Blake Maddux | Arlington, MA United States | 05/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Who's catalog is flooded with compilations, to the point that one has to wonder how it is worth anyone's time and money for most of them to even exist. While compiling the actual best songs by Townshend and Co. would be almost impossible, putting together their biggest hits along with a few treat tracks should be less of a chore. For the frugal compilation seeker, it comes down to four choices among the dozens: Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy, Who's Better Who's Best, My Generation: The Very Best of The Who, and the 2-disc The Ultimate Collection. So to paraphrase the title of Leonard Cohen's first book, let us compare anthologies.
Many purists would argue that Meaty Beaty Big & Bouncy - the first Who collection - is the best. It is difficult to disagree with this assessment. Released in between Tommy and Who's Next, there is really nothing missing that one could reasonably hope for from a single disc. All of the big hits from "I Can't Explain" to "Pinball Wizard" are there, as are two nice bonuses: the smaller hit "A Legal Matter", and John Entwistle's awesome non-hit "Boris the Spider", both of which make this anthology of their early years all the more enjoyable and complete. The newcomer will be pleased to see all of the titles s/he recognizes - "My Generation", "Substitute", "I Can See For Miles" - as well as several s/he may not - "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere", "I'm A Boy" - but by which s/he will be very impressed and pleasantly surprised. Furthermore, the timing of this release could not have been better. Who's Next, which came out later the same year, was to be a very different beast than its predecessors. And since Tommy had started to indicate a change in the band's sound already, the inclusion of "Pinball Wizard" makes this a perfect Janus-faced marker. As the first Who compilation, MBB&B is literally perfect, and a model for any greatest hits collection.
Now, what about those folks whose first exposure to The Who was from "You Better, You Bet" on MTV, and who were always a bit more into songs like "Baba O'Reilly"? Well, we have two choices - Who's Better Who's Best and My Generation: The Very Best. Unfortunately, the former has been overlooked in favor of the latter, but the difference between the two discs is a matter of only a few songs. The Very Best scores some points with the inclusion of "Boris the Spider", and it also includes "The Seeker", which I personally can do without. So at this point, each disc has two songs that the other doesn't: WBWB has "I'm Free" and "See Me Feel Me", and The Very Best has "5:15" and the horribly vapid "Let's See Action". With this difference as the deal breaker, I think that WBWB is, well, better.
But both have certain imperfections. "Join Together", "Squeeze Box", and "Who Are You?", none of which are among The Who's best songs, are included on each of them. I suppose that they are included for the sake of completeness, but they could have been scraped to make room for "A Quick One (While He's Away)" and/or "Love Reign O'er Me" on both, and for "Boris the Spider" on WBWB. (Both are also missing "Behind Blue Eyes", and the WBWB version of "Won't Get Fooled Again" is inexplicably shortened in the middle. These are moot points: anyone with enough interest in The Who to buy a compilation should also own Who's Next, the parent album of both of these songs.) Still, I am glad that both have "You Better, You Bet", which finds the band embracing rock 'n roll elder statesmanship as well as "My Generation" found them embracing youth.
Finally, there is the 2-disc set The Ultimate Collection. It seems like this would be the most obvious place for a newcomer to start, because it has the most songs on it (35, to be exact). But that might also be part of its problem. Stretching so many tracks over the course of 2 discs can dampen the impact of the individual songs. However, with the exception of "A Quick One", it includes all of the songs mentioned in this review, as well as "Call Me Lightning", "Bargain" and Entwistle's "My Wife" from Who's Next, "Long Live Rock", and the latter-day tracks "Sister Disco" and "Eminence Front". So for someone determined to have only a compilation in their library, The Ultimate Collection is the one to have. But s/he should not be surprised if his/her appetite is whetted enough that s/he goes out and buys several other Who CDs as well.
And on that note, let me make it clear that no collection is sufficient as the only Who CD on one's shelves. The superb CD The Who Sell Out is represented only by "I Can See For Miles" on all four described above, and Tommy only by "Pinball Wizard" and "See Me Feel Me" (which doesn't actually appear in it's single form on that CD). Moreover, Live At Leeds lives up to its reputation as a seminal live recording, and it does have "A Quick One" on it. And if it isn't clear by now, every self-respecting rock fan should have Who's Next. So which compilation do I actually recommend? I have to vote against The Ultimate Collection, as it is simply overkill. The Very Best is weaker, for my tastes, than WBWB. Therefore, it comes down to WBWB or MBB&B. And my suggestion is, the envelope please...Who's Better Who's Best. It may be the neglected stepchild of the compilations, but it spans their entire career, contains missteps that are on the other comps anyway, and features 2 great songs that aren't on The Very Best or MBB&B.
Get WBWB and Who's Next. Where you go from there is up to you. I recommend The Who Sell Out and Live At Leeds, which - even if you are leery of live albums - really is that great. (Then, of course, go to Tommy and Quadrophenia.)"
Who's better than the Who?
Johnny Heering | Bethel, CT United States | 06/26/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"You could make a case for the Who being a single act. After all, they only released ten studio albums during their long career. They released many singles that didn't come from albums, especially in the early years. Every song here is a certified Who classic. But there are really too many Who classics to fit on a single CD. You would be better off buying the two disc Ultimate Collection. However, if you really want a single disc Who compilation, this one does an adequate job."
Good, but not best WHO compilation
Lance E. Goldsberry | Minneapolis, Minnesota United States | 07/16/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I love the WHO, they rank only after the Beatles as my favorite group. I have all of their CDs. This CD at the time of its release was fine, it was a good career spanner. But I think it misses too much, for example, it does not have any Quadrophenia material. I would say buy this only if you are a completist. I prefer the Who's Greatest, even though that one is shorter and also inexplicably omits material. The Who Hits CD to get is the Ultimate Collection. IT is the only WHO hits package that contains Eminence Front. So for this one, 4 stars, because of the incomparable material; would be five if it had a couple of more vital songs on it."
The Who's Best definately, but could be a little bit better
Johnny Heering | 02/21/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This ia great album and I would definatly reccomend not only to beginners but also to collecters. This site is one of the only places in the world that has this album new. The two things that could make this album the best album from 1988 would be changing the shortened versions of 'Who Are You' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' into there full length version. Otherwise, this is definately The Who's Best. GET IT!!!"