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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

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Peter
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars What do I think of The Who? Quite simply, I think they are perhaps the best darned rock and roll band ever. Yes, The Beatles were bigger and more influential, the Stones had more staying power, sensuality and bad boy menace, Zeppelin more mystique (and maybe more stadium-shaking power), but no classic rock band has moved me through the years, and supplied the soundtrack of my youth, as The Who have.

I had a book about them as a young teen, I loved the movies, bought the T-shirts, played along with Pete Townshend on my air guitar, identified with the lyrics, bought the early solo albums, lived QUADROPHENIA when it came out, and like a good "mod" wannabe, wore 'my wartime coat in the wind and sleet.' To this day, I still love The Who, and I return to their classic albums again and again.

So, what of this album? Dating from the end of 1967, THE WHO SELL OUT is a brilliant, absolutely audacious pop masterwork and simply the most fun album The Who ever made. It's a fully-realized concept album that prefigures TOMMY -- and, for me, it's more successful than the flawed TOMMY in that its grasp equals its considerable reach. Here the working concept is much more straightforward than the visions of flawed messiahs, generational divide and roiling adolescent angst which would follow on TOMMY and QUADROPHENIA. Here, as the title implies, the concept is pop culture and commercialism. Listening to THE WHO SELL OUT, you are submerged in a simpler time, a pre-hippie 50s to early 60s pop world of the latest songs, soft drinks, skin care products, guitar strings, cars and... canned beans. The war is well over, folks are safely back to work, kids and teens are everywhere, and everything's for sale -- even rock and roll bands. Faux ads, jingles and songs are all seamlessly linked via the clever device of a supposed pirate radio broadcast on "wonderful Radio London -- the A.M. Sound."

THE WHO SELL OUT was re-mastered in 1995, and that's the version I'm reviewing here. This edition has 23 tracks compared to the original's 13, with loads of extra songs, alternate versions, jingles -- all recorded during the original 1967 album sessions. There's also a very interesting and thorough essay on the album and its place in pop history, plus extra artwork and liner notes.

The linking "radio" material (it is NOT filler!) is terrific, but the songs themselves include some of the strongest in The Who's catalog. First up is "Armenia City in the Sky," where Roger Daltrey employs the higher, almost feminine register he'd later largely abandon (proof that as a singer, he had more range than he's often credited with). Other standouts include that cheeky ode to a (ahem) handy gal, "Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand," the masculine coming-of-age anthem "Tattoo," the sensitive Townshend-sung "Our Love Was" and, of course, the essential "I Can See for Miles." There's even a captivating multi-part mini "opera" about a troubled faraway fantasy land in "Rael 1," which was quite ambitious for its time. The best bonus track closes the album on an especially high note -- even if it's about a plane crash: "Glow Girl" dates from 1968, and first appeared on the B-sides and leftovers compilation ODDS AND SODS. It's a fabulous rocker that points the way to Tommy via its fadeout vocal of "It's a girl Mrs. Walker, it's a girl." If you've never heard this clever and unique album, you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy ASAP! If you're already a fan, but don't own the newer, fleshed-out version, you need to get this edition for the full experience. If, lucky sod, you have this version, then what are you waiting for? Go put it on, crank it up, and smile! From 1967 to today, no album was ever more purely pleasurable than THE WHO SELL OUT. It's the most fun you can have at home with your clothes on, and a genuine vintage rock and roll masterpiece!

Peter | 5/5 |

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