A Guide to The Who's Best Albums of All Time
Sorting out the Who's best efforts is a heady task given their vast repertoire, but we thought that since they're kicking off their upcoming Quadrophenia tour right here, we'd take it on.
Narrowing down their musical arsenal into the five most essential albums was no easy endeavor... and given that their 1973 rock opera is getting the full spotlight this time around, we're aiming that light elsewhere to get us in the mood.
The Who Sell Out
A concept album of sorts, scored as a mock BBC radio playlist, (complete with original jingles segueing between songs), it marked Townshend's emergence as a songwriter capable of channeling both urgency and intelligence.
Cover photos of the band members in mock adverts caused an initial stir, but it was the songs -- sweeping in dimension and wholly infectious -- that made Sell Out the most consistent set of their early era. (Choice tracks: "I Can See For Miles," "Tattoo," "Mary Ann With The Shaky Hand.")
Though not the first, it's arguably the best, and most resilient, rock opera of all time (having mutated into both film and stage adaptations). Tommy is also the work that established Townshend as an astute visionary who gave new dimension to the rock 'n' roll experience.
A formidable part of their stage show from Woodstock until now, its impact remains as potent as ever. (Choice tracks: "Pinball Wizard," "I'm Free," "Amazing Journey," "We're Not Gonna Take It," "See Me/Feel Me/Listening To You.")
Live At Leeds
Widely hailed as the greatest live album of all time, Live at Leeds confirmed the Who's reign as rock's most spectacular stage act, one that could summon both brilliance and mayhem to create an indelible impression.
Gleaned from the band's pre-Tommy catalog, it remains the most durable example of the band at their finest. (Choice tracks: "I Can't Explain," "My Generation," "Magic Bus," "Substitute," "Happy Jack.")
The most accomplished rock album ever? Arguably so, due in part to the fact that it boasts both "Baba O'Riley" and "Won't Get Fooled Again" (not to mention the aforementioned "Behind Blue Eyes"). Built on the fragments of an ambitious but aborted concept album called Lifehouse (as legendary in its lost stature as Beach Boy Brian Wilson's heralded Smile ), it marked the band's zenith, setting a bar that may never be topped.
An adept mix of passion and purpose, frenzy and philosophy, it's equally likely that these tracks will never wear thin. (Choice tracks: "Baba O'Riley," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Behind Blue Eyes," "My Wife," "The Song Is Over," "Bargain.")
Admittedly, a debatable choice (and one that could easily have given way to Quadrophenia , Tommy's equally expansive successor, or Who Are You , the final outing prior to Keith Moon's sad demise), Endless Wire gains the edge not only for its music (which is brilliant nevertheless), but for illuminating the power of perseverance.
Arriving 25 years after the Who's final failed comeback attempt, and in the wake of both John Entwistle's unexpected overdose (which reduced the Who to the Two) and Townshend's humiliating arrest for alleged internet pornography, it showed the band could rebound as emphatically as ever.
With the added bonus of a return to their rock opera format, it also tested the unsteady alliance between Townshend and Daltrey and showed that happily, and thankfully, they could survive the strain. (Choice tracks: "Wire & Glass," "Mike Post Theme," "A Man In A Purple Dress.")
The Who with special guests Vintage Trouble. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 1, BB&T Center, 1 Panther Parkway, Sunrise. Tickets cost $50 to $145, with fees. Call 954-835-7000, or visit ticketmaster.com.
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