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THE WHO

Proto-Prog • United Kingdom


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The Who biography
One of the greatest of all rock and roll bands and one of the most influential of all time, The Who formed in 1964, when drummer Keith Moon left the Beachcombers and joined The Detours, who included singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist Pete Townshend, and bassist John Entwistle. The Who arrived on the scene at a crossroads in the English music scene: The Beatles were still king but were beginning to turn from the bubble gum pop of previous albums, the Merseybeat boom was fading and London was becoming the center of English music. A residency at London's famed Marquis club gave them a stage to make their impression: above all, The Who were a live band that had to be seen as well as heard. There first hit, "I Can't Explain", led to regular TV appearances and a tour with The Beatles. It also got them signed to Decca Records, where they recorded their first album, "My Generation". The album was a hit in England, reaching #5 on the charts, while the title track became an anthem of sorts for the times and still perhaps their best known song.

The Who were very original in that their arrangements were far from the normal in rock those days. Pete was more of a rhythm player who had Keith and John playing around him instead of
merely holding a beat, an influence acknowledged by the way Prog rock turned conventional rock idioms on their ear with regards to arrangement and traditional roles of the instruments. Keith's drumming was described as 'lead' drumming and John was having bass solos as early as 1965 in rock music.

Success out of the gate gave the group some measure of creative control on their next album which they lacked on the first. Pete and manager Kit Lambert had been talking about extended themes and ideas in rock and roll for some time. When The Who went into the studio for their second album in 1966 each group member was to contribute songs to help generate more revenue in royalties for the group, the group having a rather high overhead in terms of destroyed guitars and drum kits. When the others were not able to meet their quota of songs for the new album, Pete and Kit stepped in to fill the album out, and came up with what would be one of the trademarks of prog music in the future, the extended song cycle "A Quick One", which would be the title of the new album as well. It was 6 distinct song fragments tied together with a unifying theme; love, betrayal, and forgiveness. It is often called a rock opera... it could also be calle...
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THE WHO discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

THE WHO top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.91 | 150 ratings
My Generation
1965
2.92 | 140 ratings
A Quick One
1966
3.52 | 202 ratings
The Who Sell Out
1967
3.93 | 494 ratings
Tommy
1969
4.36 | 508 ratings
Who's Next
1971
4.50 | 521 ratings
Quadrophenia
1973
3.52 | 173 ratings
By Numbers
1975
3.30 | 177 ratings
Who Are You
1978
2.46 | 99 ratings
Face Dances
1981
2.57 | 94 ratings
It's Hard
1982
2.90 | 73 ratings
Endless Wire
2006

THE WHO Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.02 | 132 ratings
Live At Leeds
1970
4.10 | 39 ratings
The Kids Are Alright (Original Soundtrack of the Film)
1979
2.72 | 20 ratings
Who´s Last
1984
3.33 | 12 ratings
Join Together
1990
4.33 | 3 ratings
The Who Live (Golden Age serie)
1993
3.24 | 30 ratings
Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970
1996
2.86 | 24 ratings
BBC Sessions
2000
3.92 | 19 ratings
Live At The Royal Albert Hall
2003
3.83 | 6 ratings
Greatest Hits Live
2010
3.97 | 11 ratings
Live At Hull
2012

THE WHO Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.92 | 26 ratings
The Kids are Alright
1979
4.00 | 8 ratings
Who's Better, Who's Best
1988
3.60 | 14 ratings
Live at the Isle of Wight Festival
1998
4.03 | 11 ratings
Who's Next - Classic Albums
1999
3.88 | 14 ratings
Live at the Royal Albert Hall
2000
3.17 | 6 ratings
Live & Alive
2003
3.00 | 6 ratings
The Vegas Job
2006
3.13 | 15 ratings
Amazing Journey
2007
3.77 | 13 ratings
The Who at Kilburn: 1977
2008
3.55 | 12 ratings
Maximum R&B Live
2009
4.29 | 7 ratings
Live in Texas '75
2012
3.22 | 8 ratings
Quadrophenia: Live in London
2014
3.95 | 3 ratings
Live in Hyde Park
2015

