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The Who - Who's Next:

Album: Who's Next  

LPs (vinyl) Sampled: Polydor (UK), Decca (USA), MCA-reissue (USA), MCA Masterphile Series-1/2 speed master (Canada), MCA (Canada), Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Greece), Polydor (Japan), First (Taiwan)

CDs (original mix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), MCA-1st pressing (USA), MCA-2nd pressing (USA), MCA-3rd pressing (USA), MCA (Canada), MCA-Gold Disc (USA), Polydor (Japan)

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

CDs (Deluxe Edition) Sampled: Polydor (UK) Promo, MCA (USA)

LP Comments: Sonically, I'd give the edge to the Decca (USA) version. However, the vinyl is overall better quality on the Polydor (UK) & (Germany) versions. The Polydor (Japan) version is a bit duller. The MCA-Masterphile Series (Canada) is hard to track down, and there's really nothing special about it other than the sticker on the front cover. In 1995 MCA issued a "virgin vinyl" on "heavy vinyl" and it has been reported that there are defects on some of the copies (i.e. one channel is dead on certain song(s).) My copy is still sealed and not available for comparison at this time.

CD (original mix) comments: The 3rd pressing by MCA sounds real good. However, the Canadian version sounds even better! If you like the original mix of this album, this is the one to get. The Polydor (Germany) copy was never upgraded from its original issue. Too much unnecessary hiss—obviously made from tapes too far removed from the masters. I find the MCA-Gold disc a bit too bright.

CD (remix) comments: Both Polydor (Germany) and MCA (USA) copies sound identical. The Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MFSL) sounds slightly duller than the Polydor (German) or MCA (USA). Whereas the former sounds "crisp" in certain areas, the MFSL version sounds slightly dull -  enough to be a bit annoying. The Polydor (Japan) copy has too much extra bass in the mastering that detracts from the sound quality, but ... may sound fine on certain stereo systems.

CD (Deluxe Edition) comments: The first disc (original album & the NY Sessions) is outstanding. Excellent sound quality - nice, smooth mastering. The remix of "Getting In Tune" from the NY Sessions is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, the studio versions "Too Much Of Anything" and "I Don't Even Know Myself" which were previously included on the remixed CD were dropped. However, the versions of the NY Sessions that were previously edited on the remixed CD have been restored in length. Disc 2, is an edited performance of the 1971 Young Vic concert. Some of these performances were included on the previously issued remixed CD, but they have been remixed again (similar to "Live At Leeds -see track listing below) are incredible. Unfortunately, the mastering utilizes excessive noise reduction and compression - this causes the sound and feel to be somewhat sterile.

Disc 1 of The Polydor (UK) promo has a bit more ambience and sounds more "musical" than Disc 1 of the MCA (USA). Disc 2 of the MCA (USA) sounds a little better than Polydor (UK) promo. There seems to be a little extra bass on the MCA, which improves the overall feel.

Summary: Until the release of "Who's Next Deluxe", the excellent sound of the original mix of the Canadian CD pressing seems to be the "fans choice". The sound of Disc 1 on "Who's Next Deluxe" (UK promo) supercedes that. Unfortunately, the "Deluxe Edition" is one disc short - you still need to have the remix version in order to have all of the related bonus tracks.

Note: At this time I have not reviewed the UK/German stock copy of "Who's Next Deluxe" and therefore don't know if it will have the same characteristics as the UK promo.

Other Comments: According to Producer, Jon Astley, it was a tough judgment call not to stray too far from the original mix of this album in reissuing it (i.e. leaving off master tape goodies like the extra lead guitar track in "Going Mobile" or the repeated lyrics in "My Wife", etc.) as this album seems to be somewhat of a "sacred cow" amongst fans. While some (like myself) would consider these changes improvements, others might decry, "sacrilege!" Some of the master tapes were lost and not able to be remixed. On the remix version, "Too Much Of Anything" is not the version from "Odds & Sods" as the liner notes indicate, but rather an outtake, previously unreleased.

About: Who's Next

Ever go into a restaurant and look at the menu only to find way too many choices?

When that happens, you end up staring at the menu too long because you can't decide which item you are going to order...

That's sort of how I felt about "Who's Next"...

Which version should I play?

* Original mix USA CD - Steve Hoffman mastering?
* Original mix Canada CD - Steve Hoffman mastering?
* Remixed <1995> CD - Tim Young/Metropolis remastering?
* Deluxe Edition <2003> (original mix) - Jon Astley remastering?

(And these were just the ones I was deciding over - there's a whole shelf of more choices and variations of the above...

So...

I "started out" with the remixed CD (USA - MCA 1995 version to be exact) and I'm thinking to myself, something is missing...

I stop listening, go downstairs and grab the original mix MCA 1984 USA CD (Steve Hoffman mastering), and swap discs around "Going Mobile"...

I then say to myself, something is still missing, go downstairs (again) and grab the Polydor 2003 UK Deluxe Edition...

