I’ve been getting the rest of my stuff out of my ex’s parents’ basement, and am so glad to have it far away from those dysfunctional, emotionally incestuous greenhorns, particularly the what-what beast. (“What-what? You mean people do things differently in America? HUUUUUHHHHH?”)
Anyway, one of those crates contained the rest of my CD collection, among it Thirty Years of Maximum R&B, a Who boxed set which was released in 1994. I remain proud of how I found it for just $35 at Mystery Train Records in Amherst in April 2001. I still remember jumping up on my toes to get it off the high shelf over the CDs, where the boxed sets were kept. (I haven’t yet been to their new location a bit up the street, and don’t know if they’re now arranged differently.)
I love this boxed set, though like many fans, have mixed feelings about it. Some of my issues and observations include:
It’s awesome how it has songs you can’t find anywhere else but maybe bootlegs. In 1994, most of these songs were being officially released for the first time, though most of them have since been put out as bonus tracks on the expanded, remastered albums. However, there are still some songs which, to the best of my knowledge, aren’t officially available elsewhere.
Lots of fun, cute radio jingles, BBC skits, onstage banter, etc. Some has since been released elsewhere; some is still only available here.
There’s WAY too much segueing between songs. Some songs blend very naturally into and out of one another, and indeed some albums are deliberately arranged this way. But here it just gets annoying, and more often than not doesn’t feel natural.
A couple of songs are mixed together from live and studio versions, like “A Quick One” and “See Me, Feel Me,” yet deceptively labeled as only coming from one source.
The live version of “Bargain” is cut by about a minute and a half. The full-length version appears on Who’s Missing.
The instrumental “Sparks” is mislabeled as “Underture.”
WAY too much material from The Who Sell Out. I love the album, but eight out of thirteen of the original songs are included. A lot of the songs on the boxed set also became bonus tracks when Sell Out was remastered and expanded. Yes, it’s an underrated album which deserves much more attention and critical acclaim, but you’re no longer just giving a little taste of each album when you rely so heavily on one particular album.
I wonder how red-faced Pete was after he heard the band’s version of “Melancholia,” after writing in the liner notes of Scoop, “I’m pretty sure The Who never heard this one.” His memory lapses are hilarious!
Only one song each from Face Dances and It’s Hard. Maybe if the producers hadn’t been so busy overincluding earlier songs, they would’ve had more room for the Eighties catalogue!
Also way too much Who’s Next material. Yes, that’s the best album I can think of to introduce a new fan to the band, but don’t overdo it!
Some people were miffed because their favourite songs weren’t included, but you can’t please everyone. A boxed set isn’t meant to be an entire chronological compilation, and it has to appeal to both new and seasoned fans. Putting on too many lesser-known songs could turn off a newbie who’s only familiar with the stalwarts of classic rock radio.
The booklet contains a number of mistakes, like giving Keith’s year of birth as 1947. (Can this urban legend just die already?!)
The alternate version of “The Real Me,” which was one of Kenney Jones’s audition songs, is horrible. Totally skip-worthy. I was horrified at just how appallingly awful it is.
If you’re old-fashioned like I am, and don’t rely on an iPod or MP3 player for the majority of your music, you can just take this on holiday in lieu of lugging around your entire album collection. Seventy-nine songs on four discs=huge bargain.
It’s kind of odd how it closes with a 1991 cover of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright (for Fighting),” but I’ve come to really like the song and its place on the boxed set. It just signifies that the long musical journey is over, and brings with it a bittersweet feeling.