The Who: Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy

who_meatybeatybigandbouncyThe Who’s first stateside Greatest Hits album

In the wake of The Who’s triumphant showcase at Woodstock and the releases of Tommy and Who’s Next, Decca released the group’s first U.S. hits collection in time for Christmas of 1971. The fourteen sides stretch from the group’s first single under the Who banner, 1965’s “I Can’t Explain,” to their last studio A-side before Who’s Next, 1970’s “The Seeker.” In between are landmarks such as “My Generation,” “I Can See for Miles,” “The Magic Bus,” and “Pinball Wizard,” that cover everything from the group’s early pill-fueled mod-rock to the visionary work that had run through The Who Sell Out and Tommy, and would fuel Who’s Next and Quadrophenia. Two John Entwistle tunes (“A Legal Matter” and “Boris the Spider”) complement a dozen from Pete Townshend, and the inclusion of several non-LP singles (“I Can’t Explain,” “Pictures of Lily,” “The Seeker,” “Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,” “Substitute,” and “I’m a Boy,”) and the use of original mono mixes give this collection a terrific AM radio punch. Everything here is mono except for tracks 4, 7, 9, 11, 12 and 14. Unfortunately this CD edition doesn’t fully replicate the experience of the original vinyl: the LP’s mono “Boris the Spider” is replaced here with stereo, and the 4-1/2 minute stereo version of “The Magic Bus” is replaced here with a shorter edit. Assumedly the master reels for the album had to be reassembled, and a lack of original masters forced the substitutions. A dozen Who anthologies have been issued since this album’s 1971 release, and while they have the advantage of post-Tommy material, they lose this set’s crisp focus on the Who as a mid-60s rock ‘n’ roll singles band. This collection is no substitute for the group’s albums, but as an artifact of the Who’s first six years, it provides a rock solid essay on the talents of Daltrey, Entwistle, Moon and Townshend. [©2009 hyperbolium dot com]

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