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The Who: Chapter 16.

Music Review: The Who – Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B

Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B is a four disc, five hour, career spanning history of The Who. The musical journey begins in 1964 with tracks released when they were known as the High Numbers and finishes in 1991 with their recording of “Saturday Night’s Alright (For Fighting)” which was their contribution to the Elton John tribute album, Two Rooms.

This is probably not a box set for those who are unfamiliar with the group’s music. It would be best to start with a couple of their classic albums or a simple greatest hits release such as Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy. If, however, you are a serious fan of The Who, this is an essential package that is full of classic moments with a number of surprises thrown in for good measure.

The enclosed booklet is spectacular as it is filled with rare photos and interesting commentary by Pete Townshend. Some of the tracks could have more clarity which is really inexcusable given that the producers has access to the original masters. This is especially apparent with some of their later material.

Disc one takes the group from their beginnings to the release of the single “Call Me Lightning.” The four songs by the High Numbers show a rawness and energy. Songs such as “Zoot Suit” and “I’m The Face” hint at what they would become in a very short time. “I Can’t Explain” kicks off the official Who career and “My Generation,” “Happy Jack,” “Boris The Spider,” and “Pictures Of Lily” quickly follow and form a catalog of some of the best rock ‘n’ roll to be issued in the mid-1960’s.

Disc two begins with the sophisticated rocker, “I Can See For Miles.” Classic tracks from Tommy make an appearance. “Overture,” “Acid Queen,” “Pinball Wizard,” “I’m Free” and a live version of “See Me, Feel Me” are all reminders of the brilliance of Pete Townshend’s groundbreaking rock opera. The only real mistake on this disc was to issue the shortened version of “Summertime Blues” instead of the original longer track from Live At Leeds which was one of the best concert performances ever put on tape. 

Disc three is rooted in some of the strongest music of their career. “Baba O’Riley,” “Bargain,” “Behind Blue Eyes,” and “Won”t Get Fooled Again,” show The Who evolving as keyboards are more prominent in their sound and the production has a slickness to it. The power of the music would remain as The Who would solidify themselves as one of rock’s premier groups.

Disc four covers the years that are considered the group’s weakest. However, when you assemble their best material from this era it holds up pretty well. “Long Live Rock” and “Squeeze Box” would be welcome additions to any album. Songs such as  “Who Are You,” “Sister Disco,” “You Better You Bet,” and “Eminence Front” sound better and fresh when removed from their original albums. Two live tracks, “Twist and Shout" and “I’m A Man” were previously unreleased at the time and present The Who as an effective and dynamic cover band.

Thirty Years Of Maximum R&B is a wonderful journey through three decades of some of the best music that was ever produced by a rock ‘n’ roll band. So sit back and turn the sound up real loud.

About David Bowling

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