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The Who By Numbers - Page 2:
Album: The Who by Numbers
LPs (vinyl) Sampled: Polydor (UK), MCA (USA), Polydor (Germany), RCA (Italy), Polydor (Philippines), Polydor (Holland), Sony (Japan)
CDs (original mix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), MCA (USA), Polydor (Japan)
CDs (remix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), MCA (USA), Polydor (Japan)
LP Comments: Without question, the Sony (Japan) is superior to the others. Polydor (Germany) and (UK) are tied for 2nd place.
CD (original mix) comments: The Polydor (Germany) sounds great. The Polydor (Japan) has a little too much bass. The MCA (USA) sounds poor.
CD (remix) comments: The Polydor (Germany) is the CD of choice. The Polydor (Japan) has too much bass. After the sound problems (too bright, too harsh) with "Quadrophenia" and "My Generation: The Very Best Of The Who", MCA was able to "tone it down" a bit for this CD and "Who Are You", but some of the harshness still exists and the sound is hard on the ears. Neither of the <above> Polydor releases has this effect.
Summary: The remix of this album is great and if you're a fan of this album, seek out the Polydor (Germany) copy. If you like the original mix, the Sony (Japan) LP copy is very special, with the Polydor (Germany) CD in 2nd place.
Compare for yourself!
Below are 30 second WAV samples of "Slip Kid" from the various pressings of "The Who By Numbers" as described above.
1975 Japan LP 1985 USA CD 1988 Canada CD 1989 Germany CD 1996 Japan CD (Original Mix) 1996 USA CD (Remix) 1996 Germany CD (Remix) 1999 Japan CD (Remix)
Note: Sound comparisons are only as good as your ears and the equipment you are listening to the music with.
About: The Who By Numbers
I find some irony that this album is amongst the favorites of so many Who fans and probably one of my least favorite.
The Polydor Germany pressing of the 1996 remixed/remastered version is probably the best sounding of all of them. The same odd frequency shift which adversely affected 1996 USA pressings of Quadrophenia also affected this album and Who Are You...
The album has a lot of great music. "Slip Kid" (can someone tell me what a "Slip Kid" actually is???), "However Much I Booze", "Squeeze Box" (love the demo), "Success Story", "Dreaming From The Waist", "Blue Red & Grey" (when are they going to release the band version???), "How Many Friends", "In Hand or Face" (a rewrite of "Waspman"?). All great songs. (I liked Roger's "Imagine a Man" live from 1994 better.)
So what's wrong?
A few things. Overall - the music is dark and has a negative vibe to it (the band was fighting during its recording). Second, I don't like the mix or the mastering. The mastering has a compressed feel to it - the drums are buried in the mix and overall there's no benefit from an overall wide stereo sound field. Compare the same tracks to their live bonus tracks. Before I heard the live version of "Dreaming From The Waist” - I was never a fan of the song (and now I am).
If I had the opportunity to revisit this album - I would like to remix it to sound more like the band does live - it would have a completely different feel to it - a "Holy
wow! I had no idea the music could sound this way!" However, from what I understand now, is that the drums weren’t mic’d very well during the album’s recording. With only a “partial” drum sound, there’s only so far you can take the mix before “exposing” the poorly recorded drums. A shame.
This is relatively short album – I would have loved to see the disc full of bonus material: Live tracks, Pete Townshend demos, anything.
My favorite album cover of “The Who By Numbers” is the rare Austria LP pressing. The factory made a "mistake" and printed it in black. It's very cool. I tracked down a copy in Vienna in 2002. Coincidentally there was a record show the following week. So... I told the store to hold it and I picked it up in person.
Vienna was beautiful - but freezing cold! I would love to go back there again - but not in December!
Track Listing: Original Mix: Slip Kid, However Much I Booze, Squeeze Box, Dreaming From The Waist, Imagine A Man, Success Story, They Are All In Love, Blue Red And Grey, How Many Friends, In A Hand Or A Face.
Remix: Slip Kid, However Much I Booze, Squeeze Box, Dreaming From The Waist, Imagine A Man, Success Story, They Are All In Love, Blue Red And Grey, How Many Friends, In A Hand Or A Face, Squeeze Box (live-previously unreleased), Behind Blue Eyes (live-previously unreleased), Dreaming From The Waist (live).
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