THE WHO Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.23 | 14 ratings
Magic Bus: The Who on Tour
1968
3.32 | 27 ratings
Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy
1971
3.76 | 34 ratings
Odds & Sods
1974
3.33 | 6 ratings
Who's Missing
1985
4.07 | 11 ratings
Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B
1994
3.80 | 25 ratings
My Generation - The Very Best of The Who
1996
2.26 | 4 ratings
The Who (budget compilation)
1997
4.04 | 28 ratings
The Ultimate Collection
2002
3.27 | 15 ratings
Then and Now
2004
1.79 | 9 ratings
Greatest Hits
2009
5.00 | 5 ratings
Live At Leeds 40th Anniversary Super-Deluxe Collectors' Edition
2010
4.83 | 6 ratings
Quadrophenia - The Director's Cut (Super Deluxe Limited Edition)
2011
3.50 | 4 ratings
The Who Hits 50!
2014

THE WHO Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

2.70 | 9 ratings
I'm a Boy
1966
2.76 | 9 ratings
Happy Jack
1966
3.75 | 4 ratings
Summertime Blues
1970
3.05 | 6 ratings
Let's See Action / When I Was A Boy
1971
4.13 | 8 ratings
5.15
1973
3.05 | 3 ratings
Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B sampler
1994

THE WHO Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 The Who Sell Out by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1967
3.52 | 202 ratings

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The Who Sell Out
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by DamoXt7942
Forum & Site Admin Group Avant, Crossover & Neo Teams

3 stars Another impact like a musical collision in 1967. This greatly sensational concept album released in the same year as The Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" is quite impressive and addictive through kinda fictitious radio show with some fictitious advertisements. As a concept album, this one could be felt "so-called theatrical" sorry, but their incredible intention to follow The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" should be enough understandable. Each track was positively and acceptably composed and produced (and appropriate for the pop chart!), although entangled musical / melodic phrases or cynical footprints are here and there ... maybe Pete's unique and hilarious idea was breathed into this creation.

Above mentioned, every "leading" song between jingles is pretty pop and catchy flooded with light rhythm bases and mid-60s psychedelic keyboard-based ornaments. We can say it could not connote "so-called progressive" essence in itself. An important point is that quirky jingles like an old-fashioned Radio London programme or fantastic advertisements like "Heinz Baked Beans" or "Odorono" are very innovative and play the momentous role to consolidate a radio fantasia together all around the album. Easily guess they had created and produced this funny radio programme guide with laughing out loudly, and composition with serious appearance. Yes they made sure to "sell out" the concept (in a sense) album, we can mention here after listening to "Sell Out".

Anyway let me emphasize this funky sleeve pics completely explain the content in this funky sleeve. Enjoy the inside and outside.

 Live At Leeds by WHO, THE album cover Live, 1970
4.02 | 132 ratings

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Live At Leeds
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This review is about the original LP release from 1970.

"The greatest live album of all time". Well. In my opinion, it isn't. I expected great things from this album after I read that it was considered by many people as a great live album. Maybe if I have listened to this album when I was a 13-15 year old teenager maybe I could consider this album as "the greatest live album of all time". But now...

Anyway, it is an energetic live album, with "raw" and spontaneus performances by a young band. But even with all these things being considered, I still think that there are better performances of some of these songs in other live albums. For example: the live version of "Young Man Blues" which was released in "The Kids Are Alright" soundtrack album in 1979 is better than the live version which was included in "Live at Leeds". The live version of "Summertime Blues" which was included in the "Woodstock" film is also better than the live version which was included in "Live at Leeds".

"My Generation" in "Live at Leeds" is a long version which also has a lot of improvisation from the band, also including some parts from other songs like "See Me, Feel Me" and "Sparks" from the "Tommy" Rock Opera. It is too long (15 minutes in duration) and it is not very interesting for me. The song "Magic Bus" has never been one of my favorite songs from the band, and this live version is not so good.

Anyway, "Live at Leeds" includes very energetic performances from the band, which are good but not better than other live recordings from the band, with Keith Moon's "hyperactive" drums playing, Pete Townshend's heavy guitar playing, John Entwistle's "thunderfingers" bass playing, and Roger Daltrey's very good lead vocals. But the original "Live at Leeds" album from 1970 also showed some mistakes in their playing and singing. Maybe due to this, it could be considered as an "honest" and "raw" live recording from this band, with the later expanded editions from this album being released with "corrections" done in the recording studio. So, the original LP release of "Live at Leeds" has it merits due to the more spontaneous playing and singing. Also, the cover design was a very good idea, with it being like a parody from a bootleg LP.

Good but not- essential, at least for me.

