The Who – Who By Numbers on Classic Records Heavy Vinyl

More The Who

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Sonic Grade: C

Another Classic Records LP debunked.

It’s not just bass that separates the Real Thing from the Classic Reissue. It’s WEIGHT, fullness, the part of the frequency range from the lower midrange to the upper bass, that area that spans roughly 150 to 600 cycles. It’s what makes Daltry’s voice sound full and rich, not thin and modern. It’s what makes the drums solid and fat the way Johns intended. The good copies of Who’s Next and Quadrophenia have plenty of muscle in this area, and so do the imports we played.

But not the Classic. Oh no, so much of what gives Who By Numbers its Classic Rock sound has been equalized right out of the Heavy Vinyl reissue by Chris Bellman at BG’s mastering house. Some have said the originals are warmer but not as detailed. I would have to agree, but that misses the point entirely: take out the warmth — the fullness that makes the original pressings sound so right — and you of course hear more detail, as the detail region is no longer masked by all the stuff going on below it. Want to hear detail? Disconnect your woofers — you’ll hear plenty of detail all right!

Keep that in mind when they tell you at the store that the record you brought in is at fault, not their expensive and therefore “correct” equipment. I’ve been in enough of these places to know better. To mangle another old saying, if you know your records, their excuses should fall on deaf ears. 

More on the Classic

The Classic is not a bad record. It has very good extension up top, and mostly sounds correct, albeit in a modern way. If you’re not too particular and are looking for a copy for around thirty bucks, it’s hard to fault. If you have a modest stereo system by all means buy the Classic; what the originals do better is not going to be easy for a modest system to reproduce. It takes piston power and a seriously treated room, both of which are expensive and hard to achieve.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Slip Kid
However Much I Booze
Squeeze Box
Dreaming From the Waist
Imagine a Man

Side Two

Success Story
They Are All in Love
Blue Red and Grey
How Many Friends
In a Hand or a Face

Rolling Stone Review

Excerpts

BY Dave Marsh | November 20, 1975

By now, a nonopera by the Who is its own kind of concept album. While The Who by Numbers pretends to be a series of ten unconnected songs, it’s really only a pose; there’s not a story line here, but there are more important unities — lyrical themes, musical and production style, a sense of time and place…

The rock operas were Townshend’s ultimate means of expressing his idea of rock and its place in the world, but the very notion was anathema to fans of “Substitute” and “My Generation.” Even if those works garnered the Who a legion of new fans (many of whom, Townshend once wrote me, “think the name of the group’s Tommy and that the opera’s the Who”), the hardcore of old admirers fired so many charges of pretension and evisceration at Tommy that Townshend felt the need to retrench. The result was Who’s Next, a blistering anticoncept work and a masterpiece. After Quadrophenia, a much more flawed work than Tommy, though in many ways a braver one, he has felt the need again.

But The Who by Numbers isn’t what it seems. Without broadcasting it, in fact while denying it, Townshend has written a series of songs which hang together as well as separately. The time is somewhere in the middle of the night, the setting a disheveled room with a TV set that seems to show only rock programs. The protagonist is an aging, still successful rock star, staring drunkenly at the tube with a bottle of gin perched on his head, contemplating his career, his love for the music and his fear that it’s all slipping away. Every song here, even the one non-Townshend composition, John Entwistle’s “Success Story,” fits in. Always a sort of musical practical joker, Townshend has now pulled the fastest one of all, disguising his best concept album as a mere ten-track throwaway…

From “My Generation” to The Who by Numbers, time and aging have been Townshend’s obsession, as if he were trying to live down the statement that made him famous: “Hope I die before I get old.” If this is his most mature work, that’s because he has finally admitted that there is no way out, which is a darker and deeper part of the same thing. Typically, the Who face the fact without flinching. Indeed, they may have made their greatest album in the face of it. But only time will tell.