The Who need no excuse to release a new compilation -- since 1994, a new collection has appeared roughly at the rate of one every three years -- but the band's 50th anniversary does provide the opportunity for a splashy new compilation, the first since 2009's Greatest Hits.
Snappily titled The Who Hits 50!, by virtue of spanning two full CDs the set does cast a wider net than either Greatest Hits or 2004's Then & Now, beginning with the stiff R&B of the High Numbers' "Zoot Suit" and concluding with the brand-new "Be Lucky," a delirious revival of Pete Townshend's purple, overwritten '80s midlife crisis. In between those two songs come 40 tracks, including some genuine surprises -- the bonkers mod anthem "Dogs" and its Beach Boys-aping flip "Call Me Lightning," the band's cover of the Stones' "The Last Time," the first appearance of "Relay" in a comp in ages, John Entwistle's paranoid "Trick of the Light" -- but for the most part, this serves up the same songs that have popped up again and again on Who compilations over the years.
This may be predictable but as a collection of basics, either for fair-weather fans or newcomers, it does its job well and it has nice artwork to boot. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine