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The Who - Who Are You:

Album: Who Are You

LPs (vinyl) Sampled: Polydor (UK), MCA (USA), MCA-Super Disc (USA), MCA-Super Disc DBX (USA), MCA (Canada-red vinyl disc), Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Israel), Polydor (Uruguay), Union (Taiwan), Sony (Japan)

CDs (original mix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), MCA (USA), MFSL (USA), Polydor (Japan) 

CDs (remix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), MCA (USA), Polydor (Japan)

LP Comments: The Sony (Japan) is outstanding. Surprisingly, the MCA (USA) is very good sonically, but the vinyl quality isn't great and as a result, there can be unwanted surface noise. The MCA "Super Disc" is a bit of a gimmick, as the vinyl or sound quality is no better than the standard release. The DBX version of the same requires a DBX decoder added to your stereo system, but as with the other MCA LPs and the vinyl quality has the same problems as the other MCA LPs. The Polydor (UK) and (Germany) LPs sound good, but don't reach the sound of the Sony (Japan).

CD (original mix) comments: The Polydor (Germany) sounds wonderful. The MCA (USA) is as dull as a door, drowning in artificial bass. The MFSL is "OK", but doesn't sound anywhere as near as good as the Polydor (Germany). The Polydor (Japan) has the "value added" bass that many of its Japanese counterparts have, which makes it not sound as good as the Polydor (Germany). [Note: The MFSL CD is actually manufactured in Japan.]

CD (remix) comments: The Polydor (Germany) is the CD of choice here. The MCA (USA) suffers from some harsh edges. The Polydor (Japan) has that little extra bass in the mastering that's unneeded and unwarranted.

Summary: If you're looking for the original mix, first seek out the Sony (Japan) LP, then the Polydor (Germany) CD. If you want the best sounding remixed version, get the Polydor (Germany).

Other Comments: The MCA (USA) single of "Who Are You" is a shorter version of the song and features a lyric change to, "Who the hell are you..." (versus the common lyrics). On the MCA (USA) white-label promo of the LP, the title track has the word, "fuck" censored.

The song, "Empty Glass" on the remixed "Who Are You" is one of those rare, "special" finds. Unfortunately, the song was never completely finished. I always imagined it with Roger and Pete trading vocals as in "Naked Eye" - maybe one day the band will go back in the studio and finish it!

About: Who Are You

This is where it all began...

My very first Who album!

I never paid attention to music until I started driving. Music and driving go together...

I had a cassette player in my car and I joined the Columbia House (Music Club) and they sent me cassettes.

After going through the "first batch" (ELO, Billy Joel, Styx, Kansas, etc...) I stopped at the local discount department store, Korvettes (long gone) and bought "Who Are You".

In the Fall of 1978, there was constant airplay on the radio and juke boxes of "Who Are You" and "Had Enough", so I figured, why not?

I ended up playing the album pretty often - and it became my #1.

Everything has a beginning and this was it for me...

There are a whole bunch of variations in the different pressings of "Who Are You" - both in LP and CD. Some of these sound fantastic, some "don't. Some have bonus tracks, others don't, etc...

Before CDs were created, my favorite LP version was the Japan pressing. It seems that in Japan, The Who and Who solo LPs were divided between the Polydor label and the CBS/Sony label. For whatever reason, those which were on the CBS/Sony label were superior to all other
LP pressings and "Who Are You" was no exception. (What was CBS/Sony of Japan doing right vs. everyone else “doing wrong”?)

At the time when the album was initially released on CD in 1985 (MCA USA), most record companies were scrambling to get CDs "out the door" and didn't understand  (or perhaps care) that the mastering for an LP was different than a CD and many of the initially released CDs of that vintage were "pretty bad" - "Who Are You" is one of them. (Some of these issues were also the result of using “backup tapes” which they had lying around and didn’t translate well to the CD format).

Two years later, Polydor (Germany) released their version of the CD - it sounded perfect. This version was as good as the Japan LP. There was nothing not to like!

In 1988, MCA (USA) upgraded their tape (when they began producing their own CDs in the USA <which were previously “outsourced” to Japan>) and the new CD was an improvement
over the previous version - but still not as good as its Polydor counterpart.

