous dynamism, versatility and musical maturity. Superbly intelligent lyrics, growling guitars, powerful, gritty vocals, and sizzling percussion, piano, and synthesizer, all converge to make every song on this CD a rock masterpiece.
What makes this digitally remastered CD even better than the original album is the addition of five previously unreleased songs from "Lifehouse," and the previously unreleased, original version of "Behind Blue Eyes. " These songs, which include "Baby Don't You Do It," "Naked Eye," "Water" and others, are equal in quality to the more familiar songs which make up the original "Who's Next" album. Also included are very well written liner notes by Pete Townshend and John Atkins, which explain the evolution of "Who's Next" from "Lifehouse."
"Who's Next" is one of the landmark albums of all time. It's also one of my personal favorites, and an essential CD, not only for fans of The Who, but for all fans of rock and roll music.
on September 5, 2002
Due to some positive comments made, I would like to elaborate on the "Spruce Goose" comment present in this review for those unfamiliar with that particular bit of history.
In the 1940s, Howard Hughes, the famous aviator and notorious recluse, built the largest "flying boat" ever built. The plane has the largest wingspan ever. Martin Scorceses produced a film called "The Aviator" with Leonardo Decaprio playing Hughes. The airplane was so massive and so unwieldly that only one flight was ever conducted, with Hughes behind the controls, on November 2, 1947. After that, the plane was permanently grounded, and no other subsequent models or additional planes built to the specifications of the Spruce Goose were ever built. The plane is still in existince today.
The whole "Lifehouse" project is analogous to the famous airplane. "Lifehouse" was unwieldy, impractical to implement, and no one really knew what Townsend was trying to accomplish with the project. Ultimately, it was too big for its own good and became doomed due to its size.
Mike London 9-10-2012
The Who have always been overshadowed throughout their career by other, more `relevant' trends. The Who persisted, however, and in the end created a body of work, largely penned by Townshend, which has become stands in the rock canon, but they've always had to fight for the spotlight. In the mid 1960s they had to contend with The Beatles and Stones and the rest of the Peace movement. From the early 1970s they had to deal with the singer-songwriter influx, and in the late part of their recording career they had to contend with punk (much of that relationship is dealt with in the highly underrated WHO ARE YOU album).
However, in a three year span, The Who was THE center of rock and roll. From 1969 to 1971, The Who had the world in a spin with ferocious live shows, a whole new idea of what rock and roll could do (TOMMY), and the sheer power and velocity of them live was absolutely amazing. The Who were at the top of their game, and took the live performance of TOMMY on the road for two years. Everyone was wondering what their next move would be.
WHO'S NEXT was the next move. Coming from the failed LIFEHOUSE, the album suddenly changed the direction that The Who had been established in. This is the turning point in The Who's career as far as sound goes. Townshend went from writing mod anthems to more album-oriented rock. When listening to albums like TOMMY or SELL OUT or QUICK ONE and then the later albums such as QUADROPHENIA, this one, or WHO ARE YOU, while you can tell it's the same band they've changed their sound drastically. Although they've always been loud, now The Who were playing genuine hard rock, and boy did it ever rock.
The source material for WHO'S NEXT, LIFEHOUSE, a multi-media extravaganza about how rock was going to save the world, has become, like Brian Wilson's SMILE, one of the great mysteries which everyone wonders what would have been had it come to completion. In The Who's case, I think it benefitted the work overall to not come to completion. Although it always escapes me why "Pure and Easy" was left off the album (as well as "The Naked Eye"), over all WHO'S NEXT plays very tightly, concise, and extremely focused. Townshend sometimes let the concept bog down the music, although not nearly as much as, say, Roger Waters. To his immense credit, Townshend always made sure that the songs were very catchy, and TOMMY has some of the band's best music, but taking it outside the context of the "concept," the music does not stand up as well as WHO'S NEXT.
That's the main difference between TOMMY and WHO'S NEXT, and that's what makes this record such a fascinating listen. If you know the plot of LIFEHOUSE*, then each song makes sense within its context. However, what makes WHO'S NEXT so powerful is the fact that, taken out of the LIFEHOUSE context, the music becomes an entirely different animal, which cannot be said for TOMMY. With LIFEHOUSE failing, instead we, as the listeners, have to take it on the basis of each individual song, and this gives the tracks from WHO'S NEXT more power than they ever could have if Townshend's second rock opera had been fully realised.
