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The Who - My Generation - The Very Best of The Who CD (album) cover


The Who



3.80 | 26 ratings

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4 stars There are several "Who's Best" albums out there but for my money it's hard to beat this particular collection. Not only does it do a superb job of presenting The Who's most recognizable music in chronological order, showing the band's amazing evolution from inexperienced punks to arena-filling superstars who greatly affected the course of modern rock history, but the pristine remastering makes every song sound fresh and invigorating. Plus it's all contained on one long CD.

Clocking in at barely over 2 minutes, their first single "I Can't Explain" (recorded in late '64) is so good that they frequently opened their concerts with it for over 25 years. An extremely young Jimmy Page plays the second guitar and a vocal group called the Ivy League sings backup on this urgent rocker that was obviously influenced by The Kinks. "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" was their second single and it topped out at #10 in the UK (the US wasn't prepared to assimilate these boisterous kids quite yet). Nicky Hopkins provides some hot piano work and the arrogant, defiant lyrics separated the group from the lightweight Mersey beat combos that eventually slipped into oblivion. What can I say about the juggernaut that is "My Generation" that hasn't been said a million times before? Its awesome power is as impressive today as it was the first time I heard it. A song so iconic that every pimply-faced male teen latched onto it and claimed it for their own. "Substitute" is another energetic, in-your-face single that sprang from Pete Townsend's feeling that the band was a substitute for the bluesier Rolling Stones and represents his first foray into the world of being a record producer. It's yet another song that proved to be timeless as they performed it live throughout their career.

Hinting at bigger things to come, the quirky "I'm a Boy" came directly from Pete's vision of a longer project to be called "Quads" that he eventually abandoned in favor of "Tommy." Virtually unheard in the states, it matched the success of "My Generation" by rising to #2 in the UK. John Entwistle's "Boris the Spider" is looked upon as a weird novelty tune by many but it definitely brought his enormous and highly influential bass guitar sound to the forefront. "Happy Jack" might be Townsend's song but Keith Moon's drums are the star of this show and it demonstrates exactly what made him irreplaceable in the long run. You'd be hard pressed to find another tune like it. "Pictures of Lily" is one of my all-time favorite Who tracks because it just sizzles from beginning to end. As for the controversial lyrics, Pete was just voicing what nobody else had the cajones to even bring up. Gotta love John's climactic, out-of-control French Horn lead, too. The definitive opening E chord to "I Can See For Miles" leads you right into what I consider one of the best examples of early progressive rock with its unconventional, dynamic accents and intertwining vocal harmonies. That pivotal key change tears my head off every time.

If there's a low point to be found in these proceedings it's the inclusion of "Magic Bus." The monotonous Bo Diddley vibe gets old in a hurry. "Pinball Wizard" was the best advertisement imaginable for their groundbreaking rock opera, "Tommy," as it raced right up to #4 on the charts. Roger Daltrey's commanding vocal had a lot to do with grabbing everyone's attention, making them want to hear more of that masterpiece. As a single "The Seeker" may have been a disappointment but it's still a monster song regardless. I like to think of it as what Tommy became after his followers walked out on him. "Baba O'Riley" is just flat-out one of the best cuts in the annals of progressive rock. 'Nuff said. And "Won't Get Fooled Again" dwells on that same lofty plateau in my book. Its plain truth and immaculate musical tightness is a wonder to behold. "Let's See Action" is more of an experiment from Pete than an actual call to take up revolutionary arms but Roger does a good job of selling the concept with his strained singing.

"5:15" from Quadrophenia is a ballsy rocker performed with a full horn section and in the band's inimitable style. Daltrey's memorable Jew's Harp intro on "Join Together" gives it a distinctive flavor and represents yet another leftover from Townsend's mysterious "Lifehouse" project. Borne out of Pete's learning to play accordion, "Squeeze Box" may be the ultimate un-Who song with its hillbilly feel provided by the up-front banjo pickin' and, as Townsend humbly admitted, its "devastating simplicity." Containing words penned after Pete spent the night in a London gutter in a drunken stupor, "Who Are You" is a fine specimen of the group's progressive attitude. Cool synthesizer moments abound. It also marks the last single that Keith played drums on. (R.I.P. Moonie) And last but in no way least "You Better You Bet" brings this excellent Who-fest to a conclusion. When it came out in early 1981 I didn't give it much merit or even a fair listen because I missed Keith Moon so much but over the years I've come to appreciate and enjoy its considerable charms.

If there's anything I'd change about this compilation it would be to omit "Magic Bus" and tack on the driving "Eminence Front" right at the end. But that's just me. And I would also encourage you to buy at least 5 or 6 of their albums to get the full Who experience but, as "greatest hits" assemblages go, this is an unequivocal winner. Great for cruisin' with the car stereo blasting, that's for sure. You know you can't go wrong with The Who on board.

Chicapah | 4/5 |


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