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Classic Quadrophenia has a great deal to offer

This new version of The Who's heralded 1973 rock opera by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Robert Ziegler, has a great deal to offer.

Universal Music Classics
(CD — Deluxe Edition w/ DVD — and Vinyl)


4 stars

By John Curley

It will probably be a bit jarring for any longtime fan of The Who on the first listen to this album to hear the British tenor Alfie Boe singing the lead-vocal parts that were sung on The Who’s original version by Roger Daltrey. But once they get past that, they will find that this new version of the band’s heralded 1973 rock opera about teen angst in the Mod world of 1964 London and Brighton has a great deal to offer.

The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Robert Ziegler, stands in for The Who, and they are magnificent. The orchestration of the songs, which were done by the composer and Pete Townshend’s partner Rachel Fuller, are lush and beautiful. The London Oriana Choir, led by Choirmaster Dominic Peckham, provides the backing vocals. In addition to Boe, who portrays the protagonist Mod, Jimmy, on the album, the vocalists also include Townshend as The Godfather, Billy Idol (who toured with The Who in their live presentation of “Quadrophenia” in 1996-97) as The Ace Face/Bell Boy, and, in a nice touch, Phil Daniels (who played Jimmy in Franc Roddam’s 1979 film version of “Quadrophenia”) as Jimmy’s father.

The instrumental title track is where the orchestra really gets a chance to shine. It is spectacular, and can definitely hold its own against The Who’s original version. The horns, strings, and piano all sound amazing. Boe and Townshend trade off the lead vocal on “The Punk And The Godfather.” Horns replace John Entwistle’s bass on the thundering intro to the track, and one would think that Entwistle, a talented and versatile brass player, would probably love this take on the song. Boe and Daniels share the lead vocal on “The Dirty Jobs” and, combined with the beautiful orchestration, make it a very moving piece of music. While the horns at the start of “5:15” are a treat, it is the track where Daltrey’s tough-guy vocals are missed the most. The horn-led fanfare at the outset of “Bell Boy” is terrific. Boe and Idol trade off the lead vocal on the track, and Idol does a great job with the vocal part handled by Keith Moon on the original.

The Deluxe Edition of “Classic Quadrophenia” also includes a DVD. The DVD has several featurettes in which Townshend and Fuller discuss the project. Footage from the recording sessions is also shown. But the highlight of the DVD is the video for “Love, Reign O’er Me” that features Boe on the beach in Brighton, England with the ruins of the West Pier in the background. Daniels makes an epic cameo toward the end of the video, making it a must see for any fan of the “Quadrophenia” film.

Fuller’s decision to use orchestral percussion and not a lead drummer makes this version quite different from the original, given the standout drumming by Moon on The Who’s version. While “Classic Quadrophenia” may never replace the original in the hearts and minds of fans of The Who, it is a nice complementary piece to The Who’s version. And it might just bring some fans of classical music into the Who fold.

Note: The 2-LP vinyl edition of "Classic Quadrophenia" includes a special 4/color paper insert reproduction of the original handwritten lyrics to the songs, “Love Reign O’er Me” and “5:15.”It is only available at Barnes and Noble (online and in stores), and will be limited while supplies last (click here). The Goldmine staff recommends this edition for any interested Who fan (as well as audiophiles). We sampled it. It's worth the extra cash.

Who fans, check out Goldmine‘s “Who Turns 50″ issue (May 2015, Volume 41, No. 5, at left)! Download a digital copy of the issue, click here. It’s only a $4.95! Or if you would like a print copy (the cover itself is worth framing!) call 1-800-726-9966, Ext. 13369, or e-mail