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Who, The - 1978 Who Are You
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on August 09 2009, In 1978 Articles , 2 Comments , 1761 Reads , Print

ARTIST: Who, The
ALBUM: Who Are You
LABEL: Polydor (UK, Europe), MCA (USA, Canada)
SERIAL: WHOD 5004, 2417-325, MCA-3050
YEAR: 1978
CD REISSUE: 1996, Polydor, 533 845-2 * 1996, MCA, MCAD-11492


LINEUP: Roger Daltrey - vocals * Pete Townshend - guitars * John Entwistle - bass * Keith Moon - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 New Song * 02 Had Enough * 03 905 * 04 Sister Disco * 05 Music Must Change * 06 Trick Of The Light * 07 Guitar And Pen * 08 Love Is Coming Down * 09 Who Are You

WEBLINKS: www.petetownshend.co.uk

The circumstances surrounding Keith Moon's final album with The Who have always tended to overshadow the album itself in my opinion, as it is one of the finest albums the band ever recorded. Moon was well out of shape when the band reconvened to record, having binged on alcohol and drugs due to the bands inactivity during 1977. During that year the band managed only one gig, following the lengthy (by Who standards) tours of 1975 and 76 in support of 1975's The Who By Numbers.' Those tours showed the band was better as a live outfit than ever, but the legendary 77 show at Kilburn showed how ragged the band was. Therefore the band wasn't in the best of shape during recording, but managed to conjure up a magnificent album, which released during the onslaught of the overblown punk movement, proved The Who still had the fire of their early days. For a bunch of men in the early thirties however they looked at least ten years older on the cover.

The Songs
One of the most notable aspects of 'By Numbers' was the total absence of keyboards and synths, something Townshend had pioneered and used to maximum effect of 'Who's Next' and 'Quadrophenia'. Here they were reinstated in the most overwhelming fashion possible (much to Daltrey's chagrin), dominating almost every track and more importantly using them in some of the most sensible and innovative ways possible. But the bands legendary ferocity was intact and 'New Song' displays some remarkable synth-guitar interplay with Daltrey in the finest vocal form of his career. Melody wise this also borders on AOR, despite the lyrics about recycling old ideas for radio. Entwistle chimed in with three songs, the first being 'Had Enough', a vintage hard rock workout with the use of strings and horns heard amidst more massive mountains of synths. The vocal harmonies are simply perfect and Moon's drumming isn't as bad as historians have claimed. Apparently Daltrey had an issue with the strings and got into a fight with producer Glyn Johns. No answer needed as to who won that battle! '905' is a quirky Entwistle cut with sci-fi based lyrics based on an aborted concept album of his and suitably keyboards are the main feature of an otherwise standard track. 'Sister Disco' is nothing of the sort and is part of the theatric rock Townshend was toying with, which meant an abundance of synths used in different shades with barely any guitar. Very melodic with heavy AOR leanings once more though. 'Music Must Change' is of course the track Moon couldn't drum to, unable to master the complicated timing. Heavily orchestrated with a gruff Daltrey vocal, it makes the absence of drums less noticeable. Live it worked well as a jam post Moon also, showing the potential it missed in the studio.

Entwistle's third track is one of the albums heavier moments, 'Trick Of The Light' layered by bass riffs to the point of overkill, making for a traditional Who hard rock anthem. Good drumming here and once again sensible use of keyboards. Townshend takes his operatic rock fetish to new levels with the gloriously overblown 'Guitar And Pen', which contains some explosive passages and was described by Townshend as his attempt to evoke Gilbert and Sullivan. Opinions from the band were mixed on the track but it contains every classic Who attribute one could have hoped for. Following this is an excursion into AOR with 'Love Is Coming Down' which shows in the late 70's The Who were further ahead stylistically in the genre than many of their peers. Lots of strings and orchestration again, but still powerful. Often I think the band isn't credited enough with their influence on AOR, especially with their keyboard innovation. First and foremost however they were a hard rock band, spelled out in no uncertain terms by the title track and one of the bands most famous songs. Everyone has heard it and thirty plus years later the impact is still staggering, down to Daltrey's vocals and Moon's trademark drumming, by far the latter's best showing on the album. The final crescendo is the end of the real Who as we knew them and was an appropriate way to go out.

In Summary
One of the famed albums of the 70's, this was a massive hit overshadowed by Moon's death several weeks after its release. In the past this has received its share of critics who claimed it was too overblown and pompous for The Who, but the band always had these elements in their music anyway - dating back to the 60's. There really isn't a weak moment and the keyboard use is intelligent, not dominant. It fits in easily with the hard rock sound the band had trademarked. It will always be a shame this was the end of the road for the original lineup of the band. I think those in the past who may have shied away from this album just because it was The Who may want to give this a second look.

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#1 | reyno-roxx on August 10 2009 03:35:15
Along with 'Won't Get Fooled Again', 'Who Are You' is one of the greatest hard rock songs ever recorded.
#2 | Nick_L on August 09 2016 13:40:44
Couldn't agree more with you Alun, especially on the first 2 lines of this review! Underrated gem, ranks possibly as The Who's 2nd best overall effort after (it's hard to say which one of the two is the band's best, lol) "Who's Next" and "Quadrophenia"!
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