In 1992
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) released their version of "Who Are You". I was always a fan of their vinyl products (which were amongst the best of all vinyl standards) - both in terms of sonics and the quality of their "virgin vinyl" pressings. However, when they began issuing CDs (at least in regards to The Who), I was very disappointed.

Fast forward to 1996, the new remixed/remastered version was being released. Unfortunately the MCA (USA) pressing of the CD didn't sound quite right. There was an overall frequency shift upward (not as bad as what happened to
Quadrophenia) and it didn't sound right. Fortunately, the Germany Polydor CD sounded *perfect* and if you had to own just one "Who Are You" - this CD is it.

Sonics and "The History of CDs Part 2" aside, what about the music?

This is another album with "mixed" Who fan reviews. There are those who love the album (i.e. me) and those who are just "warm" on it. I have discovered that if a fan's favorite Who album is
The Who By Numbers, they are much softer on this one: ("Too many synthesizers", "Keith Moon's drumming is weak...", etc.)

(But the same fans who are soft on this one for its synthesizers, love
Quadrophenia. - Go figure that one out!)

And... if it matters to anyone, I put this album very high on a pedestal. It's a great album.

Here's the original track lineup:

* New Song - "New lamps for old" - I always thought they should have performed this live. Great song.

* Had Enough - A John Entwistle masterpiece - "The world's gonna sink with the weight of the human race...". In some countries this was released as the A side of the single, with "Who Are You" as the B side. Apparently there was some discussion that this was going to be the A side of the single and then it got eventually marketed as a "Double A Side” single" in the UK... (Whatever that means).

* 905 - Supposedly John was working on a Sci-Fi story... I've always liked this song a lot. Great bass lines and interesting lyrics...

* Sister Disco - I probably prefer the demo of this song. The synthesizer parts are completely different and Pete sings it like he's Freddie Mercury. The Who version is pretty good too and the two versions complement each other nicely. (There’s also a nice live version of the song on the 1981
Concerts For The People Of Kampuchea LP.)

* Music Must Change - The remix version helps clean up the "overlap" of Roger singing "Change" (and whatever else is going on). It wasn't until I heard a live version of the song (pre remixed version) that I actually had a clue what Roger was singing there because the vocal got buried (in the original mix). You can hear Pete walking around the studio with his squeaky shoes throughout the song. The sound on this song is just fantastic.

* Trick Of The Light - Another great John Entwistle song. As a "young teen", I always thought about playing this after spending some "quality time" with a new girlfriend... I don't believe I ever did!

* Guitar And Pen - This is probably my least favorite song on the album - yet, I know fans who claim this to be their favorite! Go figure...

* Love Is Coming Down - I like this song a lot. It's lighter than the rest of the songs on the album - but that's OK.

* Who Are You - Is there anything I can say here? (I also like the alternate version that they perform in The Kids Are Alright – a very different vocal for Roger vs. the album version.)

Originally the bonus tracks for this album were going to be some live tracks from Keith's last concerts, including a "raw" live performance of "Who Are You" (before the album was released).

At the time, I was concerned that there were some great studio tracks "left on the table" which I was hoping would finally see the "light of day".

I had a copy of
The Pete Townshend Tapes (a 1980 promo only Empty Glass interview album) where Pete mentions that The Who recorded "Empty Glass" and "Keep On Working" for the "Who Are You" sessions, but were not included on the album. I also had read about a track called, "Choir Boy" that was recorded and unreleased. It seemed to me that it was important that these tracks needed to make the revised album.

After chatting with Producer, Jon Astley, Jon explained to me that "Choir Boy" and "Empty Glass" were one and the same (The nickname “Choir Boy” came from the high vocal that Pete sang the demo in). He also told me that "Keep On Working" did not exist as a Who song. (Of course in my mind, how could the latter be true - Pete "said so" in 1980!) Pete may have been mistaken as apparently "No Road Romance" was in the vaults as a work-in-process Who track, but not "Keep On Working".

So, for the 1996 reissue, Jon
added "No Road Romance" (Pete Townshend demo) and The Who work-in-process version of "Empty Glass" as bonus tracks.

(What ended up being somewhat ironic, is that years later, the work-in-process version of "No Road Romance" was discovered and then used on the 2011 Japan remastered CD in place of the demo version.)

