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Who's Next

music reviewmusic reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Who's Next

Artist: The Who
Genre: Rock
Release Date: 1971

Review by The Musician
4 stars out of 4

Pros: Soaring vocals, explosive guitars, drums, and bass, amazing song writing

Cons: Only nine songs

Recommended: Yes

Bottom Line: Incredible. Amazing. Breathtaking. Fantastic. One of the best albums of all time. A must buy.

Great Music to Play While: Driving

The Who were the first real old rock group that I was able to get into. My father was very enthusiastic about their material, and whenever I would play for him some more recent songs and ask him about what he thought, he would just say "It's good, but the Who is better.". Unbeknownst to me, most of the time he was right. He first played me some of their earlier popular singles like "Magic Bus" and "My Generation", which was good, but not enough to shift my focus from current music to stuff made in the seventies. However, I did see "Who's Next" for sale for $9.99, and taking my father's advice, I bought it, and it blew my mind.

The album is full of incredible musicianship. Great vocals from Roger Daltrey, guitar and song writing from Pete Townshend, bass guitar (and horns!) from John Entwistle, and drums from the legendary Keith Moon, who I still think is one of the best drummers of all time. This package has always been brought by the Who (except for a couple albums at the end of their career), but what really makes this album stand out is the phenomenal song writing exhibited by Townshend. Every song on this album is a masterpiece, and what's even more amazing is they blend fantastically to make a brilliant album. Actually, this album was supposed to be a rock opera at first, like Tommy and Quadrophenia, called Lifehouse, but fell apart when Pete Townshend had a nervous breakdown around 1970. So much of the material was forced into an album where, somehow, everything just came together to make one of the best albums of all time.

It kicks off with the energetic "Baba O'Riley", which is simply about the concept of waste. It begins with an accelerated synthesizer melody until blaring piano chords join it. The drums soon follow, as well as Daltrey's vocals which sing "Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals, I get my back into the living. I don't need to fight, to prove I'm right, I don't need to be forgiven". Immediately you can see that this was one of the songs that was going to be used for the rock opera, but instead becomes one of the most recognizable and best tracks on this album full of classics. Also, it has a great violin solo at the end of the song played by Dave Arbus, which makes it a memorable and exciting track.

Song number two is "Bargain", which is another syncopated power chord fueled rocker. Great drumming from Moon and powerful vocals from Daltrey combine for a strong overall impression on this song. This is followed by the acoustic "Love Ain't For Keeping", which contains fantastic guitar from Townshend. This is an all-round great song with good vocals, back-up vocals, and is a very well written song. This goes to "My Wife", which is written by bassist John Entwistle, who is known as the 'musician' in the band. He is the only member that knows anything about music theory and history, and it shows in the beautiful composition displayed here. This was the best song ever written by Entwistle, and contains a delicious brass hook. It's a highlight on an album full of highlights. This is followed by "The Song Is Over", a gentle piano ballad that features the piano skills of Nicky Hopkins. It is an anthem of sorts, with Daltrey singing "I sing my song to the wide open spaces, I sing my heart out to the end of the sea, I sing my visions to the sky on a mountain, I'll sing my song to the free". It's a song with lots of great individual musicianship, which can be heard in the drums, the guitar, the piano, and has some great bass that is more difficult to hear. This optimistic ballad is a brilliant song to end the first half of the album.

The opener for the second half is "Gettin' In Tune", which starts out as another piano ballad with unusual lyrics, such as "I'm singin' this note 'cuz it fits in well with the chords I'm playin', I can't pretend there's any meaning here in the things I'm sayin, but I'm in tune". The song is beautiful satire because it dissects what the belief of a song should be while sounding heartfelt. This is followed by the acoustic "Goin' Mobile", which is one of the many songs from this album that can be (and are) used in car commercials. It's a great song with a well done wahwah guitar solo and pounding drums. It also includes some unexpected but not unwelcome synthesizer accompaniment, and, on a personal note, I love when Daltrey screams "whip woo!".

The next song is the amazing "Behind Blue Eyes", which is another highlight on an album full of highlights. This is one of my favourite all-time pieces of music, and it has incredible acoustic guitar from Townshend and great bass accompaniment by Entwistle. Two and a half minutes in, the song erupts with drums and electric guitar in one of the best moments on the whole album. A brilliant song by Townshend which is second in quality only to the closer.

Simply put, "Won't Get Fooled Again" is eight minutes of bliss. It begins with a strange synthesizer loop played by Townshend, who was big into electronic experimentation at the time. It is another Who anthem, with opening lyrics "We'll be marching in the street, with our children at our feet, and the morals that we worship will be gone". The main verse is similar, with such memorable lyrics such as "I tip my hat to the new constitution, take a bow for the new revolution, smile and wave at the change all around, pick up a guitar and play, just like yesterday, then I get on my knees and pray, we won't get fooled again". Great vocals deliver these lines, and this song is probably the crowning achievement in Keith Moon's drumming career. It's very syncopated, complex, and unpredictable, but never feels at any time out of place or intrusive. Townshend's crushing power chords and Entwistle's bass rock this song, which throughout all eight minutes never seems boring at all. It is full of energy and power, and features some great little guitar solos from Townshend. There is even a break from all the instruments except the synthesizer about six and a half minutes in, until Moon's drums enter and is followed by the rest of the instruments to end the song in a dramatic fashion. It is a brilliant song to finish off a brilliant album.

This album is the Who's magnum opus, and after making such a pinnacle of rock 'n roll, they eventually tumbled into mediocrity because of over-experimentation with synthesizers and loss of focus. Few remember the Who like that though, because most like to visualize them at their absolute best. This was the Who's best album, it contained three of their finest hit songs ("Baba O'Riley", "Behind Blue Eyes", and "Won't Get Fooled Again"), and is the Who at the peak of their career. It is a flawless album, which rocks harder than any Who album previously released, but also has a soft side that is equally as powerful as the explosive guitars and amazing drums. It is the Who at their finest, and no album collection is complete without it.

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