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The Who - Who Are You CD (album) cover

WHO ARE YOU

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

3.31 | 210 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
4 stars Some three years after the lacklustre By Numbers album, The Who comes back from a lengthy holiday with a seemingly strong album. Three years is a long time for a group to rest, and most likely too long for some members who were living dangerously. Moon was obviously the one that didn't take such a long holiday well and his health was declining, although we had no way this album (and the surge of activities in 78) would be his swan song. Townshend himself was not doing that much better regarding substance abuse, while Daltrey and Entwistle had kept busier with solo album. It was with great relief that the press and public received the album and the two tracks that were obvious belters convinced many that this was a real return to form. Upon closer inspection though, it appeared that the better tracks (the most exciting ones) were written quite a while ago (some as far as Lifehouse in 71) and the newer ones didn't hold the distance as easily. No trace of Hopkins n this album but he's well-replaced by the fantastic Rod Argent on various keyboards, while Astley's string arrangements have a Quadrophenia taste.

Right from the first second of the opening New Song, you know the group is back in form, with the usual breaks and energetic surges of power coming from their collective guts. The following thought-provoking Had Enough (Entwistle-penned) doesn't have the same freshness (despite strings in the background) but holds the pace well enough until the excellent mid-tempo 905 (also Entwistle) where Townshend is toying with electronic noises up in the forefront. While I'm not really a fan of Sister Disco, there is no discussion it became another Who classic, but I find that the synths are killing an otherwise fine song. We're not even halfway through the album and already the lacklustre Numbers is erased from memory.

The first (and not the only) weaker track is Trick Of The Light, an Entwistle-penned track, a noisy affair that should've lasted half its duration. However, I must say that the following Guitar And Pen is a complete miss with me, and Moon is busy burying it in cymbal crashes, although I'll agree that the closing section, they attempt an almost-impressive Yes movement that is maybe a little too much for Keith. But then again you have a superb Music Must Change, where Keith's almost non-intervention (besides a few hi-hat jiggers and a few hits on skin) is pure bliss and a true sign of genius (despite some reviewers claiming he was incapable to play it). Love Is Coming Down benefits from Astey's sweet string arrangements, but could easily be a filler as well. Of course this album wouldn't be complete without the fantastic closing title track, which seems to revisit the opening track and 905, and incorporating some excellent interplay from everyone, including Moon's last divine intervention in drumming. In either case, it's the perfect closer to a good album, just like New Song was the perfect song to open it, and the soundscapes from both tracks provide a sort of book-ending.

A more recent reissue where MCA added a bunch useless bonus tracks (some completely un-related), and remastered it helped the album re-gaining dynamics lost in its first Cd re-issue, but unfortunately it also enhances the fact that Moon was only the shadow of his former self, even if he still manages some excellent moves. While Who Are You is certainly a better album than the previous, and later Moon The Loon's untimely death; retrospectively it's now clear that this album is the first step towards The Who's slow death that would last another two albums. It looks like only one f the four did prefer to die before fading away, the other three choosing to age as gracefully as they could. Should have this album been their swansong, like Zep's In Through The Outdoor, we'd probably look at this one more fondly, but it's no use rewriting history: The Who missed its exit but this album has got its share of gems

BTW, this is the album that introduced me to The Who along with Who's Next (bought a few weeks before the release of this one), so most likely in my subconscious, I'm giving an extra half star because of memories.

Sean Trane | 4/5 |

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