I absolutely love this version of "Empty Glass". It's hard to believe that the song was never finished for this album. To me, this was the next "Naked Eye". Just add some Roger Daltrey vocals to half of the song, and with Pete and Roger dueling vocals - there's another real masterpiece here. I find it perfectly fine "as is", but as a "finished" song - I believe it would have been that much better... Oh well... (dream on)

The work-in-process version of "No Road Romance" isn't a big change over the demo version. Added is a light Keith Moon drum track and John Entwistle’s bass replacing Pete's. These overdubs make the song a bit "grittier" - but not much. Either way, it's a great song. It nicely captures Pete's feelings about "life on the road"...

I can live with (or without) the remaining bonus tracks:

Guitar And Pen, Love Is Coming Down, Who Are You (lost verse mix)

I like the album versions of "Guitar and Pen" and "Love Is Coming Down" better than these (although these are interesting) and the "Who Are You" (lost verse mix) is more of a novelty. When the latter was released, everyone was scrambling to make out Roger's lyrics (which were admittedly hard to decipher).

I would have liked for them to have included the USA single version (which uses the "Who the hell are you" lyrics) included as a bonus track, but that track ended up on CD elsewhere (i.e. the "CSI" Soundtrack CD!).

So... in summary…

1) Make sure you have the 1996 <Made in Germany> Polydor remixed/remaster CD
.

2) If you are a big fan of "No Road Romance" - make sure you buy the 2011 Japan CD *

* Note: This CD is based on the original 1978 mix of "Who Are You", plus the same bonus tracks as the 1996 remix versions, but with a <Who> work-in-process substitute of "No Road Romance" vs. the demo version. (Yes, it's all confusing.)

Lastly, over a period of time I was challenged by a bunch of “computer geeks” (picture a bunch of really pale young men living in their parent’s basement, un-showered and walking around in their dirty underwear) as to how I could possibly say “X” CD of the same material sounded better (or worse) than “Y” CD of the same material – because in their “minds” – these CDs (and their master tapes) were all “digital” and “identical”. (In other words, I must have had way too much time on my hands and just made all these reviews up for lack of anything better to do.)

What I discovered was that most of my “challengers” were using “swapped” files (most of them didn’t actually have possession of the CDs in question, but they “shared them” copies
with their friends and didn’t have “decent” <or any> stereo equipment to play the music on) – and it was “all about the 0’s and 1’s.

Personally, I never needed to “dig” into the “cause” of why 2 CDs of the same material (and sometimes from the same master tape) ended up sounding differently when one CD was pressed in the USA and the other CD was pressed in Germany (or Japan for that matter). The fact that they did sound different was good enough for me (I’m a collector and a <former> audiophile, not a scientist).

Like a hoard of mosquitoes buzzing around in an attempt to be one of the "10 plagues", the “geeks” continued the “challenge”. Since I knew that these CDs actually sounded different, I thought I would “beat them at their own game”. I downloaded a program called, “
Audacity” (which broke the content of the CDs down to their 0's & 1's) and did a comparison of the 0’s and 1’s between the CDs the “geeks” claimed were identical (in their “minds” these different CDs should sound “identical” - therefore I had to be "wrong" and never mind what I actually heard).

What I discovered, was the 0’s and 1’s were actually different (no surprise) and not “identical”. At that point, the “geeks” claimed, “Oh, but they are really close!”

Really???


(I'm sorry, but “close” is not the same as “identical”. And what may be "close" in terms of 0's & 1's - could be miles apart in terms of similarity in sound qualities).

There comes a point where you need to move on and stop discussing “nonsense” with really silly people. You can see the results of my “trials” for "Who Are You" on the next 2 pages.

Oh well…

Track Listing: Original Mix: New Song, Had Enough, 905, Sister Disco, Music Must Change, Trick Of The Light, Guitar And Pen, Love Is Coming Down, Who Are You

Remix: New Song, Had Enough, 905, Sister Disco, Music Must Change, Trick Of The Light, Guitar And Pen, Love Is Coming Down, Who Are You, No Road Romance (Pete Townshend Demo), Empty Glass, Guitar And Pen, Love Is Coming Down, Who Are You (lost verse mix)

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