Review by The Musician|
4 stars out of 4
Pros: Soaring vocals, explosive guitars, drums, and bass, amazing song
Cons: Only nine songs
Bottom Line: Incredible. Amazing. Breathtaking. Fantastic. One of the best
albums of all time. A must buy.
Great Music to Play While: Driving
The Who were the first real old rock group that I was able to get into.
My father was very enthusiastic about their material, and whenever I would
play for him some more recent songs and ask him about what he thought,
he would just say "It's good, but the Who is better.". Unbeknownst to me,
most of the time he was right. He first played me some of their earlier
popular singles like "Magic Bus" and "My Generation", which was good,
but not enough to shift my focus from current music to stuff made in the
seventies. However, I did see "Who's Next" for sale for $9.99, and taking
my father's advice, I bought it, and it blew my mind.
The album is full of incredible musicianship. Great vocals from Roger
Daltrey, guitar and song writing from Pete Townshend, bass guitar (and
horns!) from John Entwistle, and drums from the legendary Keith Moon, who
I still think is one of the best drummers of all time. This package has
always been brought by the Who (except for a couple albums at the end of
their career), but what really makes this album stand out is the phenomenal
song writing exhibited by Townshend. Every song on this album is a
masterpiece, and what's even more amazing is they blend fantastically to
make a brilliant album. Actually, this album was supposed to be a rock
opera at first, like Tommy and Quadrophenia, called Lifehouse, but fell
apart when Pete Townshend had a nervous breakdown around 1970. So much
of the material was forced into an album where, somehow, everything just
came together to make one of the best albums of all time.
It kicks off with the energetic "Baba O'Riley", which is simply about the
concept of waste. It begins with an accelerated synthesizer melody until
blaring piano chords join it. The drums soon follow, as well as Daltrey's
vocals which sing "Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals, I get my
back into the living. I don't need to fight, to prove I'm right, I don't
need to be forgiven". Immediately you can see that this was one of the
songs that was going to be used for the rock opera, but instead becomes
one of the most recognizable and best tracks on this album full of classics.
Also, it has a great violin solo at the end of the song played by Dave
Arbus, which makes it a memorable and exciting track.
Song number two is "Bargain", which is another syncopated power chord fueled
rocker. Great drumming from Moon and powerful vocals from Daltrey combine
for a strong overall impression on this song. This is followed by the
acoustic "Love Ain't For Keeping", which contains fantastic guitar from
Townshend. This is an all-round great song with good vocals, back-up
vocals, and is a very well written song. This goes to "My Wife", which
is written by bassist John Entwistle, who is known as the 'musician' in
the band. He is the only member that knows anything about music theory
and history, and it shows in the beautiful composition displayed here.
This was the best song ever written by Entwistle, and contains a delicious
brass hook. It's a highlight on an album full of highlights. This is
followed by "The Song Is Over", a gentle piano ballad that features the
piano skills of Nicky Hopkins. It is an anthem of sorts, with Daltrey
singing "I sing my song to the wide open spaces, I sing my heart out
to the end of the sea, I sing my visions to the sky on a mountain, I'll
sing my song to the free". It's a song with lots of great individual
musicianship, which can be heard in the drums, the guitar, the piano,
and has some great bass that is more difficult to hear. This optimistic
ballad is a brilliant song to end the first half of the album.
The opener for the second half is "Gettin' In Tune", which starts out as
another piano ballad with unusual lyrics, such as "I'm singin' this note
'cuz it fits in well with the chords I'm playin', I can't pretend there's
any meaning here in the things I'm sayin, but I'm in tune". The song is
beautiful satire because it dissects what the belief of a song should
be while sounding heartfelt. This is followed by the acoustic "Goin'
Mobile", which is one of the many songs from this album that can be (and
are) used in car commercials. It's a great song with a well done wahwah
guitar solo and pounding drums. It also includes some unexpected but not
unwelcome synthesizer accompaniment, and, on a personal note, I love when
Daltrey screams "whip woo!".
The next song is the amazing "Behind Blue Eyes", which is another highlight
on an album full of highlights. This is one of my favourite all-time pieces
of music, and it has incredible acoustic guitar from Townshend and great
bass accompaniment by Entwistle. Two and a half minutes in, the song
erupts with drums and electric guitar in one of the best moments on the
whole album. A brilliant song by Townshend which is second in quality
only to the closer.
Simply put, "Won't Get Fooled Again" is eight minutes of bliss. It begins
with a strange synthesizer loop played by Townshend, who was big into
electronic experimentation at the time. It is another Who anthem, with
opening lyrics "We'll be marching in the street, with our children at
our feet, and the morals that we worship will be gone". The main verse
is similar, with such memorable lyrics such as "I tip my hat to the new
constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and wave at the
change all around, pick up a guitar and play, just like yesterday, then
I get on my knees and pray, we won't get fooled again". Great vocals
deliver these lines, and this song is probably the crowning achievement
in Keith Moon's drumming career. It's very syncopated, complex, and
unpredictable, but never feels at any time out of place or intrusive.
Townshend's crushing power chords and Entwistle's bass rock this song,
which throughout all eight minutes never seems boring at all. It is full
of energy and power, and features some great little guitar solos from
Townshend. There is even a break from all the instruments except the
synthesizer about six and a half minutes in, until Moon's drums enter
and is followed by the rest of the instruments to end the song in a
dramatic fashion. It is a brilliant song to finish off a brilliant album.
This album is the Who's magnum opus, and after making such a pinnacle of
rock 'n roll, they eventually tumbled into mediocrity because of
over-experimentation with synthesizers and loss of focus. Few remember
the Who like that though, because most like to visualize them at their
absolute best. This was the Who's best album, it contained three of their
finest hit songs ("Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled
Again"), and is the Who at the peak of their career. It is a flawless
album, which rocks harder than any Who album previously released, but
also has a soft side that is equally as powerful as the explosive guitars
and amazing drums. It is the Who at their finest, and no album collection
is complete without it.
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