The Who - Quadrophenia
It has been nearly forty years since The Who released the quintessential rock opera, the tale of a boy struggling with loneliness, addiction, teenage angst, mental illness and social warfare. It is impossible to overstate both the brilliance and influence Quadrophenia has had over the ensuing years; mastermind Pete Townsend has regularly stated this was the best music he ever wrote, and as the likes of 'The Real Me', 'The Punk And The Godfather' and 'Doctor Jimmy' race along in a perfect unison of catchy melodies, supreme musicianship and razor-sharp storytelling, it becomes hard to argue.
Less known for singles than the likes of My Generation and Who's Next, it is almost criminal to isolate individual tracks, such is the magical flow and pace of the album as a whole piece. Whilst still uniquely The Who, the range is greatly enhanced - whether it's the big band bombast of '5:15' or the emotional rollercoaster and climactic epiphany of the epic finale 'Love Reign O' Me', everything the band touches turns to gold here.
This so-called Director's Cut of Quadrophenia sees the original album given a good polishing on the audio quality thanks to new-fangled technological advances, now sparkling with a mind-blowing clarity and vivaciousness this album so obviously deserves. Also included in the expanded package are a further two discs rammed full of demos that will have the die-hard The Who fans drooling, including no less than ten tracks that never made it onto the finished record. With a total of twenty five tracks now unearthed, it is akin to rediscovering the album all over again.
Still running in perfect story order, this preliminary version of Quadrophenia is rather different to the final version that we now all know and love. Immediately, 'The Real Me' demonstrates just how radically the concept evolved in development, the basic electronic beats and relaxed jazzy guitars a million miles from where it ended up. The whole set is generally more acoustic led, lacking the final massive production added later, but it also gains from the more intimate feel.
The 'new' tracks are an odd, but interesting bunch, ranging from fillers such as 'Fill No.1 Get Out And Stay Out' as Jimmy is booted out of house and home, to the full-blown The Who copywrited madness of the instrumental 'Wizardry' (a travesty this gem was ever dropped). More familiar pieces like 'Quadrophenia' and 'I've Had Enough' are more closely aligned to their final counterparts, but are very much still needed to keep the story intact here. Of most note however, is a whole new part of the back story after 'Cut My Hair', detailing a lot of Jimmy's growing up ('Quadrophenic Four Faces') and love life ('Joker James'); though hardly essential, they make for a fascinating listen and add a great deal of worth to this new edition.
There is no denying that Quadrophenia is a truly brilliant album, one entirely deserving of its reverential position in the lofty heights of Great Albums, The Who cementing their place in the history of rock as leaders, pioneers, and perfectionists. This expanded edition is a loving look back at their masterpiece, and a timely reminder to all of its awe-inspiring wonder.