 Tommy by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.93 | 494 ratings

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Tommy
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars As someone who is familiar with the Who from hearing their handful of hits on classic rock FM, it's a nice surprise to find Tommy, a thoughtfully composed and well played concept album. There's a lot to like here, and I think the reviews here on the Archives speak the truth in that one's enjoyment of this album will depend on taste and biography. For me, Tommy is a mixed experience.

It's at its most enjoyable when the band is playing ambitiously, such as on songs like "Overture," "Underture." These songs have dynamic energy and very skilled delivery. The band sounds great, and it's fun to hear music from the most classic or classic rock era so skillfully played; it's a vintage sound that stands the test of time. For me this is light-years more enjoyable than anything the Beatles ever put out.

I suppose it's not a coincidence for me that my favorite songs are both instrumentals, because I found the story, lyrics, and vocal inflection bland. This is definitely a "rock-opera" album, which is a euphemism for "musical with electric guitars." I do not like musicals, and the amount of storytelling that the Who crams into this album is cumbersome and distracting. The best concept albums allow their concept to drift in and out of the abstract, so that the listener can chose to be all in to the story, or enjoy songs individually without loosing much. You can't do that with Tommy, because every song is narrative.

The rave reviews of this album often have phrases like, "when I first heard this," or, "I remember when," which points strongly towards the high marks on this album coming from nostalgia. I don't have a problem with nostalgia, because it colors much of what we like and dislike, but because I am nostalgia-less when it comes to the Who, my experience listening to Tommy was one that grabbed hold of the great moments, and was left waiting during the downtime. The flow and momentum is too weird to be a straight ahead rock album, but not so well composed to be a true prog-rock album.

An album with that many highs and lows is worth a rock-solid 3 stars. Check it out if you like the Who's "greatest hits," or if you're interested in the development of the prog-rock movement.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 Live in Hyde Park by WHO, THE album cover DVD/Video, 2015
3.95 | 3 ratings

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Live in Hyde Park
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by rdtprog
Special Collaborator Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars This is the last show of their 50th anniversary tour in London's Hyde Park. The show start in the daylight atmosphere being a outdoor venue. It's still amazing to see Pete Townsend playing with this energy level after many years. And listening to him in this show, the band bring back the question each tour about being the possible last tour of the band, and they keep touring. The set list here is almost perfect with some of their classics, only the song "Join Together" didn't connect with me, but the pacing of all the songs is well done. I rediscovered how good were the songs "Amazing Journey" and "Sparks" that was done in a medley. The ending is the epic and great song "Wont Get Fooled Again" with all the atmosphere of the keyboards parts that was created by Pete Townsend. Roger Daltrey is still young enough to deliver a decent performance that could go along with those younger musicians behind him. I also find quiet enjoyable those short stories that share different artists between some songs explaining the influence of the Who in their life. The show in High Definition is nice to watch and the big screen in the back has plenty of beautiful projections throughout the show.
 Quadrophenia by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1973
4.50 | 521 ratings

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Quadrophenia
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Quinino
Collaborator Errors & Omissions Team

5 stars My ALL-TIME Greatest #11

Pete Townshend is a Genius, this album is a Giant Masterpiece and the Mighty Who rule(d)

Global Appraisal

You want to know when I do get the maximum pleasure a human being can receive exclusively from music? Being alone at home, pushing the volume on the stereo and going to shower while listening and singing (shouting, in fact) full breath along Roger Daltrey. Over Quadrophenia, no other else!

It never fails to uplift and put me in a sunny mood, that's the reason I always remained a faithful worshiper going from vinyl (religiously kept, oh yeah) to tape and finally to cd immediately after it was released back in '84. What a glorious-happy-energetic-music.

Goodies

First the composition, all by PT, is top notch and as exciting today as it was then.
The vocals, of course, no one can refute RD is one of the best in his trade.
I get the feeling the bassists tend to be wrongly undervalued about their contribution and in the Who that would be a terrible huge mistake - John Entwistle is surely a pillar for the foundations of the band's sound and if you try, as I sometimes do, to follow the songs focusing on his playing, you'll be amazed.

 Tommy by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.93 | 494 ratings

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Tommy
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Magnum Vaeltaja
Collaborator Eclectic Prog Team

1 stars Before I discourage anyone from giving this album a listen I'd just like to say that it does have some redeeming features, including and limited to a concept addressing many different facets of life and a level of ambition that was revolutionary at its time of release. So bear these in mind all ye who still dare to listen after reading my review.