The best example of Townshend's songs working better outside the LIFEHOUSE plot is, of course, the last track on the album, "Won't Get Fooled Again." Instead of it being that great finale where Bobby and all his friends have escaped and are playing the final Lost Chord, it acts as excellent social commentary, and coming at the very beginning of the 1970s, after seeing the turbulence of the 1960s and all the tumult we were going through, Townshend manages to pen one phrase that blows the entire free love, hippie generation mentality, and with this one blow they never recovered. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss," the very climax of the song, hits so hard and so fast it left the culture reeling, making that song the single most powerful statement made against the 1960s.
Much of "Won't Get Fooled Again's" power would have been deflated had LIFEHOUSE been completed. Another excellent example is "Behind Blue Eyes" which is about the villain of LIFEHOUSE. Instead of being about one specific villain, it instead becomes about the villain in all of humanity. The same can be said of "Bargain." Instead of talking about some esoteric Lost Note that will crumble the Grid, Townshend gives us a very spirituality-driven song. To those who interpret the song about a man and a woman, that's their right, but I've always taken it as more of man's relationship with God.
In the end, WHO'S NEXT becomes The Who's most powerful statement, not in spite of LIFEHOUSE's failure, but BECAUSE of LIFEHOUSE's failure.
*There are several places on the Internet where you can get in detail LIFEHOUSE's plot. Essentially, it's a science fiction piece about rock and roll saving the world. Everyone is plugged into this Grid, and it reads kind of like Huxley's BRAVE NEW WORLD where they're kept doped up in the fact that they realise nothing's wrong. Bobby, the main character, decides to instigate a revolution, founds this place called the Lifehouse, where a band is playing music. When you go to the Lifehouse, people take all your personal data, everything you are, and then you are given your own personal musical identity. The climax is everyone gets caught up in the music, and everyone's information is fed into this computer which then produces everyone's identity into one single note. The rebels play the Note, everything is put right in the world, and they live happily ever after. Townshend was going to actually do this, and The Who would play rock concents and everyone's data would be represented musically. Can anyone say Spruce Goose?
Good science fiction; hard as hell to pull it off in any other format other than the novel. No wonder it never got completed.
P. S. Stop acting like the bonus tracks are part of the album. It's unfair to deduct stars from an album because of the bonus material. They are bonus tracks, simply that.
on June 22, 2003
Once again, MCA re-releases "Who's Next", and once again, MCA misses the opportunity to finally put out the 'definitive' "Who's Next" compilation.
Much like the 1995 re-release, the 'bonus tracks' are a major disappointment to say the least. The accompanying booklet goes into great depth discussing the additional songs recorded during the 'Lifehouse Sessions' that were omitted, so then why aren't any of them included here? Where's "Let's See Action", "Join Together", "Put The Money Down", "Time Is Passing", "Too Much Of Anything", and the definitive take of "Pure And Easy" (from the obscure 'Odds and Sods')?
Instead the consumer is treated to mostly redundant 'alternate take' versions of songs already included on "Who's Next". They might be interesting to hear once or twice, but the 'bonus track' space would have been much better served by including the titles listed above...and would have once and for all reconstructed "Who's Next" close to the original "Lifehouse" as was originally designed.
However, if you're a fan of The Who "Live At Leeds" and "Live At The Isle Of Wight", the second disk is a real treat. The sound quality is excellent, The Who play great, and you get rare 'live' renditions of songs from "Who's Next" that don't show up anywhere else. Disk 2 is reason enough to purchase this set.
Who knows (no pun intended), perhaps there will be yet another re-release of this classic album. And maybe next time it will include the missing 'Lifehouse' songs. For now, disk 2 will have to do as compensation. lr**
June 22, 2003
on October 25, 1999
Peter Townshend may not have gotten what he wanted out of "Who's Next" when The Who released it in 1971, but it's still one of the finest examples of rock & roll out there. Originally one of Townshend's "concept" albums (and titled Lifehouse), it contains fragments of a story that sounds, well, far-fetched: a secret rock concert takes place in a futuristic society where all music has been banned. A messianic leader named Bobby and his followers go to the concert, where their collective personality traits and vital signs are fed into a synthesizer and translated into sound. At the end of the concert, as the anti-music forces close in on the people, they disappear with a sudden "mystical chord". This, plus the technological advances that Townshend wanted to make, lend "Who's Next" a pedigree equal to "Tommy" or "The Who Sell Out". "Baba O'Riley" kicks off the album with its ARP synthesizer line that runs down your back like cold water. Piano, thundering drums courtesy of Keith Moon, Roger Daltrey's defiant voice, and a spare but powerful guitar riff propel you into the teenage wasteland. It's Townshend's kiss-off to the 60s hippie idealism. Quickly following is "Bargain", a frenetic rumble of passion, and the acoustic "Love Ain't For Keeping". Two of Townshend's best songs come next, "Song is Over" and "Gettin' in Tune". The reflection of the lyrics shows how far he's come from "I Can't Explain". And no Who record would be complete without a bit of John Entwistle's dark comic relief in "My Wife". The other chief tunes here are "Behind Blue Eyes", originally meant for Lifehouse's villain, Brick, and the anthemic "Won't Get Fooled Again", a song that marks Townshend's cynical view of hippie communalism. It's The Who at their most vicious - an attack of zinging guitar, atomic bass and shotgun drum blasts and Daltrey's throat-shredding howl at the end, and again the incessant drone of the synthesizer. Were it not for the material originally written for (and subsequently left out of) "Who's Next", the theme might be entirely lost to listeners. The addition of these other songs gives new life to Lifehouse. "Pure and Easy" recalls the mystical Lost Chord that Townshend was looking for. "Naked Eye", although available for years on "Odds and Sods", truly belongs here. "Water" is also notable for its bouncy rhythm. My favorite out of these is "I Don't Even Know Myself" which was the B-side to "Won't Get Fooled Again". All of these songs have the trademark Who sound (post Tommy): playful, gritty guitars, jaunty piano, supple, growling bass and Moon's karate-chopping drumming. There's no one quite like him, R.I.P. And no one like The Who in all of pop music.
