Here are The Who’s albums reviewed in chronological order (by release date).
THE WHO SINGS MY GENERATION (1965)
A solid debut from a band that hadn’t yet found its sound. Townshend’s songwriting isn’t quite in full form but there’s more than hints of his genius. The playing shows signs of flash but nothing can really prepare the listener for the live explosive act the Who were to become. This album is certainly listenable and worth a few spins on the turntable or drive. “The Ox” is a good workout and “The Kids are Allright” a nice piece of Beatlemania. “My Generation” is of course the centerpiece and rightfully so. Had the Who stopped here they would always be remembered for the title track.
BEST- My Generation 2ND BEST- A Legal Matter WORST- La La Lies STARS- 4
The Who Sing My Generation track listing
A QUICK ONE (1966)
A bit more evolved music than the raw stuff on their first album. But this is not necessarily good. This music is not yet Tommy and sometimes directionless sounding especially compared to the first album. If the Who had stopped here they would have been a footnote and would have had the same historic stature as Gerry and The Pacemakers or Herman’s Hermits or at best the Kinks.
An interesting offering from the Who. They seem to have found a new sound, one which led them to Tommy. Indeed there are snippets of the Tommy album on certain of these tracks. The Radio station idea, while a good one, falls flat. Just program out the radio bits and a really good album lies in between. “I Can See For Mile”s is the best mid 60’s Who piece. There’s some enjoyable fluff (“Silas Stingy”, “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand“), psychedelica (“Armenia City in the Sky“) and some strong material (“Rael“, “Sunrise”)
Hard to review this one as it has, like “Stairway to Heaven”, become a caricature of itself. Even more amazing since it’s not just a song but an entire double album. There’s a lot here and it’s certainly an improvement over their prior album but the real power of this album was not captured until the Who took it to the stage live.
The original six song album with the crackling noises was a great official bootleg with a nice collection of memorabilia (like the Who’s 1969 Woodstock contract) but in retrospect it does not stack up to today’s mega release. The album only offered insight into what the Who was capable live. The 14 minute version of My Generation is some of the best live Who. The expanded near complete version of Live At Leeds is a treat.
BEST- My Generation 2ND BEST- Young Man Blues WORST- STARS- 4 first release, 5 second
LIVE AT THE ISLE OF WIGHT (from the 1970 concert, first released 1996)
My favorite live Who because you get the whole concert including the Townshend asides. The video of this concert is worth viewing as all the aggression you picture is there to see on screen as Townshend windmill furiously, Moon mugs and tosses his sticks in the air as Daltrey belts out the lyrics.
The quality continues on Quadrophenia. Forget the story and concentrate on the pure rock madness-“The Real Me”, “Dr. Jimmy”, “The Punk meets the Godfather”, the powerful ballad, “Love Reign O’er Me” and the acoustic/power chord drenched “I’m One”. The Who on a roll but the wheels start to fall off in the studio after this one but live they remain rock’s greatest band.
The expanded version has the makings of a solid single album. The original album was worthwhile only for “Pure and Easy”, “Long Live Rock” and “the Naked Eye”. The rest is truly B side material. But add the material from the rereleased edition studio version of “Young Man Blues”, “Water”, “Baby Don’t Do it”, “Love Ain’t for Keeping” and a few others and the album becomes a great collection.
BEST- Pure and Easy 2ND BEST- Naked Eye WORST- Now I’m a Farmer STARS- 2 for original; 4 for rereleased edition.
Odds and Sods track listing
THE WHO BY NUMBERS (1975)
Pete’s interesting mid life crisis at just age 29 album. (“too old to give it but too young to rest” Pete sings in “Dreaming from the Waist“) Certainly uneven, but released at a time when their sound and playing was so very tight. It would have been hard for the Who to have sounded bad at this stage of their career. The songs are a little too introspective and personal at times making it seem like a solo Townshend effort rather than a Who album but the sound is unmistakably Who like with Who crashing the drums and the bass and guitar on target.
The last real who album, partially because the Who’s brand of music is very physically demanding and these geezers were getting old at this point-so old, that one of them, Keith Moon, died before he got old. “Who are You” is a top ten Who song. The album disappoints because it seems as if you can almost feel the magic slipping away.
Did you know?: The Who are You album cover features a photo of the band members and a seated Keith Moon. On his chair is inscribed “Not to be Taken Away”. Keith Moon died of a drug overdose less than a month after the release of Who Are You.
Who are You track listing
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT (1979)
A great album compliation ruined by CD release. Apparently they just wanted to make it a single disk CD for the bargain hunters instead of making it a classy two disk set. The “Won’t Get Fooled Again” version from 1978 is one of the best Who live recordings ever.
BEST- Won’t Get Fooled Again 2ND BEST- Young Man Blues WORST- STARS-4 for the Cd. 5 for the original double album
FACE DANCES (1981)
This is the Who’s In Through the Out Door. Not bad for any one else but not representative of what the Who is capable of. Apparently, critics like this one somewhat. Most of it sounds like outtakes from Odds and Sods. “You Better You Bet” is an amusing cut nothing more. The Entwistle songs are the strongest (“The Quiet One”, “You”) and only “Trick Day” has any classic Who like qualities to it.
Best- Another Tricky Day Worst- Don’t Let Go the Coat 2ND Worst- Cache Cache STARS- 2
Face Dances track listing
IT’S HARD (1982) Power chords for power chords’ sake. I’d rather listen to this one any day than Face Dances. This sounds like a Who album and there is some fine stuff on it- “Eminence Front”, “Cry if You Want”, “Dangerous” and “It’s Hard”. I liked it then and now. Again Entwistle’s Songs are solid.