The Who: The Who By Numbers (Half-Speed Remastered) (Polydor) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Wednesday, April 24th, 2024  

The Who

The Who By Numbers (Half-Speed Remastered)

Polydor

Feb 20, 2024 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


By 1975, The Who had reached its peak. Beginning with the maximum R&B of the early classic, My Generation, through 1967’s more experimental, The Who Sell Out, the band transitioned seamlessly into grander territory, with its two big rock operas, Tommy and Quadrophenia, sandwiched between which was perhaps the best rock and roll album ever recorded, 1971’s Who’s Next.

It was into this context that the band released 1975’s The Who By Numbers. And the album did little to remind of the bombastic Who of old, instead betraying a torn and frayed version of the band and finding its leader, Pete Townshend, who had just turned 30, facing somewhat of an existential crisis. As such, The Who By Numbers may very well be the band’s best album.

The two singles from the record, the innuendo-filled “Squeeze Box” and the less commercially successful “Slip Kid” were more reminiscent of The Who of past albums, but those songs on By Numbers are outliers. Overall, the album is one of the most personal ones the band would ever release. Townshend’s “However Much I Booze” finds the songwriter, in one of the two songs on which he sings lead, laying himself bare, all the questions, frustrations of an aging rock star summed into one razor sharp line at a time and finally breaking the fourth wall, singing, “You at home can easily decide what’s right, by glancing very briefly at the songs I write / But it don’t help me that you know / There ain’t no way out.”

Roger Daltrey’s vocals, for the most part, are some of the most understated of his work with band up to this point, especially in the subtle delivery of “Imagine a Man” and the depressing life’s-passed-me-by tale “They Are All in Love,” the latter which features Nicky Hopkins’ gentle piano accompaniment. Adding to the mix Townshend’s vulnerable, contented ukulele-led “Blue Red and Grey” and the story of the pitfalls of fame and omnipresent recognition, “How Many Friends,” The Who By Numbers is clearly the sound of The Who in transition. John Entwistle even gets into the act with “Success Story,” the bassist’s own send up of the rock and roll life.

Cut at Abby Road Studios using a half-speed mastering process that purports to generate the best high frequency and stereo sound, this vinyl reissue truly does live up to the boast. The sound jumps through the speakers throughout and the clarity and separation among the instruments will have you hearing things you missed from your old tattered original. In places, Daltrey’s vocals seem less overwhelming in the mix, which accents the rest of the songs’ details. Entwistle’s bass is strikingly present, and Keith Moon’s drum sound anchors even the more tender songs with rhythmic perfection. It suits the subtlety that the band brought to The Who By Numbers, and it’s the perfect way to revisit the band’s masterpiece. (www.thewho.com)

Author rating: 9/10

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