The Who – Unbelievable Fantastic (Rockmasters RMC-007AB)


Unbelievable Fantastic (Rockmasters RMC-007AB)

Concertgebouw, Amsterdam, Netherlands – September 29th, 1969

Disc 1 (56:47):  House announcement, Heaven And Hell, I Can’t Explain, Fortune Teller, Tattoo, Young Man Blues, A Quick One While He’s Away, Substitute, Happy Jack, I’m A Boy, Overture, It’s A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks

Disc 2 (63:17):  Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker), Christmas, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It’s Alright?, Fiddle About, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, There’s A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Smash The Mirror, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I’m Free, Tommy’s Holiday Camp, We’re Not Gonna Take It, Listening To You / See Me Feel Me, Summertime Blues, Shakin’ All Over, My Generation

Rockmaster’s Unbelievable Fantastic is part of a long and glorious history of issues and reissues of the Who’s show at the Concertgebouw in 1969.  The number of edition of this tape is fast approaching twenty and is in the league with the Live’r and Eddie tapes. 

The stereo soundboard tape first surfaced on vinyl as The First Complete Rock Opera (WH6929), The High Numbers The First Complete Rock Opera (Score Records), Live In Amsterdam (TSP 021-2) and World Premiere.  Compact disc issues include Amazing Journey (Interscope Records), Amsterdam Journey (Adorable 001/2), The Best Of The Who (EML 137), Delay (WPODM 0989 D036-2), Live In Amsterdam The Swingin’ Pig (TSP CD 021 2), Live Tommy (Manic Depression MDCD 003), The Live Tommy (Grapefruit GRA-0043-A), My Generation (On Stage CD 12012), The Who Live (SW 30) and Amazing Journey on Hiwatt (NL-69 A/B). 

The Hiwatt release is considered by many to be the best sounding version of the lot, far surpassing the previous releases.

The problem with Amazing Journey is that Hiwatt chose to place songs out of order.  The final three songs, “Summertime Blues”, “Shakin’ All Over”, and “My Generation” were placed after “I’m A Boy” instead after the Tommy suite.  Rockmaster restores the songs to their proper sequence.  The sound quality is simply breathtakingly wonderful and is a major reason why there are so many different versions of this recording.  The other instruments and guitar are centered nicely, but the bass is biased towards the right side. 

Amazingly Unbelievable Fantastic this isn’t the newest edition of the tape.  Soon after this the Seymour label released The Complete Amsterdam 1969 (Seymour Record-014/15) in what we would assume to be similar quality (but we’ll see).  Rockmaster don’t play around with the tapes too much and that is evident here, even leaving the trace amounts of hiss alone.

This is The Who’s first performance of the complete Tommy rock opera and the only performance in Europe in 1969.  The band returned to the continent in early 1970 including another date at the Concertgebouw on January 30th, 1970 for further concerts.  The band recognized the importance of this night and thus we have this professionally recorded document. 

Before “Young Man Blues” Pete Townshend explains, “A couple of people have asked us why we chose to play in Amsterdam for the first major opera house performance of Tommy and the answer quite simply is we like it.  Not being at all factitious.  It’s probably more average of what Europe is like than London…You are the first.”  The opening numbers, including their first mini-opera “A Quick One” are given perfunctory readings in anticipation of the Tommy suite.  Some of the tracks are played out of sequence in reference to the official studio version with “Pinball Wizard” being moved up after “The Acid Queen” and “Tommy Can You Hear Me?” placed before “There’s A Doctor”. 

Only after the main event of the evening to the band relax a bit and deliver a startling version of  “Shakin’ All Over” (which also contains a reference to “Smokestack Lightening”) before Townshend begins his feedback windmills over Moon’s violent beats.  “My Generation” is played as a rare encore with a reprise of “See Me/Feel Me”, “Pinball Wizard” and other leitmotifs from the rock opera to bring the concert full circle before leading into a haze of distorted atonal fuzz and a restatement of the Tommy theme. 

It’s a remarkable performance that is indeed unbelievable and fantastic.  Rockmasters utilize an attractive Tommy pattern throughout the package with several very interesting stage shots included.  It isn’t spectacular but effective and makes this definitely worth having.

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