The Who - Reaction Singles Box Set
The Reaction singles box set was always going to be the “difficult” one, mainly due to the brief period The Who were with this label between the Brunswick & Track years and the Substitute legal wrangling. The Who’s Reaction output was three singles an EP and the “Quick One While He’s Away’ LP, how was this going to stack up over the 8 disc Brunswick box set which included “The High Numbers - Zoot Suit” on Fontana and a never released “Instant Party” with the full version of “Instant Party Mixture” on the B side?
The Reaction Set is a slimmer tome a 5 discs, with not a whiff of The USA mix of Substitute or the alternate version of “I’m A Boy” in sight. That’s the bad news out of the way, time to warm up the ears with the original 60’s pressings & the Who Hits 50 versions before we see how these half speed mastered at Abbey Road 45’s sound.
The singles themselves look fantastic, resplendent with cut-outs and fairly accurate colours (The 3rd issue of Substitute was a lighter blue), Entwistle’s name is still incorrectly spelled on the writing credits and the flip back cover on the EP show some good attention to detail.
Substitute/Circles - Putting on the first disc, Substitute just comes alive, Moon’s kick drum hits you like never before, this is certainly the best I’ve heard this track on any version. The B side (listed on the box as Circles but on the single as Instant Party) again is superior to any version I’ve listened too. This second version of this song is often viewed as being trumped by the earlier Brunswick recording, here it holds it’s own.
Substitute/Waltz For A Pig - The same A side as the last disc, shame it’s not the US version with altered lyrics and an edit but we’ve gone for authenticity, who am I to argue. The B side is not The Who but The Graham Bond Organisation (under the moniker The Who Orchestra), again this sounds far superior to the original pressing.
I’m A Boy/In The City - I’m A Boy is the only song on this set that sounds the same as The Who Hits 50 version. Whilst this Who period is not renowned for fidelity, it still sounds superior to the sixties pressing. In The City again here sounds better than I’ve ever heard it before. The Who Myth department once told a tale of how John & Keith recorded this in secret without telling Pete & Roger, which many old Who biopics repeated, despite both Daltrey & Townshend being clearly present to anyone with an ear.
Ready Steady Who EP - I’m impressed how good this sounds, whilst not as good as the other single 45’s in the set, cramming more songs on a 7 inch will always take it’s sonic toll. Back to back with the original and re-issue pressing of the 80’s, this stands head shoulders legs and toes above them.
Happy Jack/I’ve Been Away - Again, both tracks sound better here than I’ve ever heard them, with Happy Jack’s “I Saw Yer” all present and correct.
Like Sun’s rock & roll & Motown's sixties output, this period’s Who was made for the 45rpm single as best exemplified here. Niggles be dammed, I’m over the Keith Moon with this package, top marks again!
For more on the Substitute versions visit - Brunswick Box Set