Who's Next [Deluxe Edition]

by: The Who

The Who's catalog was revamped in the mid-'90s, with every title (except My Generation, due to legal entanglements with producer Shel Talmy) receiving new remastering and bonus tracks. Nearly eight years later, Who's Next, one of the group's most beloved albums, was given another remastered/expanded treatment as part of Universal Chronicles' Deluxe Edition series. Now it spans two discs, including a full disc devoted to their legendary show at the Young Vic on April 26, 1971. Reportedly, this is also the first time the original master tapes were used for a CD master as well, and while the difference isn't as dramatically different as it was from the 1984 CD to the 1995 CD, this is a richer, resonant mix, which may be reason enough for some fans to acquire it. Most collectors will focus on the bonus material, all of which ranges from very good to great, yet the set on the whole gets a qualified recommendation for one very simple reason: The greatest of the material here was already featured as bonus material on the 1995 reissue. True, some of the versions were present as single edits, but the greatest songs -- "Pure and Easy," a rollicking cover of "Baby Don't You Do It," the live set pieces "Naked Eye" and "Water," "Too Much of Anything," "I Don't Even Know Myself," the original take of "Behind Blue Eyes" -- were all bonus tracks on the previous edition (this is not counting the fact that the electric version of "Love Ain't for Keepin'," which is really good, is also on Odds & Sods). That said, there is some unreleased music here that is either fascinating (the first take of "Won't Get Fooled Again," which sounds as if it's on the verge of collapse) or excellent (the whole of the Young Vic show, where you can hear the band get its strength back; it's a truly fine concert). But no matter how good, or even revelatory, some of this is, the end result feels underwhelming because any Who fan has heard the most crucial music here before (and those who enjoy nitpicking will surely wonder why there wasn't more of an effort to present Lifehouse rejects and outtakes here instead of a full concert). If you're a fan, Who's Next: The Deluxe Edition is like paying a bill -- buying it is something that needs to be done, you're glad once it's done, but it's not something you're necessarily eager to do. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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