Entertainment Weekly - 4/4/97, pp.81-82
"...remains an underrated mix of pared-down friskiness and bittersweet introspection..." - Rating: A-
Q - 7/00, p.141
Included in Q's "The Best Male Angst Albums Of All Time" - "...The most soul-baring album in [their] canon..."
The 1996 reissue of THE WHO BY NUMBERS contains three live bonus tracks that weren't on the original LP. "Squeeze Box," "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Dreaming From The Waist" were recorded live in Swansea, Wales in 1976.
The Who: Pete Townshend (vocals, guitar, keyboards); John Entwistle (vocals, brass, bass); Roger Daltrey (vocals); Keith Moon (drums).
Reissue producers: Jon Astley, Andy Macpherson.
Recorded in 1975 & 1976. Originally released on MCA (2161) in October 1975. Includes liner notes by Penny Valentine and John Swenson.
Personnel: Pete Townshend (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Roger Daltrey (vocals, harmonica); John Entwistle (vocals, keyboards, bass guitar); Keith Moon (vocals, drums); Dave Arbus (violin); Nicky Hopkins (piano, keyboards).
Audio Remasterer: Bob Ludwig.
Audio Remixers: Jon Astley; Andy MacPherson.
Liner Note Author: John Swenson.
Recording information: Eel Pie Studios, England (04/??/1975-06/12/1975); Island Mobile, England (04/??/1975-06/12/1975); Ramport Studios, England (04/??/1975-06/12/1975); Shepperton Sound Studio On Ronnie Lane's Mobile Studio (04/??/1975-06/12/1975); Swansea Football Ground (04/??/1975-06/12/1975).
Illustrator: John Entwistle.
Photographer: Chris Walter.
Arguably the most underrated of the Who's albums, THE WHO BY NUMBERS represents a return to a more straight-ahead rock & roll sound after the extensive orchestration of QUADROPHENIA. It includes a pair of certified classics in "Slip Kid' and "Squeeze Box," as well as two of Townshend's prettiest ballads, "Imagine a Man" and "Blue Red and Grey." Released at a time when the man who wrote "I hope I die before I get old" was turning 30, many of the songs on WHO BY NUMBERS seem to be Townshend's way of dealing with the hardships of life as a hard-living, quickly aging rock star.
Melancholy, world-weary and nostalgic, WHO BY NUMBERS is a far cry from the youthful playfulness of early albums like THE WHO SELL OUT. The album was evidently the product of four exhausted musicians, as the next Who album did not appear until three years later. Although not as bombastically exciting as WHO'S NEXT or LIVE AT LEEDS, THE WHO BY NUMBERS does include standout ensemble work from everyone involved (especially bassist John Entwistle) and serves as a fascinating mid-'70s snapshot of rock gods turning pensive at the height of their fame.