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A classic by any measure
on May 23, 2013
This 1971 release sounds a lot different than Tommy (1969) and indicates how much the group had developed in only a few short years. There is certainly no shortage of popular songs on this album and the track listing reads like a greatest hits list. Although culled from a larger project that was shelved (Lifehouse), there is continuity to the collection of songs on Who's Next, which is a personal favorite.
The album was recorded in fits and starts (the process is nicely detailed in the liner notes) with the end product being a definitive album by the group. Come to think of it, along with Tommy and Quadrophenia (1973), Who's Next defines the Who's mature sound: a mixture of hard rock, a smidge of progressive, and dynamics that range from soft to loud.
I love the use of synthesizers on the album (mostly VCS3 and ARP 2500) and electronic processing, which lends the music a fairly distinctive sound. On the downside, I am not a fan of the (lyrically) silly tune My Wife (John Entwistle), which is really at odds with the remainder of the material. This same sort of thing drove me crazy with ELP.
The production quality is (was) outstanding and the remastered CD does not fiddle with the original sound too much (at least based upon my distant memories of the LP). The sound of the drums is best described as thunderous, and there is excellent separation of individual instruments. The liner notes are very detailed and include an essay by Pete Townshend and some notes on the album by a rock critic. The extra tracks are pretty cool and I have to say they are actually of interest.
All in all, this may very well be the Who's finest moment. A classic by any measure, it is highly recommended along with Tommy and Quadrophenia. These three albums find the group at a creative peak.