can’t believe that by the time you are reading this, I will have purged my
collection of not one but two copies of a favorite album, all as a result of
this review. But it is true. I have made a pact with myself — primarily due to
space limitations — that when something new goes into the collection,
something old must go out. In this case I realized I suddenly found myself
beholding four — count ’em, 4! — copies of Pete Townshend’s first solo album,
Who Came First. It is a great album
that holds important pieces of the puzzle which makes up Pete’s once unfinished
second rock opera called Lifehouse,
much of which ended up on the Who’s Next album
(along with a bunch of single b-sides) made with his regular band.
great this album is, four copies is overkill even for me.
Here’s how my collection of these discs stack up
and how I am going to decide which to get rid of:
LP – I have a nice condition original pressing of the album, complete with
the poster. However, it is not a UK pressing and not even a U.S. edition, but
one made in Canada on a blue track
label. It sounds quite good. But, since its a Canadian pressing so it doesn’t
have any significant value as a collectors piece nor as an audiophile piece. It
just is what it is…
CD – the first issue of this album came out on CD in the
’90s with bonus tracks. Sad to report, this one sounds the worst of all the
versions I have so it will be going, for sure. The cover art is kinda washed
out and greenish, like the Canadian and U.S. LP versions.
Records/Universal CD – I picked up this reissue
from 2006 at a thrift shop last month for $2; it is in perfect shape and I
hadn’t seen it out on that label before. It actually sounds pretty good and has
bonus tracks not found on the Ryko issue. All the once-exclusive bonus tracks
from the Ryko issue are also on this version. So this one is a big win and a
Records HDAD – This 2004 edition is a two sided disc — a UK
version of a DualDisc, in reality — that has uncompressed 192/96 fidelity
files on the DVD Audio side and 96/24 quality PCM on the DVD Video side of the
disc. This disc sounds terriffic and is just that extra bit more true to the
music than the CD. It is cleaner sounding than the LP versions I’ve heard, with
more distinct details such as the little bells at the start of Pure & Easy.
For me it is wonderful to have a pristine version of his prayer song
Parvardigar to listen to — it sounds just gorgeous!
So how does all this impact you, dear reader?
Well, I would guess that most of you
would be happy with the 2006 remastered CD. If you are a hardcore collector,
you probably have an original Track Records UK pressing which probably sounds
super spiffy — someday I’ll find one (there are a bunch up on eBay going for
around $30 each). Or, if you have the $$ to spare, you can find the HDAD on
eBay (going for some serious coin, I might add – yikes!). In any event, Who Came First is an excellent album
with a lot of personal feeling oozing from the speakers.
You can’t miss with the HipO CD for basic
listening. Whether you go for the HDAD or an original Track LP is your call. I
suspect you’ll find both experiences blissful as Pete Townshend originally
Mark Smotroff is a
freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in
marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video
games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T
and many others. Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine,
Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine
and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a
musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville
and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. Mark is currently rolling
out a new musical he’s written. www.smotroff.com