THE WHO -- The Who By Numbers / Who Are You (MCA)

MCA upgraded two more Who CDs last month--The Who By Numbers and Who Are You. Both CDs have new liner notes, photos and bonus tracks. The Who By Numbers is a collection of deeply personal and self-examining songs written (mainly) by guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend after the 1973 Quadrophenia tour. It was never one of the band's biggest sellers, but it did yield two moderately successful singles, "Slip Kid" and "Squeeze Box." The sound quality on the new disc is spectacular. Nicky Hopkins' guest piano work is clearer than ever before. The highlights of this disc are the bonus tracks from the acclaimed 1976 show at Swansea Football Grounds, two of which are previously unreleased. The band was in rare form at this show. John Entwistle's fluid bass runs on "Dreaming From the Waist" are nothing less than astonishing. It's easy to hear how he got the nickname Thunderfingers when you hear this one.

If there was ever a CD that cried out for an overhaul, it was Who Are You. The original MCA copies were muddy at best. Producers Jon Astley and Andy Macpherson (who have been responsible for all the band's reissues) did an amazing job on this disc. A few of the tracks are from different takes than the original album. Some fans are a bit disgruntled over this. For those of us who have had Who Are You since its original release in 1978, it's great because now we have another version of the album. "Music Must Change" features different guitar licks, "Trick of the Light" is longer, and "Guitar and Pen" now has a different ending. Townshend's acoustic solo on the title track is stunning. Like most of the band's reissues so far, there are bonus tracks on Who Are You, and these are some of the best. There's the rare 'lost verse mix' of the title track (featuring completely different lyrics on the second verse), an obscure Who version of "Empty Glass," plus three more cuts for almost a full half hour of additional music.

If you're a Who fan, especially a fan of either of these two albums, don't pass up the reissues. They sound better than ever.

© 1996 Steve Marshall