So, while I'm running back and forth with all these silly CDs, I'm thinking to myself - Who really cares about any of this?

If I had to put some #s and %'s associated with people's ability to discern these sonic differences, it would probably go something like this:

75% - Don't know, don't care about "sound quality differences" - at least not consciously *

20% - Don't necessarily understand sound quality differences, but when you personally A/B them two versions of the same album with different sonics, they immediately "get it" and become more aware that these differences exist and some of this 20%, will now be more aware and less satisfied with "status quo".

5% - These folks "get it" immediately. They are "in tune" with sonic differences and how things should and shouldn't sound.

* While record companies and producers typically rely on the 95% "don't ask, don't tell" factor, what they aren't always aware of (and should be) is that if something doesn't sound right, the 75% and the 20%, may not even perceive (or understand technically) what the issue is, they will simply say "I don't like the music" and not listen to it. This happened to me when I first became a Who fan - the MCA double/back LPs of "My Generation" (backed with "Magic Bus"), etc. - sounded terrible. I just thought the "old 60's Who music was crap" - How would I know then that the "reissue LPs" had "bad sonics"? Had someone not played for me an import LP of the same, I never would have listened to those albums again - hence I moved from the "75%" to the "20%" (and eventually to the 5%)...

Not to get too technical here, but this helps explain what I was listening to (and experiencing) as I was running up and down the stairs swapping CDs...

So... here's what I found...

All of these CDs sound good (the good news)

But...

Each of these CDs seems to be "lacking" something (the bad news)

The Remix CD - great remixes, great overall sound. However, the bass isn't quite as "bassy" as it should be. "Who's Next" doesn't have the signature JAE "twangy" bass sound, but rather more of a Paul McCartney "fuzzy" bass sound. Listening to this CD (whereas everything else about it is pretty perfect), it doesn't seem to want to "rattle the room" with the bass (like other versions of "Who's Next" do)...

So, to be fair - each stereo and room ambiance is different from one another, I figured let me test my "memory banks" and grab another CD - so, I grabbed the best of the Hoffman mastered CDs (USA pressing, <but actually made in Japan> - yes, it's all confusing).

Pop it in...

The BASS IS BACK! :)

OK, so I have the bass back... How's the rest of it?

Pretty damn good, but what I liked about the remix was the ambiance and the spatial qualities.

While this version sounded really really good - I found it was missing something that I just heard in the previous CD. Had I never heard the remix, I probably would have thought it was "just fine" - but...

So... another dash to the CD cabinet...

Deluxe Edition...

Sounds good, but...

There's that damn compression again. Not a ton, but enough for me to pay attention to it (vs. the music). The sonics are pretty good on this, except, where the drums should be "crisp", they sound a little "dull". This might be due to the added compression (or not).

(Geez, I'm hard to please...)

If the remix's mastering had the bass turned up just a snad it would be perfect.

(Of course you can then take this whole discussion and "twist" it around based on taste...)

My taste is for X, your taste is for Y - is X better than Y or just different?

Aside from the meaning of life and sound quality discussion above (if I haven't lost you yet)...

The music!

"Who's Next" to me is... like The Beatles.

In the 60's, I heard so much Beatles music on people's "transistor radios" on the beach, car radios (pre stereo) and just about everywhere that the simple songs became so familiar and overplayed - that today, instead of saying "Wow - the Beatles!" I say - yeah, "Too much of anything is too much for me..."

I sort of feel this way about "Who's Next".

I love the music, but the versions of the songs on the album are way too familiar and overplayed - so I look for "substitutes" (different versions) of the same songs to play instead (i.e. the killer "Baba O'Riley" from "The Kids Are Alright" or the live "Bargain" from SF '71). That's just me...

For all the years I've had "Who's Next", "Bargain" was one of my favorite Who songs - the best "love song" ever written... :)

When I used to play the album, I skipped right past "The Song Is Over" and "Getting In Tune". (I prefer the Pete demo of "The Song Is Over" and the NY Sessions version of "Getting In Tune").

Great music - what else is there to say?

After writing the above - I walked away and felt I left a lot "unsaid"...
 
Why?
 
I was too focused on just the original tracks and not the plethora of tracks that were added in 1995 and thereafter...
 
For those of you who collect bootlegs, you might be familiar with the 1990 From Lifehouse To Leeds story...
 
One day, this fabulous sounding bootleg is released with <what seemed like> "outtakes" from "Who's Next".
 
They weren't actually outtakes - but rather a previous attempt to record the album in NY by Kit Lambert - with some guest guitar work by Leslie West (never quite understood that one).
 
Some of these tracks were previously circulated, i.e. "Behind Blue Eyes" with the banter before the song where Keith Moon says, "Roger is admiring his arse in the mirror" and starts laughing, was intended to be used on the
1988 Box Set:
 
http://www.thewho.info/Other1.htm
 
(Oops - they edited that out in the official version!)
 
