Sad to say that the record, quite literally, speaks for itself. The two new songs included on Then and Now are very poor by comparison with any of the other material on this compilation CD. Roger Daltrey has gone on the record to say that he is not happy with the recordings and the band were under pressure from the record company to give them two new songs for the compilation.
Comparison with the output of other veteran acts is totally irrelevant. The only comparison that matters is that of the latest recorded efforts of The Who with their classic material.
If we have to play a tedious game of who's the biggest fan etc, I make no such claim, but I am pretty knowledgeable about the band's career having followed it since the early 1970s. Still if it makes Mr Fort Smith happy...
As well as owning the complete back catalogue of band and solo recordings on vinyl, CD (and umpteen remasters therof), all the sell through video and DVDs. As with most long serving fans I also have an extensive collection of unofficial audio and video Yes of course I have seen the band live (26 times) beginning with Charlton in 1974 and most recently at the Nokia Isle of Wight Festival a couple of weeks ago (where, frankly, they were not very good at all)I could go on, but won't.
Anybody with functional ears and some knowledge of the band's live performances cannot argue with the plain fact that the band's performances in recent years are nowhere near the excellent standards that they set decades earlier. For goodness sake Townshend and Daltrey are virtually old age pensioners and in no area of performing arts would you expect a 60 year old to perform as well as they did in their prime. A simple sporting analogy would be to say that whilst it is entertaining to see John McEnroe play in a veterans' tennis competition, nobody in their right mind would suggest that his performance compares to that of his peak years.
Whilst The Who circa 2000 were passable, remember we should be comparing them to their own previously far higher standards (against which few other acts have ever measured up.)There are a number of commercially available recordings of this period of the band's live performance output, including the comprehensive Encore series of 'official bootlegs'. There is not a single recording that compares favourably with say, Live at Leeds, Live at the Isle of Wight or any of the 1970s live material featured in The Kids are Alright or 30 Years of Maximum R&B.
Frankly, I do not care whether an ageing Who is 'better' than an ageing McCartney/Stones or whoever else one cares to mention. The bottom line is that the Who is nowhere near as good as it once was - period - so just get over it. Zak Starkey and Simon Townshend provide something of a blood transfusion to energize the band but the loss of John Entwistle has really been the hammer blow and has been far more decisive in bringing about the watershed in the band's career as a live act. His idiosyncratic and superlative (in the context of The Who) playing drove the band. In many respects he was the main soloist. Pino Palladino is a great bass player. He sensibly doesn't try to emulate the style or tone of his predecessor. However, that outrageous playing style and unique tone was key to the band's stage performance. Enjoy them for what they are but do not delude yourself that they are anything other than a shadow of their former selves.
Turning to the two new recordings the same fundamental analysis applies. These songs are weak compositions, competently played and produced. They do not rank alongside any of the band's celebrated work, as compiled on this album. Once again this is only to be expected. Pete Townshend's songwriting has been in decline for many years. There's no disgrace in that - take a writer like Chuck Berry, phenomenal in his day and then mysteriously the well dried up. Perhaps Townshend can still produce something outstanding? I would certainly love to hear it and await the new album like everybody else.
If it fails to rise above the quality of the two new tracks on this compilation then I do hope that they call it a day and do no further harm to their reputation. After the recent Isle of Wight show I shan't be paying to go and watch them perform again. They simply aren't the band that I used to love anymore. Whether the new incarnation of the band has a future should be judged on its new output and not on its ability to grind out the greatest hits with ever diminishing returns on stage.
Townshend is famously quoted as saying that the band shouldn't become a circus act. Sadly that is precisely what it has become.
Please don't get so upset Mr Fort Smith, all your heroes will ultimately grow old and their powers will wane. I'm glad that you enjoy this band so much. They were fantastic in their day, but that day has long gone. Now they are simply remarkable for their age.