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The Who ‘Quadrophenia’ Deluxe Edition – Album Review

The Who Quadrophenia
Universal Music Enterprises

The new re-issue of the Who’s ‘Quadrophenia’ takes us back to mid 1973, when the Who were unofficially dubbed the worlds greatest live rock ‘n’ roll band and had several successful recordings under their belt including ‘Tommy’ and Who’s Next.’

Come October and their next triumph, in which songwriter Pete Townshend introduced us to Jimmy, the tragic hero of the band’s latest rock opera.

Jimmy is a teenager in England whose dad labels him a “schizophrenic” and his Mum, well, she just thinks he’s “nutty.” Youthful angst is at its peak as Jimmy desperately tries to fit in while his moods change as often as the weather.

The heroic part of this story is that there’s a bit of Jimmy in each and everyone of us. ‘Quadrophenia’ is one of the few recordings that gives the listener a license to revisit adolescence every time it’s played.

Age and geography become completely irrelevant as the opening notes of ‘I Am The Sea’ seem to transport you to another time and place.

This new version of ‘Quadrophenia’ was produced, authorized and completely overseen by Townshend, who apparently still favors the 1996 mix versus that of the original album.

Townshend explains in the liner notes that the remix/remaster in 1996 was done to correct the fact that some of Roger Daltrey‘s vocals had been crushed, particularly in the vinyl version. As he puts it,”The time has come for me and my team to honour ‘Quadrophenia’ with a carefully presented package that features examples of the impact surround sound would have on the music, to remaster the vinyl mixes and to collect and restore my demos.”

The 11 demos sound on the collection are indeed stunning, far better than one might imagine, validating Townshend’s ability to craft a song and get it to the stage where the band can fully see his vision.

Daltrey is one of the most talented vocalists in classic rock, but hearing Townshend sing these familiar numbers may be the biggest bonus of all. His voice gives each song a new identity, and while some of the demos are just that — simpler versions of what the band would later record, many of the tracks stand out and sound totally different.

‘The Real Me’ is a definite highlight with its funky tone and bass lines. ‘Anymore’ and ‘Is It Me?’ are songs that didn’t make the album but give you more of an insight to the dark and depressive side of Jimmy’s drug usage and the character Ace Face, respectively.

The deluxe packaging is very well done, with the original book getting reproduced as two separate booklets full of photos, and images of the original master reel tape boxes shown beneath the disc trays. Townshend’s track by track guide to these demos gives a full account as to what was going on during the creation of ‘Quadrophenia.’ Reading these notes makes one long for Pete’s upcoming autobiography as his memory seems sharp and his observations, keen as ever.

This re-issue is only the beginning of a campaign that will continue to keep the spirit of ‘Quadrophenia’ alive. There’s talk of a 2012 tour by the Who based on the album (the last time they did this was way back in 1996-1997), and plans for a sequel to the 1979 film will continue with Jimmy’s life after his Mod days. A Blu-ray version of the movie and an orchestral score are also in development. So mods and rockers rejoice, here’s your ticket to feeling seventeen again.

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