Tommy is a concept double album rock opera and has been hailed as one of the first and finest thereof. I don't think there's any need for me to give a synopsis of the plot of Tommy's tale as if you listen to any of the songs on this 74 minute monstrosity you will invariably be reminded every other verse of Tommy's ailments, which brings me to the first problem I have with this album. It is not at all subtle and that is a huge pet peeve of mine in concept albums. The concept feels incredibly forced and it doesn't take very long before you being to get very sick of having obvious facts reiterated again and again. Did you know that the kid is deaf, dumb and blind?

"Tedious" describes this album very well and the conspicuous narration is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the album's tedious facets. If one were to take a look at the track listing of the album, they'd see that the band has written a novel of Tolstoy-esque proportions. The album's track listing is muddled and filled with redundancies and filler. Dozens of short (under 2 minute) tracks that fall flat of moving the narrative along are interspersed among stale instrumentals that don't develop. At this point you may be wondering to yourself, "well maybe the instrumental work on some of the tracks is good?" - Oh how I hoped that that were true. "Are the vocals good at least?" - Lifeless and cheesy. "Would the album cover at least look pretty sitting on my shelf?" - Unfortunately they couldn't even pull that off.

If you're ever feeling particularly masochistic, have 74 minutes to kill and have run out of paint to dry or grass to grow, Tommy would be the perfect album for you to listen to. Over 20 back to back, non-emotive spectacles of poor musicianship avail themselves on this overdrawn, megalithic flop. Admittedly there are two songs on the entire album that I can listen to without needing to physical restrain myself from skipping them, the hit "Pinball Wizard", which is more in The Who's classic hard rock vein, and "Miracle Cure", which is short enough that I wouldn't fall asleep before it's finished. In summary, "Tommy" is an incredibly overrated concept album that could have been worked out far more concisely and tolerably in a well-written single album or a one-side suite. Unappealing as it is, Tommy doesn't even deserve two stars as it should not be of much interest to fans of The Who given that there is none of the rowdy, rambunctious rock 'n' roll, or even the slightest hint of upbeat energy characteristic of their sound, on it. One star for an album that should not have come from a band so talented.

 A Quick One by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1966
2.92 | 140 ratings

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A Quick One
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

3 stars My Generation was more than just an album when it came out back in 1965... it was a game-changer. The way it mixed soft R&B covers and pop rock tunes with a previously-unheard hard rock edge and raw production was ingenious, and the affectionate nods to the Mod subculture were icing on the cake. It seems as though I'm exaggerating when I state that The Who's debut was a decade-defining piece of work, but it truly was. So how would these London boys follow it up? Well, how about giving songwriting roles to every band member while becoming a hell of a lot sillier in the process?

What came of this question was A Quick One, one truly bizarre and inconsistent foray into more cheery and poppy territory. Here, we get everything ranging from blues rock, quirky comedic tunes, the band's first "rock-opera" track," folk rock sections, and more. It becomes clear very quickly which musicians really shine in the songwriting department, however: Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. In fact, the latter created perhaps one of the band's most iconic and entertaining songs in the form of "Boris the Spider"; aside from containing vocals that likely (and probably inadvertently) influenced a legion of death metal singers, the song's cheesy horror lyrics just add to its fun camp value. Curiously, Entwistle's other contribution "Whiskey Man" is a pretty standard fast-paced blues rock track compared to the amount of personality "Boris the Spider" had, but it's still a decent addition nonetheless. Of course, just as with My Generation, Townshend still manages to be the real driving force writing-wise. The title track, which is easily his best contribution on here, is an excellent prelude to the band's future rock operas; it also ends up being among the first progressive rock tunes with its varying sections and relatively long length of nine minutes. The whole thing is very elaborate, especially in terms of Roger Daltrey's vocal harmonies and Keith Moon's busy percussion, as the lyrics essentially give the listener a prelude to the story of the 1969 record Tommy. Seriously, this was some ambitious stuff in the mid-60s, especially considering the fact that it predates other proto-prog gems of the decade such as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Days of Future Passed.

