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The Who

Live at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970

Review by Gary Hill

This smoking hot live performance from 1970 finds The Who in one of the greatest points in their career. They had reached a real height of artistic excellence with the rock opera “Tommy” and they play a lot of it here. In addition, they still had a lot of the raw power and fire of youth. That makes this an essential live album.


This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2010  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Heaven and Hell

They fire right out with a hard rocker that’s psychedelic and garagey.  There’s a smoking hot jam in the middle of this that calls to mind Cream. The rhythm section screams on this.

I Can't Explain
Here’s one of The Who’s better known cuts. It’s a killer rocker and they include some intriguing jamming in the mix.
Young Man Blues
Yes, it is the blues, but it’s The Who’s version of the blues. There’s another one of those extended jams that wouldn’t have been out of place coming from Cream and this thing just screams.
I Don't Even Know Myself
This song, which they introduced as a new one, is from the more complex side of the band. It’s got several changes in it and is sort of a mini-epic kind of thing. That’s not really in terms of length, but in terms of reach.
Water
While the song proper on this isn’t bad, it doesn’t do a lot for me. That said, the extended instrumental jam later in the piece is awesome.
Overture
Coming from “Tommy” this is just plain amazing. It’s The Who’s version of progressive rock and it’s very cool. It works through a number of changes and they pull it off in style live. They take it straight into the next piece, a short one.
It's A Boy
This might not be long, but it is powerful and very proggy. It segues straight into the next piece.
1921
Here’s another piece that shows off the complex side of The Who.
Amazing Journey
The “Tommy” suite continues with this killer prog cut. There’s a great extended jam in it.
Sparks
This instrumental really screams. It’s got that old school Who fury.
Eyesight to the Blind
“Tommy” continues here and the cut is very much in keeping with the progressive rock elements delivered in Who style.
Christmas
And, “Tommy” continues with this hard rocking, prog-like piece.
Disc 2
The Acid Queen
Here’s more “Tommy” music. It’s another of the dynamic and diverse rockers that The Who were always so good at creating.
Pinball Wizard
Another of the Who’s best known tracks, I’ve always loved this one and they do a great performance as part of their continuing live presentation of the “Tommy” suite.
Do You Think It's Alright
As part of the story and the progression this is good, but it’s not really a standout on its own.
Fiddle About
It’s kind of tough to listen to this track to me, after knowing about Pete Townshend’s history in regards to child molestation. The bass really drives this thing.
Tommy Can You Hear Me
They continue the musical themes and this one is another that’s better known. Of course, it’s also less than a minute in length.
There's a Doctor
It’s really hard to think of this as a separate song. It is a continuation of the “Tommy” story and themes. It is very short.
Go To The Mirror
And, they continue here, but this has some seriously memorable hooks. It’s longer than the last couple cuts, too.
Smash The Mirror
The riff on this makes me think of Jefferson Airplane’s “Volunteers” a bit. There is a more expressive riff, too, that’s almost heavy metal.
Miracle Cure
This is just a thirteen second piece continuing the story.
I'm Free
Now, this powerhouse stomper works well as a separate track. It’s also one of The Who’s more recognizable numbers and has some intriguing hooks both musically and vocally.
Tommy's Holiday Camp
This is a weird and bouncy little cut. It’s playful and fun, but also quite strange.
We're Not Gonna Take It
Another song that holds up well outside of the concept, this is a real empowering anthemic piece. It’s a good one and they deliver a nice rendition.
Summertime Blues
Here we get The Who’s version of “Summertime Blues.” I have to admit that I’ve always preferred the MC5 rendition, but this is a good take on it, too.
Shakin' All Over/Spoonful/Twist and Shout
Here we get a medley of old rock and roll songs. It’s a tasty little romp.
Substitute
Here’s an older Who classic. It holds up nicely and really rocks out.
My Generation
Here’s another well known number from The Who. It’s always been a great tune, and this version feels particularly strong. There’s a cool melodic section mid-track. They pull it back in to a little reprise of “Water” for a moment or two.
Naked Eye
Here’s another smoking hot Who brand of hard rocking music.
Magic Bus
Another Who classic, this one is delivered in very strong fashion.
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