By Dave Thompson
Think of the albums that you know best of all. And then imagine if someone crept in while you slept and subtly messed with the sound a little, so the next time you played it — “hang on! That didn’t use to be there.”
That’s what quadraphonic sound was all about… well, that, and bringing a brand new surround sound experience to your early '70s ears. There are some extraordinary rarities to be sought out in the world of quadraphonic vinyl, but there’s also some extraordinary sonics as well, and you won’t (always) have to break the bank to hear them.
Here’s eight favorites to get you started..
Mott The Hoople: The Hoople (Columbia PCQ 32871)
One of the most radical but, oddly redundant of all quad rock releases appears to have been constructed with nothing more in mind than thrilling the listener's ears. Abundant use of echo brings some almost disconcerting effects into play, gently through "Golden Age of Rock'n'Roll," obtrusively during "Alice," most portentously for "Through the Looking Glass." Sharp ears will discover more conversation beneath the intro to "Pearl and Roy" and more na-na-na ribaldry in the backing chorus, but the highlights here are a fine guitar work-over during "Crash Street Kids," the most aggressive cut on the original LP, and an almost Spectorish thunder to "Roll Away the Stone," the most gorgeously, stupidly romantic number.
Black Sabbath: Paranoid (Warner Brothers BS4 1887)
Without offering the varieties collector too much to work with, Paranoid emerges a very satisfying listen. Guitars are cranked (and, occasionally, dirtied) up, with the title track highlighted now by a positively assaultive solo, while "War Pigs" is presented without the sped-up effect which closes the stereo version.
Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies (WB BS4 2685)
The entire LP has been completely remixed, but several tracks are of especial note — a guitar-heavy "I Love the Dead" and a powerfully horn-driven "Elected" among them. Elsewhere, "Unfinished Suite" boasts improved and extra-terrifying dentist sound effects; while "Generation Landslide" features an alternate ending, before segueing into a ferocious, colossally superior take of "Sick Things. " The art of the quad mix has seldom been put to better use!
Bob Dylan: Desire (Columbia PCQ 33893)
The exclusive availability of a noticeably alternate mix of "Romance In Durango" is responsible for raising this album high in collecting circles; it is not, however, the only reason for listening. The entire LP is vastly superior in every department. The already somber "Joey" is raised to new heights of majesty by the newly emphasized violin, while "Black Diamond Bay" benefits immeasurably from its pronounced percussion.
Art Garfunkel: Breakaway (Columbia PCQ 33700)
Richard Perry's original production was so extravagant that the quad remix can do little but accent the textures. While the overall sound is superior to the stereo edition, the most marked variations are in the harmonies, and a handful of inconsequential instrumental flourishes — a slightly drawn-out (and seriously panned) fade to "Waters of March"; and more pronounced guitar and percussion during the Paul Simon reunion "My Little Town. "
Simon and Garfunkel: Bridge Over Troubled Water (Columbia CQ 30995)
Even if you've never owned a quadraphonic recording in your life, you probably have this one. Yet, what was once a mainstay of every thrift store in the land (and is probably still widely available for a matter of cents), is also one of the most beautiful sounding of all quad releases. For once the remixers concentrated on what was already on the record, rather than seeking out new and interesting elements to raise into the mix. That said, "Cecilia" is certainly more percussive than its stereo counterpart, with new wind elements as well, while "Baby Driver" may or may not be improved by the raucous saxophones.
Mike Oldfield: Boxed (Virgin VBOX 1)
Four LP box set comprising quad remixes of Oldfield's first three LPs Tubular Bells, Hergest Ridge, Ommadawn) plus a fourth set, Collaborations, featuring material cut with orchestral leader David Bedford among others. The remixes add little to Oldfield's already sumptuous recordings with the most telling departure being an alternate version of "The Sailor's Hornpipe" at the conclusion of Bells, featuring a spoken word passage from Master Of Ceremonies Viv Stanshall. Also worthy of investigation, however, is the remixed conclusion to side one of Ommadawn, where the crescendo of guitars builds to levels of palpable intensity. One of the most powerful passages of music in the modern rock idiom just grew even stronger.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon (Harvest Q4SHVL 804)
Even in stereo, this was one of the equipment demonstration albums of the age. The quad mix raises many elements to prominence, beginning with the hitherto mumbled spoken passages at the opening of side one and culminating, from a sonic point of view, with a newly deafening alarm clock sequence. The majority of quad enhancements are confined to the spoken and FX portions of the LP, but "Any Colour You Like" is a revelation on headphones,