Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Who Knows More?

Who Knows More?
Or - I prefer my crackles un-corrected

The Who Phases Boxset got a lot right, the inclusion of the Live At Leeds album being a major plus over the 2012 box set. Yes, it's billed as a "studio albums" set, but here's why I think it should have a special place in the 2015 box.

There have been a number of Who live releases that come under the good (Isle Of Wight), bad (Join Together 1989 tour) and the ugly (Who's Last). The Who Live At Leeds, since it's release in 1970 has regularly trumped any meaningful "greatest live album" list since then, it's influenced and been name checked by every subsequent rock band, Rolling Stone magazine list it in the 200 best albums of all time. 
From the opening riff of Young Man Blues you know you are in for a good kicking and you ain't wrong, Substitute is stripped down and raw, Summertime Blues & Shakin' All Over get the full 'Oo treatment. Side 2 has the epic My Generation & Magic Bus improvisation that had become a feature of Who shows, neither Entwistle, Moon or Daltrey being quite sure where Townshend would take them adds an electric spontaneous edge that is so often missing from polished live albums. This is the album that is held in such high regard, is a landmark in modern music history. 

And you can't buy it new. 

1995 saw a 25th Anniversary CD edition with additional tracks taken from the concert. The 1994 Maximum R&B Boxset had included a version of See Me Feel Me from that show (more about that later!) and Heaven & Hell which was included on this release. I was pleased to hear some additional tracks from the show (A Quick One While He's Away is outstanding) but I was left with the feeling that something had been taken away, rather than be added to. Yeah I know that Leeds is a LIVE album, it just doesn't really sound like one, even between songs the crowd noise is almost non-existent due to a lack of ambient microphones. Indeed it's the fact that the show is close miked (the sound is recorded from microphones next to the amplifiers/drum kit) that makes it sound like a "live" recording rather than a "concert" album. Put on Who's Last or most live albums from the last 30 years and it starts with the sound of the audience cheering which usually continues between tracks, even if it isn't a full set from the night, it tries to sound like one. Leeds has none of this, except a few distant cheers. With the exception of Substitute, none of side ones Who versions had been heard before, and side twos Who songs are so far removed from the orginal's that instead of the usual homage to Greatest Hits, this is new material.

2001 saw a double "deluxe" Live At Leeds CD. For some reason, Roger felt the need to re-record the vocals for "See Me Feel Me" despite them sounding fine on the 94 box set. Also, the 2nd CD with the Tommy Set on it has had a large overdose of noise reduction that makes most of the tracks sound phased and boxy. A subsequent Super-Deluxe version with the Hull Show (recorded the following night) still has these odd sounding Tommy mixes. 2010 saw a limited 40th anniversary box set that contained the original LP version for a cosy three figure sum. 
If you want to hear it on vinyl in all its original brilliance it's a trip to a 2nd hand record store. 

2014 saw a HD digital release of the Super Deluxe version. Up until this point, the Leeds show had been spread over two discs, but not in chronological order. For some reason, "The Who" insisted that Tommy be on its own disc. So that the first part of the show is on disc 1, the second  on disc 2 and the remainder on the second half of disc 1. This digital edition sees them in the right order for the first time.

In my view, this album in its original incarnation should be available in the upcoming Boxset as it is an album recorded live, rather than a record of a concert and is one of the most important & respected albums in The Who catalogue.  

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