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The Who - The Who Sell Out  CD (album) cover

THE WHO SELL OUT

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

3.52 | 147 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
3 stars 3.5 stars really!!!

Just like their preceding A Quick One, Sell Out didn't do that well back in those days, probably because it wasn't that obvious that the quartet was well ahead of their times in some ways. Indeed after the semi-conceptual Quick One with the title track the first rock- opera, with Sell Out we have a full concept album, but it got a bit over-shadowed by their non-album singles flying about and the future career-launching Tommy. Actually if Sell-out benefits of some newly acquired critical acclaim, it's partly because of a few hints to the upcoming Tommy album, namely Daltrey bathing in baked tomato beans and I Can See For Miles, a track that stands out here, but would've felt right at home in Tommy.

Based on the loose but story-less concepts of a hypothetical UK pirate radio and the spoof advertising, The Who tries to upstage Monty Python, but they never get close to Frank Zappa's humour in music, even though their attempts give most progheads a jolt or two. Of course one of The Who's advantage was to sound very different than most of their contemporary in 68: while most groups where increasingly heavier, much of The Who's music remains whimsically-tainted and lightly psychedelic pop-rock, even if they had an occasional violent outburst (My Generation or See For Miles) and Entwistle's frequent use of the horns gave them another edge that none other had. The Who sort of describe UK's pre-hippie era society (much the same way Genesis would with SEBTP in 73), but without being too much Swinging London either.

Mixing 50's and 60's radio-related ambiances throughout the album ensures enough of a unity for the other "songs" to melt together as one: Starting with Armenia City In The Sky where Entwistle's horns and Townshend's Hendrix-like guitar, the album is definitely a step up to what they'd been up to until now. The "radio interludes" are usually fairly experimental (the weekdays through electronic filters, rather filled with fun and sound collage that Zappa wouldn't disown. And as mentioned above we also get a glimpse of the future with See For Miles (the only hit from the album), that prefigures Tommy, with Townshend's energetic guitar crunches, Moon's incredible drum fills, but what's amazing here is that the sound is completely different, as if recorded in a different studio, a few years later.

Other tracks are still too much stuck in the mid-60's pop-like mode Mary Anne or Tattoo, but often not that straightforward, either. Medac, and Stingy are also up that alley, but somehow, you'd have to wonder if Daevid Allen didn't revisit this album before writing some of his RGI trilogy with GonG and in early Soft Machine. While The Who avoided endorsing too widely the then-over-powering psychedelia of the times, with some of their songs, they could easily match Floyd's Syd Barrett's "Emily Layne" and the Sell Out album can be considered their "Satanic Sergeant Pepper Majesty" album. The closing track, the two-part Rael tune, the first part is still too 60's-ish, while the second will be used as blueprint for Underture/Sparks of the Tommy opera.

The "Legacy" remastered series has the same bunch of bonus tracks from the mid-90's (which were adding much to the original album, since these "bonuses belonged to these sessions) reissue, but also sports a second disc offering the mono album and again another bunch of tracks, this time of a lesser interest. Coming in a superb double Digipak with an adapted booklet, it is too bad that the lyrics are absent. Sell Out is probably just as important as The Nice's Thoughts or Procol's debut (except that it wasn't a debut album) in developing the classic rock sound . Almost essential

Sean Trane | 3/5 |

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