The exemplary new 180g 1LP disc of The Who Sell Out from Abbey Road Studios at half speed delivers a rich, warm and round listening experience.
The first thing that struck me with this reissue was the album’s surprising richness, warmth and roundness – many half-speed masters I’ve heard seem to allow for extra brightness (which can be great, in some cases). This one Is deliver brightness for sure – but it’s in all the right places, striking an appealing balance to showcase deep sounds of intoxicating instruments and amplifiers, yet without losing the sense that this was a record made in 1967. Sometimes a sort of three-dimensional presence of the studio where the recordings were made is apparent.
The aforementioned 2021 180g 2LP Extended Edition of Those who sell quickly became my favorite release, easily eclipsing my original US stereo pressing and taking a happy place in my collection alongside my Classic Records 200g mono edition. Unfortunately I have never owned an original UK pressing as they are very hard to find and quite expensive if you find one in stores or online. But this new edition even outshines the 2021 edition, and I suspect it would go well alongside an original UK copy, if I ever find one.
I reached out to reissue producer Jon Astley of Close To The Edge Mastering directly to find out why this new edition might sound so inviting to my ear. His response, which follows in italics, indicates that thoughtful management of the soundtrack remastering – coupled with an intimate knowledge of how the disc’s physical slicing process works – was crucial in preparing the recording for vinyl mastering at half speed.
Jon Asley:The main difference when mastering for vinyl is making sure you don’t add a lot of digital processing. Mostly limiting, as it seems to confuse the trick. And of course, [it is] far better to control the essing while mastering than having the automatic de-esser working on the lap which happily takes the high end out of everything. If you do it while mastering, you can just use it in the little sections that need it.
Astley’s painstaking remastering work, in tandem with Miles Showell’s half-speed disc mastering/cutting process at Abbey Road Studios, seems like a winning combination.
Ultimately, the decision of whether you need another copy of this classic album in its new half-speed remastered form really comes down to a) how “into” this Who music you are, b) how much you care to hear the full depth of what was actually recorded by the band at the time, and c) if you’re willing to shell out the list price of $38.99. (These are answers that only you can provide.)
For me, the instruments, vocals and amplifier tones – and the woodiness of some of the guitars – coming through my speakers make this edition of Those who sell worth the price of admission alone. It’s almost eye-opening to hear the overdubs and intricate multi-track edits more clearly, super detail work that makes this version all the more essential in my mind (speaking here pretty much like a lifelong Who fanatic) . [I concur!—MM]
The 180g black vinyl of this new semi-mastered edition of Those who sell is thick, dark and well centered. This last point is particularly important, because it’s very easy for an album like this to sound awful if the pressing falters in a disagreement. I’ve owned off-center copies of this album in the past, so believe me when I say songs like “Tattoo” – with its long-running harmonies, et al – sound really bad on an off-center disc. Fortunately, this new edition is not one of those cases.
I’ve never heard the acoustic guitars in “Mary Anne With The Shaky Hand” sound so rich, round and clear – and the mid section of the faux flamenco guitar sounds truer than ever.
For those who are unaware, Those who sell is a concept album in the form of a quasi-radio show, and all the voiceovers of the fake commercials are particularly realistic. Sometimes it almost feels like different personalities are approaching the announcer’s microphone on an old-fashioned radio show while the orchestra is playing in the background. For example, drummer Keith Moon’s crazy vocals in the “Charles Atlas” commercial just before “I Can’t Reach You” at the start of side 2 sound like huge!
The lead guitar riff on “Odorono” is jaw-dropping, as you can hear Pete Townshend’s amp respond to his heavier picking, unlike the guitarist’s more sensitive single-string riff-pluming. His voice here sounds remarkably full-bodied.
from the moon pings and things on the pavilion of his cymbal in the opening of “Tattoo” are striking, as is (again) Pete’s acoustic guitar. And Moon’s little bell-shaped textures on “Our Love Was” just sparkle in this new edition.
This version of “Sunrise” is the best I’ve heard to date. Townshend’s dual-track guitars now sound much more distinct. Overall, the presence of the instrument – like the tambourine on the side 2 opener “I Can’t Reach You” – is more realistic, giving the listener more of that “you’re there” feeling. .
The opening end of side 1 “I Can See for Miles” rocks wildly. Honestly, I’ve never heard this song pack that kind of punch before. Townshend’s overdriven amp and lead guitar sound positive rip! There’s some pretty amazing drum separation on this new edition – listen to that amazing shotgun-like reverb on the proto-tommy “Sparks” type section of “Rael” at the end of side 2. (Speaking of May 1969 tommyI’ll be diving into the semi-mastered new version of this perennially classic Who album in the weeks to come, so stay tuned.)
I could go on with other examples, but I think you’ve now realized that this new mastered half-speed vinyl edition of Those who sell is clearly a winner. If you’re a Who fan who likes to listen to black records spinning at 33 & 1/3 RPM in the best possible fidelity, this half-speed master should be on your shopping list.
(Mark Smotroff is an avid vinyl collector who has also worked in marketing communications for decades. He has reviewed music for AudiophileReview.com, among others, and you can see more of his impressive resume at LinkedIn.)
THOSE WHO SELL
180g 1LP (Polydor/UMC)
1. The city of Armenia in the sky
2. Heinz Baked Beans
3. Mary Anne with a shaking hand
6. Our love was
7. I can see for miles
1. I can’t reach you
4. Silas Avare
6. Rael (1 and 2)