on March 25, 2003
Originally released in 1971, "Who's Next" was a landmark album for The Who. This album depicts some of The Who's most creative and best songwriting ever. Songs such as "Baba O'Riley", "Bargain", "Behind Blue Eyes", "The Song Is Over", "Getting In Tune" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" clearly show The Who's ability to write beautifully crafted acoustic based songs as well as straight ahead no holds barred rockers. This special Deluxe Edition of "Who's Next" has been remastered (again) and disc one includes the original album as well as songs from The New York Record Plant Sessions (all tracks have been newly remixed). Songs from this session include a fabulous version of the Marvin Gaye classic "Baby Don't You Do It", a longer and alternate version of "Getting In Tune" which is superb. A more raw sounding "Won't Get Fooled Again" is also included. Other songs from the session include "Pure And Easy", "Love Ain't For Keeping", and "Behind Blue Eyes".
Disc Two contains a "live" concert at The Young Vic Theater recorded on The Rolling Stones Live Mobile in South London on April 26, 1971. The Who's performance has to be heard to be believed and the average listener may even think he/she are listening to studio versions of the songs played. There are songs from "Who's Next" such as "Love Ain't For Keeping", "Behind Blue Eyes", "Won't Get Fooled Again", "Bargain", "Getting In Tune" as well as one of The Who's first hits "My Generation" and classics such as "(I'm A) Roadrunner" and "Young Man Blues" to name a few. Also included is a twenty seven page booklet which includes interesting information on each song as well as other tidbits and nice photos of the group. This 2-cd Deluxe Edition is clearly better than the remastered single disc version of "Who's Next" and is worth every cent and more. If there's one Who album (or cd in this case) you buy make this be it. You will not be disappointed. Highly Recommended.
on September 5, 2002
The Who's definitive album, WHO'S NEXT, came out in 1971, along other such seminal works as Zeppelin's fourth album. Coming off the heels of TOMMY, it probably struck some of the rock fans who were following the band as rather strange, as there was no hint of any overall conceptual idea behind the work. And there's a good reason for that.
WHO'S NEXT is the rubble of Townshend's ultimate unrealised project, LIFEHOUSE. A science fiction rock opera, it proved for too unwieldy for the band to pull off, as it was a multimedia project that was never clearly defined by Townshend. Most of the songs from WHO'S NEXT are taken from this project.
Fortunately, because Townshend wrote his music and lyrics as much more self-contained and not so narrative driven as TOMMY, the songs work very well outside the context of LIFEHOUSE. Stripped of the rather cumbersome LIFEHOUSE meaning, the songs are allowed new life and new context, totally separate from its original intention. Because they are not tied to LIFEHOUSE, the songs are given a much more universal appeal, with a much broader emotional and intellectual scope incorporated into the writing. The brutally devastating lines "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss", the single best indictment against the 1960s counterculture and the whole revolutionary mind-set America had taken onto itself, would be stripped of much of its meaning had LIFEHOUSE succeeded. There's spirituality ("Bargain", "Baba O'Reilly"), black comedy ("My Wife"), social commentary ("Won't Get Fooled Again"), etc.
Another notable feature of the album is this is one of the first rock albums to really incorporate synthesizers into the sound.
This is one of Pete's best. This is where The Who went from being a mod band to a hard-rockband, and it is here on this album that The Who drastically changed their sound from their previous LPs.
