One of my favorite albums by The Who — The Who Sell Out — recently received a sweet sonic upgrade and I’m quite pleased.
The last time there was a run of upgrades on this album it was a big deal. Around 2005 Classic Records had put out some sweet 200 gram editions of the early who albums in Mono and Stereo (the Mono versions are quite collectible in their own right these days!).
That version of The Who Sell Out replicated the rare poster that only came with the original UK editions and generally I was very happy with that (especially as finding UK versions of the Mono mix are difficult to find here in the US and expensive if you can find one — right now there are exactly zero copies available on Discogs!). In 2015 Universal issued their own 180-gram edition of the Stereo mix which was quite nice if simple in its presentation (it did include the poster however!).
Still, the newly expanded two-LP vinyl edition is quite welcome.
Getting into the nitty gritty: the new pressing sounds much better than the 2015 version (which sounded better than my original US Decca vinyl). The balance feels better on this new version, and the sense of openness is significant. It also somehow doesn’t feel quite so extreme in the stereo panning. The bass sounds richer, the vocals rounder, the cymbals more airy and guitars full bodied. The thick black 180-gram vinyl is well centered and quiet so the music just pops nicely. Kudos to mastering engineer Miles Showell!
“Sunrise,” one of my all time favorite Pete Townshend songs is positively glorious, the multi-tracked acoustic guitars chiming hauntingly.
The production values are more nuanced and curious on this deluxe edition of The Who Sell Out: each label on the four sides presents a different variation on the Track Records label. The reproduction of the original poster is also a bit fancier than the 2015 version, reproduced on semi gloss paper instead of flat stock — the new one looks sharper and more detailed. Each LP in the set comes in a sleeve with copious liner notes giving track-by-track details on the songs and what went into making them.
The bonus disc is something of a revelation as well. While many of these tracks have appeared on various compilation albums (both on vinyl and CD on earlier expanded editions of The Who Sell Out and Odds & Sods). Some of my favorites here are the super fast version of “Summertime Blues” and the should-have-been single “Glittering Girl.” Once lost gems like “Early Morning Cold Taxi” shine nicely on this set.
Going back to that opening question in the headline, I think this new version of The Who Sell Out is a no brainer to pick up if you are a fan of the band and this album. It certainly sounds better than my original US Decca pressing and the production improvements over the 2015 version make this worth adding to your collection.