More of The Who
Reviews and Commentaries for Who’s Next
- This British Track pressing is guaranteed to blow your mind with its phenomenal sound — check out the BIG, BOLD, Rock ’em, Sock ’em bottom end energy
- Compare this to any Heavy Vinyl (or other) pressing and you will hear in a heartbeat why we think The Real Thing just cannot be beat
- 5 stars: “This is invigorating because it has. . . Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse. Those were art — this, even with its pretensions, is rock & roll.”
- If you’re a fan of the band, this title from 1971 is a Masterpiece that belongs in every right thinking audiophile’s collection
- The complete list of titles from 1971 that we’ve reviewed to date can be found here.
This week we sat down for an all day MASSIVE shootout for Who’s Next, a true Glyn Johns Classic and undeniably one of the greatest rock albums of all time.
The sound of this British Polydor Track Record Original pressing is WONDERFUL from start to finish. There’s no grain to speak of and dramatically less smearing and veiling than most of the copies we played it against. The presence is startling — turn it up good and loud and The Who will be right there thrashing around in your listening room! The bottom end, on both sides, has the kind of weight that’s absolutely essential to this music.
We’re talking BIG ROCK SOUND and quiet vinyl, a rare combination in our experience, our experience of course coming from dozens and dozens of British Tracks and Polydors, German Polydors, Decca originals, MCA reissues, a few imports from other countries (Japan, thin and bright), and last but far from least, The Classic 200 gram pressing. (More about that later.)
What the Best Sides of Who’s Next Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1971
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Finding The Best Sound
The best copies had clarity and transparency that was impossible to beat. It’s a common trade-off with Who’s Next — the copies with the most going on down low often get a little murky in the midrange.
But who are we kidding? Most copies of the album are murky in the midrange, whether they have any low end or not. It’s a murky-sounding recording. Some copies clean up the murk — the Japanese pressings we’ve played come to mind — and that just ruins everything. What you want is the most transparency and clarity in the midrange coupled with the most low-end weight and energy; it’s a simple as that.
The best sides give you exactly that, the best of both worlds — all the whomp, all the clarity, and all the ENERGY. Wait until you hear this pressing. When we say it rocks we ain’t kidding. The louder you play it the better it sounds.
Focusing on the chorus on Behind Blue Eyes really helped us separate the best copies from the near-best. When all the voices are clear and full-bodied, as they are on only the best of the best, it’s amazing how good they sound.
What We’re Listening For on Who’s Next
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
The Classic Almost Rocks
It’s actually shockingly good, better than it has any right to be coming from the generally awful Classic Records. The bass is PHENOMENAL; no British Track pressing had the bass punch and note-like clarity of the Classic. It shows you the kind of bass you would never suspect is on the tape. It reminds me a bit of the Classic pressing of the first Zep album: in the case of the Zep, the Classic has dynamics that simply are not to be found elsewhere. The Classic Who LP has that kind of bass — it can’t be found elsewhere so don’t bother looking. (Don’t get me wrong; we’ll keep looking, but after thirty plus years of Track Who LPs, we pretty much know when we’re beaten.)
The Who Sound
But what the Classic is missing is what the best Tracks and Deccas have in spades: weight and whomp. There’s a POWER to the sound that the Classic can only hint at. The crashing guitar chords that are the hallmark of The Who Sound in general and Who’s Next in particular lack the weight of the real thing; they don’t punch you in the gut the way Townsend no doubt wanted them to. (And Glyn Johns too, one of our favorite engineers of all time). Moons drums don’t blast away like cannons on the Classic. This is The Who’s sound. Everybody who’s ever seen them live knows it. (I saw them back in the day when Moon was still behind his kit and I’ll never forget it.)
Classic did the best they could, but when you hear a copy like this, one that can REALLY ROCK, there’s no going back. Playing the Classic you would never suspect that you’re missing any of the Who Sound, but of course, in the world of records, everything is relative. You’re missing what you don’t know you’re missing.
I’m A Reissue
The other problem with the Classic is that, as good as it is, it has that “I’m A Reissue” sound all through the mids and highs. It can’t hold a candle to the good copies in terms of sweetness, smoothness, spaciousness, richness, presence, life, texture and all the other things we talk about endlessly on our site.
Tubey Magical Acoustic Guitars? Not gonna happen on the Classic. Originals only. Multiply that by every instrument on the album and you have a list of what’s better about the best early pressings.
You Want to Turn The Volume DOWN?
Are You Out of Your Mind?
Now if you want to play this record at 70 db, little of this discussion will make sense. There are some dumb ideas floating out there in Audiophile land, but this has to be one of the dumbest. Anybody who plays a record like Who’s Next at moderate levels should be taken out and hosed down. How do you think Townsend went deaf, by playing his music too softly? He played his music LOUD because that’s the way he wanted you to hear it. Moon beats the hell out of his drums because he likes the sound of drums beaten HARD. If you don’t have the stereo to play this record right, don’t make excuses and DON’T make up bizarre theories about volume levels in the home. You’re not fooling anybody with those kinds of rationalizations. If your speaker distorts, that’s your problem, pal. Don’t lay that trip on me.
Some of us have done our homework and take pride in what we’ve managed to accomplish. We’ve been challenging ourselves and our systems with records like Who’s Next and Aqualung for thirty years. We know how good these records can sound on systems that have what it takes to play them. If you’re not going to turn up the volume, don’t waste your money on a good Hot Stamper pressing. Buy the Classic; at 70 db it will probably sound good enough for you. Spend the money you save on wine and cigars.
A Must Own Rock Record
This Demo Disc Quality recording should be part of any serious Rock Collection. Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Love Ain’t For Keeping
The Song Is Over
Getting In Tune
Behind Blue Eyes
Won’t Get Fooled Again
AMG 5 STAR RAVE REVIEW
Much of Who’s Next derives from Lifehouse, an ambitious sci-fi rock opera Pete Townshend abandoned after suffering a nervous breakdown, caused in part from working on the sequel to Tommy. There’s no discernable theme behind these songs, yet this album is stronger than Tommy, falling just behind Who Sell Out as the finest record the Who ever cut.
Townshend developed an infatuation with synthesizers during the recording of the album, and they’re all over this album, adding texture where needed and amplifying the force, which is already at a fever pitch. Apart from Live at Leeds, the Who have never sounded as LOUD and unhinged as they do here, yet that’s balanced by ballads, both lovely (“The Song Is Over”) and scathing (“Behind Blue Eyes”). That’s the key to Who’s Next — there’s anger and sorrow, humor and regret, passion and tumult, all wrapped up in a blistering package where the rage is as affecting as the heartbreak.
This is a retreat from the ’60s, as Townshend declares the “Song Is Over,” scorns the teenage wasteland, and bitterly declares that we “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” For all the sorrow and heartbreak that runs beneath the surface, this is an invigorating record, not just because Keith Moon runs rampant or because Roger Daltrey has never sung better or because John Entwistle spins out manic basslines that are as captivating as his “My Wife” is funny. This is invigorating because it has all of that, plus Townshend laying his soul bare in ways that are funny, painful, and utterly life-affirming. That is what the Who was about, not the rock operas, and that’s why Who’s Next is truer than Tommy or the abandoned Lifehouse. Those were art — this, even with its pretensions, is rock & roll.