The Kids Are Alright is the soundtrack to the documentary film of the same name. It is a two-disc, 80-minute compilation of rare television performances, live concert tracks, and a studio outtake. While it makes more sense if you have actually seen the film, it is still an enjoyable and historic ride through the first 15 years of The Who’s career.
“Baba O’Riley,” “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and “My Wife” were recorded especially for the film. They are particularly important and poignant because they are some of the last songs recorded with Keith Moon on drums.
“My Generation” and “I Can See For Miles” were taken from their performance on the Smothers Brothers Show in September of 1967. You can hear them destroying their instruments, though this pales next to actually seeing them do it. John Entwistle’s bass on “My Generation” is extraordinary. I remember watching Shindig just about every week as a teenager so I probably saw The Who perform “I Can’t Explain.” This is the group at their earliest and youngest and while the actual sound is limited by the recording equipment of the time you can still hear the raw power.
“Young Man Blues” was recorded at the London Coliseum in 1969 and catches them in all their rock 'n' roll glory. All four members of the group are at the height of their powers and the song just clicks on all levels. “A Quick One While He’s Away” was originally recorded for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus project. While it has since been released in a number of forms, it is still a good look at one of Peter Townshend and The Who’s first forays into the rock opera format.
Two other live performances stand out. The sequence of songs “Sparks,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “See Me, Feel Me” are taken from their legendary performance at Woodstock. There must be a number of tapes of this series of songs and the one presented here is excellent as the sound is clear and not washed out like a number of Woodstock tracks. The medley of songs — “Join Together/Roadrunner/My Generation Blues” — recorded at the Pontiac Silverdome in December of 1975 finds the group far removed from their early television performances but their magnetism remains. The Who are now veterans of the stage and here present just under ten minutes of musical bliss.
The Kids Are Alright may have lost some of its uniqueness with the passage of years and the reissuing of the group’s catalogue in a number of forms and ways. Still it remains an excellent document as it presents The Who thundering through the first part of their career.