Ultimately, WHO'S NEXT just goes to show that, even though Townshend could get a little pretensious with all this rock opera talk, what The Who was really about was kick-ass rock and roll, and WHO'S NEXT has that quality in spades.
October 26, 2007
[Somehow, a duplicate review posted on my profile with the WHO'S NEXT review back in 2002. I decided to replace this duplicate review with a new review. I posted this new review on Amazon.co.uk back in 2007 but never released it on Amazon.com. Mike London, 9-12-2012]
on April 13, 2003
Although the Deluxe Edition hypes that the original version uses the original master tapes for the first time, this is not true. In 1984, Steve Hoffman remastered this disc in the 1980s (a copy of the digital master he made from the original master tape was used on this Canadian budget import version available at hmv.com, absound.ca, cdplus.com and other Canadian music stores). The master tape was found in a file cabinet in The Mastering Lab in LA back in the 1980s and used it for the CD. The Hoffman CD has an EQ that favors the vocals. For his CD, Hoffman essentially played the tapes back "straight", without fading the hiss out between tracks. [side note: the Canadian version has the hiss "blacked" between some tracks. The original US and Japanese pressings don't.]
on December 12, 2000
Who's Next is not just one of my top ten favorite LP/CDs, it's my absolute number one. In my opinion, there's not another rock album that is its equal. That's saying a lot, because bands like the Beatles and Stones have recorded some really outstanding LPs. But Who's Next is superb. Just give it a listen. I still remember the first time I heard it -- it just blew me away. I kept playing it over and over, end to end. There is confidence and maturity here, along with instrumental virtuosity, great vocals and intelligent lyrics. The sheer power and magnificence of the music are awesome.
Every song on this LP is excellent. Songs like "Bargain", "The Song Is Over", "Gettin' In Tune", and "Goin' Mobile" are great in their own right, but their fame is overshadowed by the three drop-dead classics that bookended the original LP. "Baba O'Reilly" opens the set and "Won't Get Fooled Again" ends it. Both are rock anthems, driven by brilliant staccato synthesizers, dynamic druming and bass, and magnificent, crashing guitar chords. "Baba O'Reilly" concludes with with an accelerating violin piece that is both unique and effective. The finale of "Won't Get Fooled Again" is worthy of a Tchaikovsky overture and ringing power guiar chords inform the entire piece. And there is "Behind Blue Eyes", which immediately precedes "Won't Get Fooled Again". A quiet accoustic guitar and vocal that morphs into a driving electric riff under a snarling vocal plea by Daltry make this a classic song, too.
Pete Townsend always seems to need a story or theme to inspire his best songwriting. Witness "Tommy" and "Quadrophenia". For "Who's Next" he had Lifehouse. This story was intended to be made into a movie, but that never came off. Editted down, though, the music written for Lifehouse stands on its own as his best work.
The Who have been called "the thinking man's rock band". This is an intelligent and powerful recording. Get the CD, put it in your player and turn up the volume. I think you'll agree, this is great music.
on June 2, 2008
Throughout the 1960's the Who were basically a singles band with the notable exceptions of "A Quick One While He's Away," supposed theme album "The Who Sell Out" and, of course, "Tommy." The latter's success would force the group to stay together when bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon had debated forming a group called Led Zeppelin with Jimmy Page (this fact perhaps leading to Who guitarist Pete Townshend's outspoken resentment of that venerable act). Further success with "Live At Leeds" would lead the band into the studio once again to commence work on yet another Townshend theme album titled "Lifehouse." While "Lifehouse" failed to reach fruition during the Who's lifetime, many of the songs from that project formed the nucleus for one of the group's greatest achievements: "Who's Next."
With "Who's Next," the Who would enter the world of AOR as well as provide themselves with sure crowd pleasures along the lines of "Baba O'Riley," "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Won't Get Fooled Again." This being more than an ample enough amount of "hits" for the traditional album of the period, the group would continue to provide meaningful listening with "Bargain," "Love Ain't For Keeping" and "Getting In Tune." Even Entwistle's humorous "My Wife" and Townshend's bouncy "Going Mobile" maintain the pace of high caliber material on this, the group's finest hour as a working unit.
The Who would continue to make music into the 1970's, on through the untimely death of drummer Moon, eventually disbanding in the early 1980's before surviving members Roger Daltrey, Entwistle and Townshend revived the act--minus Moon replacement Kenny Jones of the Small Faces--until Entwistle's own unexpected demise at the turn of the century.
Outside of greatest hits packages "Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy" and "Hooligans," this is the one definitive Who album to have in your rock and roll arsenal. The later release of a double-disc CD set provides some interesting alternate takes, but nothing to rival the pure energy of the original album.