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The Who: 'Quadrophenia' (Deluxe Edition) - Album review

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The Who: Quadrophenia
Released on Monday, Nov 14 2011

Nearly 40 years after its original release, Pete Townshend has sat down with The Who's second rock opera Quadrophenia to give it a polish. The full results come in the Director's Cut - the album spread over two CDs, another two discs of demos, plus 5.1 (quadrophonic) DVD audio of the standouts. Those of us without regular royalty cheques have to settle for this Deluxe Edition, which has the complete album as remastered by Pete, plus 11 demos.

In the liner notes, Townshend notes that the record "continues to excite interest in new listeners", which is probably true. If this latest repackaging gets a few more on board, it just about justifies the swanky box-set that's there for the dads in time for Christmas. Plus, those cleaned-up demos are a tidy add-on which gives a snapshot of the record as a work-in-progress.

Most buyers will have listened to this at some point over the last four decades, but for those new to the party, Quadrophenia is a surprisingly straightforward Rock record. Roger Daltrey's voice is appropriately pitched between storytelling musical theatre and full-on Classic Rock tonsil-rattling. The well-deployed synths and samples were ahead-of-their-time (and a right pain to recreate live), but despite the ambition and grandiose scope, there's nothing here musically that will shock the 2011 listener.

Newcomers may be surprised at the lack of 'hits' on such a well-regarded record. 'The Real Me', '5:15', 'Bell Boy' and 'Love Reign O'er Me' are the only things that you might hear out of context on the radio. Obviously it works much better as a piece, anyway. Like other operas/musicals, the loveliest moments come as the best refrains sift in and out across the production. The synthy strains of 'Love Reign O'er Me' melding into the heavy country rock of 'I've Had Enough' halfway through the record certainly get you tingling.

At just over 80 minutes and without the natural breaks between four sides, parts of the album do drag. Quadrophenia lacks the youthful exuberance of My Generation and the in-your-face power of the original Live at Leeds. Unlike its peerless predecessor Who's Next, you certainly couldn't argue that every track here is a classic.

But what makes Quadrophenia such a success is that The Who play it completely straight. It's easy to laugh at how straight on occasion. "Why should I care/If I have to cut my hair" our young mod schizophrenic seriously ponders at one point. But clothes, drugs, haircuts, scooters, parental bustups, love and confusion are deadly serious when you're Jimmy's age. "We didn't need light and shade," Pete says. "We didn't need irony or humour, we hardly needed sadness."



Listen to The Who's 'Love Reign O'er Me' below:

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