How many times can the Who repackage their hits? They’re apparently going to try and figure that out. There are, currently still in production, no less than four different “best ofs” available for the Who. Is there really a need for the 20th Century Masters: The Millennium Collection when there’s also My Generation: The Very Best Of The Who, which packs twice as many tracks? Is there a need for either when there’s a spectacular collection in the form of The Ultimate Collection, a two-disc retrospective of truly every hit the band produced? If not, then what’s the point of yet another compromised one-disc compilation such as Then And Now? Maybe you could argue that the exclusive inclusion of two new Who tracks (we can argue about the validity of that name applying solely to Pete and Roger another time) . . . but do they make up for having to re-purchase all those same songs again?
“Real Good Looking Boy,” an unfortunate title in light of Pete’s arrest last year for child pornography, ranks up there as a pretty great Pete Townshend song. Somehow, it just barely misses the mark for truly becoming a Who “classic.” It’s a catchy rocker with just a touch of melancholy that lends the song a bit more weight and one of those great Townshend piano motifs that rings in your head for days (plus, to help it stick that much more, it borrows, uncredited, from the Elvis Presley classic “Fools Rush In” for the intro and steals the lyrics for the bridge,) and the rave-up toward the end of the song really propels it into “near greatness.” I like it – I really, really like this song. Rounding out the album is the John Entwistle-inspired “Old Red Wine,” a ballad fueled as much by Pete and Roger’s loss of a great friend as it is by the anger that loss engendered. I don’t like it as much as I think I’m supposed to like it, given its prominent status as the album closer, but I have to admit – hearing these two tracks together really whets my appetite for more from Pete and Roger. I just don’t know how I feel about them calling themselves “The Who” to do so. But I want more, that’s certain.
The rest of the album is made up of exactly the big Who hits you’d expect to see. Frustrating is the lack of detail in the liner notes to help you determine which issue of which album they are coming from. Unfortunately, the band chose to use the non-Deluxe Edition remaster tracks, for whatever reason, so anyone hoping to pick up at least a few songs from each of the four Deluxes so far are out of luck.
What would I have liked to have seen? How about a “best of the Deluxe Editions”? I’d much rather have seen a collection of a few choice non-album cuts from each of those four paired with these two new songs. And really, wouldn’t this have served the band better anyway? If you like a few of those bonus tracks, you might make the big investment in the expensive Deluxe Editions to hear more. Instead, the Who and Geffen dropped the ball big-time in an effort to rush out something for the Who’s 40th anniversary. Too bad.
Die-hard fans are obviously going to want this – the appearance of “new” music makes it essential. Casual fans, save your cash and buy The Ultimate Collection – you really cannot go wrong. I would steer any casual fan away from any of the three single-disc bests – none of them do the Who’s legacy any good. What you hear on a one-disc retrospective is a handful of hits, not the thundering, emotional beast that the Who really was. Or is – depending on your perspective.
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