BBC Sessions

The most explosive British rock band of their era, possibly ever, [B]The Who[/B] had more in common with the psyche rock blowouts of the new [a]Primal Scream[/a] album than the dad rock/[B]Weller[/B]/

The most explosive British rock band of their era, possibly ever, The Who had more in common with the psyche rock blowouts of the new Primal Scream album than the dad rock/Weller/Gallagher lineage where they're often placed.

This long-delayed collection, recorded live and direct between 1965 and 1973 for such long-forgotten musty Radio 1 jocks as Dave 'Hairy Cornflake' Lee Travis, 'Whisperin'' Bob Harris and avuncular Brian Matthew, captures their kinetic energy, arrogant brilliance and ferocious interplay at its peak, a direct challenge and assault on the venerable institution where it was broadcast.

The smattering of early mod-centric obscure soul sides (such as James Brown's 'Just You And Me, Darling') show them flexing their muscle, but The Who really take off when they get stuck into Townshend's originals - a combination of warring frustration, visionary insights and sonic experimentation. 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere' sets the pace, Townshend's guitar all inspired distortions and glistening runs. The sub-atomic throb and monstrous exclamations of John Entwistle's bass are continually detonated by Moon's machine-gun rampages. In such company even Roger Daltrey, rock's very own carthorse, becomes a lion-lunged champion.

Recorded versions are overhauled and upended throughout: 'Substitute' (twice), 'The Seeker', 'La La La Lies' and 'Pictures Of Lily', the latter two tracks showing their oft-overlooked Beach Boys-inspired harmony singing in excelcis. On record Townshend's operas could sound thin but the versions of 'A Quick One' and 'I'm Free' here are fired by emancipatory zeal and soaring transcendence.

The Who was a beautiful experiment in aural destruction as a means to creation, and the contrasts they thrived on ensures freshness and excitement still springs with shocking directness from these recordings. True, the sound quality isn't all it could be but faced with the pansexual anger on 'I'm A Boy' such considerations fade to dust. The Who - there's really been nothing else like them, ever.
8 / 10

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