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The Who - Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B CD (album) cover


The Who



4.07 | 11 ratings

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4 stars This is an extraordinary box set which introduces the listener to ALMOST all the best music the Who recorded between 1964 and 1994. When it came out I bought it immediately and I still remember how thrilled I was. As a long-time Who fan I found it incredibly exciting to have so many superb tracks in a single compilation, interspersed with bits of dialogue from Pete Townshend and wonderful snippets of 'Goon style comedy' from Keith Moon. Since the music is spread out over four CDs, the set contains much, much more than the usual hits and commercial highlights. The Who are also well represented at their most delicate and eccentric. For these reasons the set would make a near-ideal introduction to the newcomer. The voluminous photo book is attractive as well.

A look at the extensive track list will show you that all the band's classic singles are here, from "I Can't Explain" and "My Generation" to "Happy Jack" and "Pictures of Lily". The studio albums are well represented, too - particularly THE WHO SELL OUT, LIVE AT LEEDS, WHO'S NEXT, THE WHO BY NUMBERS and WHO ARE YOU, where the selection could hardly be bettered. WHO'S NEXT, the band's greatest album, is included almost in its entirety. For once, the sublime original version of "Pure and Easy" appears right between "Bargain" and "The Song is Over" - exactly where it should be. (I personally would have preferred to see the studio version of "My Wife" included, rather than a 1976 live performance, but I guess you can't have everything...) To their everlasting credit, the compilers also took the trouble to include a fair number of obscure but fascinating tracks such as "Disguises", "Girls' Eyes", "Jaguar", "Melancholia" and "Dogs", most of which had never before been released. ("Dogs" quickly developed into one of my all-time Who favourites!)

Any gripes with this set, then? Well sure, I've got plenty!!!

1. Among the early tracks, why has the crisp studio version of "Substitute" been replaced with the LIVE AT LEEDS version (as on some earlier compilations)? This seems anachronistic and plain wrong.

2. "A Quick One, While He's Away", as represented here, is a patch-up of the original studio version and (during the finale) the live version from the Rolling Stones' Rock and Roll Circus. (Thus allowing the compilers to state, rather misleadingly, on the back of the box, that their version is 'previously unreleased'.) I'll gladly admit the Who's Rock and Roll Circus performance was one of their greatest triumphs, but this kind of approach neither does justice to the studio version, nor to the live version.

3. I can't help thinking QUADROPHENIA (a clear favourite with many proggers) has been shabbily dealt with. Why are only four tracks represented here? Why is there no trace of "The Punk and the Godfather", "I've Had Enough" or "I'm One" when the compilers DID find space for less exciting tracks from an earlier project, such as "Join Together" and "Relay", and (even more disappointingly) for those turgid 1980s live versions of "Twist and Shout" and "I'm a Man"? And, most of all: why include a terribly pedestrian 1979 run-through of "The Real Me" featuring Kenney Jones, when the original studio recording (with Keith Moon) is one of the band's most explosive performances?

4. Finally, as a secret admirer of the 1982 IT'S HARD, I can't help wondering why the only track that always gets chosen from that album is the soporific "Eminence Front". I much prefer the sprightly "Athena" and the dramatic closing number "Cry If You Want".

In spite of my complaints, I feel this set provides a splendid overview of the best part of the Who's career, so if you can find it at a reasonable price, you should have no qualms about purchasing it.

fuxi | 4/5 |


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