Magic Bus: The Who On Tour may have been the Who but they were not on tour. This was a compilation album put together from previously-issued tracks from two of their earlier albums, some B-sides and a few singles.
I think this was the first Who album that I ever purchased. I may have been attracted by the great cover art of what is obviously the Magic Bus, which remains a great snapshot of music's psychedelic era.
Listening to this old war horse again reminded me of how muddled the sound was on the original release. The album also has a somewhat disjointed feel because of the almost random nature of the tracks. Despite this, it contains some great music and remains an interesting if not essential listen forty years later.
Three solid singles form the heart of the album. “Pictures Of Lily” contains some nice harmonies and a fantasy story about a singer who died in 1929. “Magic Bus” was a successful single in the United States and featured one of Roger Daltrey's first standout vocals. Its lyrics may have told a dumb story, but its music was creative and the song would remain a concert staple for most of their career. “Call Me Lightning” was a single that deserved better as it was one of the Who's hard rocking classics. The version contained here has a different guitar part from the single release, but it remains a treat for fans of the group.
There are three John Entwistle tunes contained on the album. They serve as a reminder of just what a talented and quirky songwriter he could be and how this talent was underused throughout the group's career. “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” is a humorous and accurate song about Keith Moon’s split personality. “Doctor, Doctor” and “Someone’s Coming” both are above average tracks, demonstrating good song structure and creative lyrics.
The rest of this album is more uneven. Tracks from the albums A Quick One and The Who Sell Out were recycled a little too quickly. There is an abysmal version of “Bucket T” which I have always likened to a Jan & Dean song, essentially way out of its element.
Magic Bus: The Who On Tour probably owes its existence to the need for some product for the Christmas season. It also filled in some time as the Who worked on what would become one of the classic albums in rock history. Still, there are some treasures to be mined here and, as such, it's worth seeking out.