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201 of 213 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Who at the Top of Their Game, January 30, 2005
This review is from: Quadrophenia (Audio CD)
The Who were at the top of their game when they recorded Quadrophenia and each member showcased his abilities to the fullest. This is Pete Townshend's most concise work as a musical story teller. It also features some of the best songs he ever wrote. At least six of the pieces on this set exceed even his normal (high) standard. `Sea and Sand' contains enough melodic fibre for two songs. `The Punk and the Godfather' and `The Real Me' are as fiery a pair of hard rock songs as have ever been released. `I'm One', `The Dirty Jobs', `Is It In My Head', and `Drowned' could easily find a place in music theatre. More familiar pieces such as `5:15', `Bell Boy' and `Love Reign O'er Me' continue to shine to this day. Even some of the flawed material stands out. `Dr. Jimmy' begins brilliantly but (partially) fails because Townshend didn't seem to be able to figure out how it should end. His playing and singing is uniformly outstanding throughout the set. There's some great guitar work on `Love Reign O'er Me'.

Roger Daltrey found himself as a vocal dramatist while the group was recording `Tommy'. The full power of his vocal range came out during the tours that followed and in the subsequent recording of `Who's Next'. He made full use of both, and did so with flair, style and confidence on this record. There are points where he sings more softly, points where he roars and times when he does both. His best moments come during `The Real Me', `Love Reign O'er Me' and on `Bell Boy' when he sets the stage for Moon.

John Entwistle came up with the clinic on how to use the bass as a lead instrument. His (most obvious) great moment comes early, midway through `The Real Me' when he and Keith take up the entire melody of the song and carry it under Daltrey's vocal line. It's been done many times by a lot of people but seldom better than this. Mostly however, his work on this record is extremely subtle. He carries much of the melody (as was the norm for him) but provides an excellent platform for the layers of guitar and synth work that ride over-top. Listen closely to `Cut My Hair', `The Punk Meets the Godfather' and "Is It In My Head'. The point of note is that much of what he does only seems to be coming from the bass guitar if a listener stops and really thinks about it.

Keith Moon gave his best (and last great) studio performance on this recording. The way he and Entwistle carry the melody of `The Real Me' is astounding. The symphonic element he lends `Dr. Jimmy' is something few other drummers could pull off. The phrasing he used to mark `Sea and Sand' is unique to this day. He marked Entwistle's bass line on `The Dirty Jobs' with his feet and Daltrey's vocals with the sticks. His use of cymbals to close, open and join the song's musical phrases is nothing short of remarkable. No other drummer would have played this piece like that, not then, not now, and not ever. He was probably the most innovative player ever to sit behind a drum kit.

This album never really got the recognition it deserved. That's not surprising considering the troubles that dogged it right from the beginning. After the Lifehouse episode the group wasn't ready to swallow another magnum opus from Townshend all too easily. Inactivity had shaken Moon's confidence. The group had trouble enough finding him to bring him into the studio to play and even more trouble getting him to play once he was there. The record was released after the tour began because of an unexpected shortage of vinyl. None of the members was ever satisfied with the way it was mixed initially. Once it was released It didn't get much media exposure either, probably because there wasn't much on it that would have been suitable for radio. On stage it was too complex for the band to play without a set of backing tapes. The tapes malfunctioned on a regular basis. When they did work they locked the band into a set rendition of the pieces. Moon made things worse one night by getting into monkey tranquillizers and collapsing on-stage. He recovered but wasn't himself for the rest of the tour (he dried out in a nursing home after it ended). That couldn't have helped the shows. The group never really shook off those problems and, after a short tour the following year (for the most), left it behind them.

It's stood the test of time (though it has its share of flaws that are all the more glaring because of the quality of the material surrounding them). The two instrumental pieces can wear their welcomes out quickly. In the wrong mood they sound either pretentious, dragged out, or both. `Dr. Jimmy' spends at least three minutes rambling after it's finished. `Helpless Dancer' falls flat on its face. Those are small complaints though. There's a lot to absorb on this record and it's still well worth the effort to do so. The writing approaches volatile subject matter subject matter thoughtfully and with great insight. The delivery is powerful and original. It reaches the heart as well as the mind. With this release the problem with the mix has been corrected. The sound is excellent. And, apart from correcting the original problems, it now also comes closer than any of their other albums to bringing their stage sound to record. This may be hard to imagine given all the synthesizer tracks on the recording but it's the truth. Who's Next is a close second but playing to the time signatures of the click tracks for the first time put too many restraints on Moon for that to be the case. By the time the band recorded this album he'd had enough experience with them to work better within the limitations they imposed. The bootleg recordings from the '75 tour prove this.

This is (finally) close to being the record the Who wanted to release. It's everything a record should be.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 10, 2011 1:17:30 PM PST
well done lad. A handy talent put to good use here. I'd say 95%+ of the 'rockers' out there place Tommy ahead of Quads. I won't debate it. Ya get or ya don't.

Posted on Mar 22, 2013 3:18:03 PM PDT
Tell me about the film version.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 22, 2013 4:42:05 PM PDT
Brian J Hay says:
That, I really can't do. It was one of the films I somehow missed and manage to keep missing. It happens. It took me almost thirty years to see 'All the President's Men' and only slightly less to catch 'Saturday Night Fever'.

Posted on Jun 18, 2013 9:21:10 PM PDT
Wonderful review and great insight, Brian. This album had a huge impact on my teen-years. I agree, it is everything a record should be. Thanks!

Posted on Oct 10, 2014 6:23:24 AM PDT
Ellis Fowler says:
Excellent review. The way you analyze certain songs, and specific moments within those songs, it sounds like Quadrophenia has been played quite often in your house over the years.

I've listened to Quadrophenia countless times since I got my first copy on tape (!) in 1984, and I'm rewarded every time. Even today, I discover something new or different inside the music. How many albums can you say that about?

Judging from your review and your comment concerning bootleg recordings from the '75 tour, I take it that you're more than just a "casual" WHO fan.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2014 8:13:41 AM PDT
Brian J Hay says:
Your guesses are right. There's a lot of music I like but the Who are one of "the" bands and I've listened to 'Quadrophenia' since it was first released on vinyl.

Thanks for your great comments. I appreciate them a lot.

All the best,

Brian

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 12, 2014 8:14:55 AM PDT
Brian J Hay says:
Thanks very much Ellis. I meant to reply sooner but was sidetracked.

All the best,

Brian
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