Unfortunately, the biggest mistake of A Quick One was letting Keith Moon assist in any part of the songwriting process. He might be an amazing drummer, but his songs are seriously lacking compared to what the other members bring. First, we get an uninspired folky power ballad with "I Need You," which has some extremely obnoxious and raucous drumming during the chorus; it's so raucous that it literally overpowers the production itself. The other song he wrote might just be the single worst track to ever be released by The Who, that tune being "Cobwebs and Strange." Remember what I said about this album being really cheery? Well, "Cobwebs and Strange" basically manages to sound like a marching band performance at a Disneyland parade with its bright horns and stiff, angular drumming; that is, until the song turns into a disjointed mess of disparate musical ideas. The second half of the song is pretty much just a glorified Keith Moon drum solo, but it's not very engaging when combined with such an ugly jumble of instruments and styles. As for Roger Daltrey, his sole contribution "See My Way" is a decent pop song that thankfully tones down the dynamics of the album along with the previous Pete Townshend number "Don't Look Away." However, despite the weird mishmash of styles present in A Quick One, I have to give it credit for at least having some sort of overall focus and knowing what it is: a cheesy pop rock record. It often doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why incredibly fun songs like "Boris the Spider" and the title track were able to fit in so well with the experience as a whole. Basically, my advice is to enjoy the Townshend and Entwistle tracks and try to forget the Keith Moon tracks ever happened; I know that sounds harsh, but Moon is simply better off doing what he does best: drumming. In the end, if you don't want to stick with the familiar Who classics and want to delve into something a bit more quirky and strange, this is a pretty good bet. Despite how unusual and flawed it is, A Quick One is actually really fun and a refreshing oddball in the band's catalog.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 My Generation by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1965
2.91 | 150 ratings

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My Generation
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Necrotica
Prog Reviewer

4 stars The Who's entrance into 60s popular music was a hell of a game changer. With a rock landscape still heavily dominated by poppier and more melodically driven artists such as pre-Revolver-era Beatles as well as more folk-oriented groups like Simon and Garfunkel, it was inevitable that someone would try amping up the volume and increasing the distortion a bit. Well, Britain's answer came indirectly in the form of the Mod subculture. Mod was essentially based around British youths during the 60s and involved motor scooters, soul and "modern jazz" (as they tended to call it, usually referring to bebop) music, and drug-filled nights of club dancing. Anyway, long story short, mods and rockers did not get along during the mid-60s because of differing ideals, which even led to straight-up physical violence between the two! They eventually began to settle their differences, mainly because one certain band was able to combine aspects of both subcultures into their sound as if a musical truce was being called. Of course, that band would be The Who, with their phenomenal and revolutionary debut My Generation. It was a record that combined the rebellion and raucousness of both the mods and rockers, but has also maintained its status as a classic record over the years; you see it on best-of lists by Rolling Stone, Mojo, Q, and so forth. So what made it so good? Well, the answer is simple: it rocked. Hard.

My Generation, along with Jimi Hendrix's work a few years later, would truly become the blueprint heavy metal and punk rock in the years to come. Between guitarist Pete Townshend's aggressive and distorted playing, the way Roger Daltrey mixes gruff blues and hard rock vocals, John Entwistle's already-established presence as one of rock's earliest bass virtuoso players, and Keith Moon's ridiculous amount of energy on the drums, this must have been a sound to behold back then. That's not to say some of the elements typical of that era don't slip through; there are still plenty of poppy and soulful vocal harmonies, as well as three covers of classic R&B tunes. However, it's the raw and unhinged execution that makes it so influential. The production itself is quite bare, focusing more on sheer volume and impact than being lavish or slick; this definitely assisted in propelling the legendary title track and "It's Not True" to their status as youth culture anthems by contributing to their clangorous nature and proto-punk sound. But going back to what I said about John Entwistle earlier, the great thing about My Generation is that its high level of energy is still accompanied by an equally high level of instrumental proficiency and chemistry within the group. If I had to pick a standout musician, however, Pete Townshend would be that person. His work on the album really helped to expand the sonic boundaries of what the electric guitar could do, between more tightly-constructed hard rock numbers and more experimental jams. The latter is represented most strongly by "The Ox," an instrumental piece that has Townshend playing around with intense guitar feedback and very low tunings for the time period. The song's presence on the record might seem a bit unnecessary today, but it was just another innovative piece of work when it came out.