But for the most part, these tracks were new, fresh and somewhat of an oddity. Raw Who in the studio, with a mostly "live" sound quality to the music. These versions of the songs <for the most part> were very different than what was ultimately released on the original "Who's Next".
 
Apparently, someone found these multi-track tapes in a garbage dumpster! They were simply "tossed out"!
 
I recall at the time, folks saying, "How could the band be this careless!" (and on and on and on)...
 
It wasn't about that in 1971 - Does anyone think that way back then, the band was saying to themselves, "Gee, we better save this stuff because in 1995 we are going to put a CD together and reissue this as bonus material!" (No, they weren't.)
 
So... the stuff was found, the bootleggers got their hands on it, released a surprisingly marvelous CD (with some poor sounding "Live At Leeds" unreleased tracks - hence the title) and everyone scratched their heads...
 
Fast forward to The Who reissue program beginning with the "Maximum R&B" Box Set in 1994... Producer Chris Charlesworth put out an all points bulletin to the "Who world" - that they were interested in retrieving lost Who tapes - no questions asked...
 
Apparently these tapes <mysteriously> showed up!
 
So what do we have here?
 
* Pure And Easy - Raw and powerful - I like the "Odds & Sods" version better - but this is a nice alternative.
 
* Won't Get Fooled Again - This is sort of experimental. The Pete demo is more representative of the "Who's Next" version, this one is "different". I like different, but they were still sorting the song out at this point...
 
* Love Ain't For Keeping - Pete on lead vocal - has a more "live" sound to it. I like this a lot.
 
* Behind Blue Eyes - A nice variation. I like this better than the "Who's Next"
version.
 
* Baby Don't Do It - Edited on the 1995 "Who's Next" and subsequent official releases. I really like this a lot! A shame it's edited.
 
* Getting In Tune - I like this much better than the "original" version - much more interesting...
 
OK... so this stuff is cool enough... Let's fast forward to the "Deluxe Edition" version with the
Young Vic show...
 
This is a great Who performance. It's mixed just like "Live At Leeds" and the band sounds just great. Included here are some great period "Who's Next" songs, perhaps performed for the first time or close to...
 
The Young Vic tracks:
 
Love Ain't For Keeping, Pure And Easy, Young Man Blues, Time Is Passing, Behind Blue Eyes, I Don't Even Know Myself, Too Much Of Anything, Getting In Tune, Bargain, Water, My Generation, Road Runner, Naked Eye, Won't Get Fooled Again
 
My favorite track here clearly is, "Time Is Passing" - WOW! How did this song fall through the cracks???
 
"Bargain" is a bit too under-rehearsed. If you compare this "raw" version vs. the well-rehearsed, SF '71 - the latter completely blows it away. However, it's still a GREAT live track (what's wrong with having both?)
 
What's missing here is the fantastic performance of "Baby Don't You Do It" (which is more like the studio version and to me - it completely blows away the SF '71 version)
 
What I think has happened here was an attempt to "cram" too much great stuff on one CD (Deluxe Edition) and as a result too many compromises were made (i.e. having to make tough decisions as to what stays and what gets cut)...
 
What I'd suggest is the following...
 
A "new" "Who's Next" Deluxe...
 
All Studio tracks (unedited) as well as out-takes (i.e. the "Going Mobile" with the left channel lead guitar) - let it all out...
 
A new, "Who's Next - Live At The Young Vic" -  unedited, remastered - a 2 CD full version of the concert.
 
There are 3 albums in the Who catalogue which sell very well when "stamped" with the following names:
 
Tommy
Who's Next
Quadrophenia
 
So... why not???

Track Listing:

Original: Baba O'Riley, Bargain, Love Ain't For Keeping, My Wife, Song Is Over, Getting In Tune, Going Mobile, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again

Remix: Baba O'Riley, Bargain, Love Ain't For Keeping, My Wife, Song Is Over, Getting In Tune, Going Mobile, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again, Pure And Easy - (previously unreleased), Baby Don't You Do It - (previously unreleased), Naked Eye - (live), Water - (live), Too Much Of Anything (previously unreleased version), I Don't Even Know Myself, Behind Blue Eyes - (previously unreleased)

Deluxe Edition: Disc 1: Baba O'Riley, Bargain, Love Ain't For Keeping, My Wife, Song Is Over, Getting In Tune, Going Mobile, Behind Blue Eyes, Won't Get Fooled Again, Baby Don't You Do It (NY Sessions), Getting In Tune (NY Sessions), Pure And Easy (NY Sessions), Love Ain't For Keeping (NY Sessions), Behind Blue Eyes (NY Sessions), Won't Get Fooled Again (NY Sessions)
Disc 2 (Live At The Young Vic, 1971): Love Ain't For Keeping, Pure And Easy, Young Man Blues, Time Is Passing, Behind Blue Eyes, I Don't Even Know Myself, Too Much Of Anything, Getting In Tune, Bargain, Water, My Generation, Road Runner, Naked Eye, Won't Get Fooled Again

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