The Who (1971)
This LP’s songs were resurrected from the remains of an abandoned rock opera, “Lifehouse”. In and of itself, it didn’t really revolutionize much, but it exemplifies the “arena rock” sound and hints at the beginning of synth pop on some of its more theatrical tracks. Who’s Next also showcases a world-class band at the top of their game and height of their popularity. On some days, I find myself thinking that the first two and last two tracks on this record are rock music’s greatest achievement. In fact, “Baba O’Riley” remains my favorite song to this day.
Its one modest, but notable historic achievement was unprecedented experimentation with synthesizers, particularly the ARP model, used to unforgettable effect in the intro to the aforementioned song and the disaffected, prescient anti-political anthem “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, among others. More than almost any other recording (except perhaps Quadrophenia), Who’s Next codified the outsized sound and ambition of 1970s rock.
Key track: “Baba O’Riley”