However, all influence and innovation aside, the age-old question remains: how well does the forty-year-old album hold up today? Well, that depends on which aspect of the record you look at. Unfortunately, the biggest flaw of My Generation really is its production; yes, it fits the style and vibe of the experience as a whole, but it's also very thin and more dated-sounding than other contemporary albums of the day such as The Beatles' Revolver or The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds. Luckily, the songwriting and musicianship are completely timeless. Countless punk bands still cover the title track and "It's Not True" to this day, not just because they're influential to the genre, but because they still evoke the classic themes of rebellion and being young. While the band later regarded this album as a weak and rushed effort, you'd never believe when listening to such well-crafted gems like the melodic vocally-layered pop rock anthem "The Kids Are Alright" or the slightly more somber and mellow "The Good's Gone." Also, while many blues or R&B covers may feel out of place on a record, the three that are featured on My Generation fit quite well as they display that the young band were still on their way to fully developing their sound. Plus, in the case of "I Don't Mind" and "Please, Please, Please," Roger Daltrey's charismatic and aggressive vocals are a perfect fit for James Brown's often bright and energetic material.

My Generation may not suit all tastes, but one can't deny its immeasurable influence on rock music as a whole. The energy, distortion, intensity, rawness, and sonic experimentation present on the album were very rarely heard prior to its release, and its ability to mix different subcultures and bring them together is just stunning. Sure, the record doesn't quite have the songwriting or maturity to match future classics like Tommy and Quadrophenia (the latter also being about the mod scene), but it makes up for that with sheer raw energy and aggression. My Generation is just a ton of fun, and I know I'll continue to play it as long as I feel young and rebellious...

'cause "I'm not tryin' to cause a big sensation, I'm just talking about my generation!"

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

 Tommy by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1969
3.93 | 494 ratings

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Tommy
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by jmeadow

4 stars The Who's first fully realised rock opera is a proto-prog classic, as we all know, the story of Tommy, a deaf, dumb and blind kid, who plays a mean pinball and becomes a messiah-like figure to his fans. The story addresses sensitive issues including alienation, child abuse and celebrity/fandom with directness and honesty

The album is certainly imperfect - there are some pretty big cracks in the storyline, in particular - but nevertheless it has pace, tension and emotion and some great rock tracks. 'Pinball Wizard' and 'I'm Free' are well-known classics, but less-renowned songs like '1921' and 'Christmas' are also superb. In the later the pathos of Tommy's isolation from the world is neatly captured by his blissful ignorance of Christmas Day: 'And Tommy doesn't know what day it is/Doesn't know who Jesus was or what praying is/How can he be saved?/From the eternal grave?'

An album that traverses the gap between standard rock and prog and in doing so shows the possibilities of rock music. Highly recommended.

 By Numbers by WHO, THE album cover Studio Album, 1975
3.52 | 173 ratings

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By Numbers
The Who Proto-Prog

Review by Guillermo
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Well. It seems that by 1975 THE WHO had to record another studio album having worked a lot since the release of their "Quadrophenia" album and the tours to promote it between 1973 and 1974. Bands worked hard in those years. They were expected to release studio albums each year and to do tours to promote them. In 1974, the band also participated in the "Tommy" film and also recorded a soundtrack album for that film version with guest musicians too. All the members of the band (including Keith Moon) have recorded some solo albums until then too. So, by 1975 they had to record another studio album as a band which became "The Who by Numbers". By that time, Pete Townshend, the main songwriter in the band, was having a hard time trying to write songs for this album, saying that the band practically recorded all the songs he wrote for this album. And this album is just another album without a concept or without being another Rock Opera. It is just a collection of songs with mostly introspective lyrics which have relation to Townshend`s `personal experiences at that time. So, the songs are very personal but very good anyway, despite most of them are really not showing "happy feelings". But the album as a whole in fact is very good.

John Entwistle also wrote one song for this album, the rocker "Success Story", which also is one of the best from this album and it also has some humour in the lyrics. And not all the songs which were composed by Townshend are introspective, because "Squeeze Box" is also a song with some humour in the lyrics. But for the most part, the songs are introspective. In six of the ten songs from this album the piano parts were played very well by the very good and famous late session musician Nicky Hopkins, who also worked with the band in "Who`s Next" in 1971.

The best songs from this album are "Success Story" (with very good bass guitar playing by Entwistle), "Squeeze Box", "Imagine a Man", "They are all in Love" and "How Many Friends". "However Much I Booze" is so personal that it was sung by Townshend and not by Roger Daltrey, who wanted to distance himself from the content of the lyrics. Keith Moon`s drums playing is very good in this album, and as a whole the band still was playing very well. So, as a whole this album, while being very introspective in most of the lyrics from the songs, still is very enjoyable.

The cover design was done by John Entwistle. Some people don`t like it, but I think that the cover design is very good and very original.

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to NotAProghead for the last updates

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