Masterpiece albums. How many bands and artists have them? Not that many I suppose. The great ones usually do. For some of the greats, there’s even debate over what their masterpiece was, or even if they had more than one.
Lately I’ve been combing through my collection of music and trying to decide just how many masterpiece albums I own. Granted, what I consider a masterpiece may not be the same thing someone else does. It’s all subjective of course. But then again, sometimes I really don’t think it is. Some albums are just so great I don’t think any rational-minded music fan can deny it. That’s when you know it’s a masterpiece. When there’s just no doubt or room for debate.
The first album I chose for this “series” is The Who’s 1971 offering, Who’s Next. I know when a lot of people think of The Who, their 1969 double-album rock opera Tommy is probably the first thing that comes to mind. I don’t deny Tommy’s importance in Rock history, but it is in fact a concept album. Respectfully, it’s just not the sort of thing you’re gonna rock out to in your car. There’s a time and place for something like that and quite honestly I’ve rarely found either.
To me, their greatest album was Tommy’s follow-up, Who’s Next.
Baba O’Reily (aka ‘Teenage Wasteland”)
Love Ain’t For Keeping
The Song Is Over
Getting In Tune
Behind Blue Eyes
Won’t Get Fooled Again
So here’s the deal. I don’t just think this is The Who’s best album ever. I personally think it’s one of the greatest albums ever made. Why? For one, there’s not a bad song on it. Granted, Going Mobile is a silly little ditty, but even it was a radio hit. Despite having two lead singers in the band, My Wife was actually sung by bassist John Entwistle oddly enough. Yet “The Ox’s” vocals sounded great and it’s a really solid track. As far as all the others? Not only are none of them bad, I think they’re all actually great. Won’t Get Fooled Again and Baba O’Reily are all-time Rock N’ Roll classics. I remember the first time I heard the album. I wasn’t well-versed in The Who. At first I thought it was a best-of compilation. Then a friend informed me, “No, it’s just one album.” Perhaps that’s another sign of a masterpiece…..when everything is so good it can be mistaken for a greatest hits album.
The Who would follow up Who’s Next with another Rock opera, 1973’s (Quadrophenia), and two more albums in the ’70’s prior to drummer Keith Moon’s death in 1978. Post-Moon, the band released two more albums in ’81 and ’82 respectively. In my opinion, those four albums combined for only about four good songs. A far cry from the greatness of Who’s Next. I’d be remiss however, if I didn’t mention that their awful 1982 album, It’s Hard, did include my all-time favorite Who song, Eminence Front.
After 1982, despite touring sporadically through the years, The Who didn’t make another album until 2006. By that time John Entwistle had also passed on, so really it was just Pete and Roger. One more album after that just last year in 2019, and that’s it. To me though, it was pretty much over after 1971, and their masterpiece, Who’s Next.
Thanks for reading,