I'll confess: I'm not the world's biggest Who fan - I've always felt that in the rock pantheon, they are somewhat overrated. I love the early singles, but find much of their work contrived, overly clinical and lacking in visceral flow, while as stylists, the band as instrumentalists have often left me cold. These comments are simply a reflection of my personal taste.
However, I am a big fan of 'Quadrophenia', believing that it belongs in every serious collection of Rock music and I've always enjoyed its scope, visionary quality, audacity and - as I'm a big reader (and published literary critic) - its story, which for me is an iconic piece of 'youth culture' fiction. Also, as an example of that much-maligned form, the concept album, it's a blinder.
This will not be a detailed audiophile comparison style review, as I don't feel I know the album as well as serious Who fans will. I've played it a fair bit over the years, but it's not in my top 20 albums as it were. However, I'll state unequivocally now that I believe that this BRA (Blu Ray Audio) should be regarded as the reference version of the album.
The Pure Audio series of BRAs have come in for a fair amount of stick - a lot of it deserved - from Hi Def enthusiasts, as they have so often promised so much, but delivered little. Common complaints have been lack of surround mixes (quite right in most cases), minimal menu screening and immediate programme start before you can even select which audio option you prefer to hear and so on. Plus, it's virtually impossible to find BRAs in high street shops. So far in this series, I've purchased the first VU album (stereo only, but excellent), the sole Sex Pistols album (not bad) and Deep Purple's 'Made In Japan' (nice, but no 5.1 mix!!!). Altogether, I own about 50 surround/hi-def discs on various formats (not including Japanese SHMCDs and Japanese Blu Spec 2 cds), so I'm a bit of a hi-res/surround veteran.
I'm delighted to say that Pure Audio have, with this release, produced the best disc of theirs I've heard yet. The disc has a proper top menu (there are four audio options including the original 1973 stereo version) and best of all, when you select your preferred audio setting and select play, the disc has a PROPER screen-saver, which means that if you have a plasma TV like me, there is no risk of screenburn from a static image -instead, the disc slideshow-fades through the iconic black and white photographs from the booklet we all know and love from the original vinyl and CD issues of the album. So while the music plays, Jimmy's 'story' unfolds before our eyes. This is a much welcome improvement from a static image for an entire album, or a picture change for each track.
The sound is, quite simply, fantastic. Beautifully clear, with plenty of space in the soundscape, no distortion (other than that which is part of the electric instruments' tone colours), enough panning to satisfy those of us who like this novelty (what's the point of 5.1 for rock music without a bit of these dynamic effects?) and nice separation of the instruments. Fundamentally, if you like this album, you must own this version. In fact, I'd urge every rock fan with a BD and a 5.1 home theatre kit to buy this disc. Great stuff!
Pure Audio now have quite a lot to live up to with the raising of the bar this disc represents for their series. I'm inclined to think the disc is this good because of Pete Townsend's insistence on a high quality product for fans, so if so, thanks Pete and as for Pure Audio, you guys now have to continue issuing high-standard discs like this.
Some words about Amazon's handling of this release. As I write (26/6/14), it's been impossible to buy this disc from Amazon for nearly a week, if not longer. This is because they made a pigs' ear of the product listing by merging reviews from the different versions of the 2014 'Quadrophenia Live' issued on the same day as this BRA in multiple formats. The current picture of the product here on Amazon shows a standard blue plastic blu ray case, which this disc does NOT come in - it comes in a plain, transparent blu ray case with the legend 'High Fidelity Pure Audio' on the front, as is common to every release in this series. Some customer has complained, saying the item is not what they were led to believe it was, but despite Amazon's cross-posting of reviews for other products, this is the fault of the buyer in my opinion - and it has meant that other customers have not been able to buy this item while the dispute is investigated by amazon. My suspicion is that the use of the word 'widescreen' has led someone to assume this is a BD video. Well, the video material (the slideshow I refer to above) IS widescreen. Shame that just because some people can't understand that a BRA is different to a BD video, buyers have to go elsewhere...but then Amazons' use of an image that uses a blu case muddied the waters (this appeared AFTER the disc was released).
Consequently, I bought my copy from third party affliliate sellers Tracksounds-es, who delivered the disc within 2 days for a very reasonable postage charge. Amazon, sort yourselves out, please!
The above aside, I'll sum up again and say : this is a big leap forward for Pure Audio and all Who fans will love this version.
Stephen E Andrews, author, '100 Must Read Books For Men'