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So close but yet so far...,
This review is from: Quadrophenia (Super Deluxe Edition) (Audio CD)Star ratings are always difficult, especially in cases such as this - do they apply to the core product or the additions and peripherals? Four stars for a work of the stature of Quadrophenia is simply plain wrong - it's a five star album through and through. So the four stars are for the overall super-deluxe-directors-bells & whistles box. But even with this it's difficult since it's not uniform - the various components all merit varying awards, so four is just an average for the whole thing.
So, the album's existence came in to being by being demoed, so what of the 25 tracks on the two CDs of demos? I suppose "interesting" is an apt description. Ten are for pieces that didn't make the final album, and you can hear why - they don't fit, but some are terrific songs in their own right - such as "Get Inside". (One minor grumble - the package directs you to Q-cloud- the accompanying website - to download additional tracks not on the CDs. However, when you go there you're met with a message stating that they aren't in fact available which is a tad disappointing.) The rest are like an artist's sketches made when planning and preparing a work - a mixture of try-outs and templates for the final piece. And much like artists' sketches, they are of interest, but you always come back to the final work.
And what a piece of work. The demos have the effect of really bringing into focus the majesty of the actual album delivered through the performances of all four members of the band. Right at the top of their respective games, they all play out of their skins - just compare the vocals between the two versions of Punk/The Punk & the Godfather. No disrespect to Pete's, but Daltrey just shreds it with great power and emotion and really demonstrates the often inadequately credited effect on the material of his vocal performances. It really is a case of all four playing lead - never better heard than on "The Real Me" which is almost violent in its intensity. This effect is enhanced because the quality of the remaster is superb, a wonderful dynamic range with exquisite clarity which just leaps out of the speakers. Five stars without a shadow of a doubt.
Five stars also for the 5.1 mix on the DVD. Nothing gimmicky, just wonderfully done and a fantastic experience - the wind and water swirling and crashing all around, Entwhistle's brass behind you, crunching guitars front and back, left and right. But here's the big grumble (and one that other reviewers have already voiced) - where's the rest? Half an album - that's all. I know Pete has already gone on record to say he regrets not having completed the whole album, but it's now too late - how will those of us who've already shelled-out over seventy quid get hold of it without further expenditure? And where's the video content? There isn't any. Another missed opportunity - surely there must be some live performance captured somewhere, if not the album in its entirety then some tracks (there's "Drowned" and "Bell Boy" from Charlton in '74 and previously released on Maximum R&B Live for starters). Also, there's really good interview footage with Townshend available to stream from the aforementioned website, why couldn't that have been included? (It's not like there's no space.) So, what there is is blinding, but there's so much more that could have been added...
...for example, remastered vinyl of the album for completists/audiophiles. It would have made a fabulous addition - both practical and aesthetic (more than the 7" that is included) - and even adding a tenner to the cost probably wouldn't have affected sales (if you're going to fork-out £80 chances are you'd stretch ten quid more).
But that said, on the subject of aesthetics the whole package is a touchy-feely dream. Robust and substantial are the words that best describe it. The paper stock is of the best quality, Pete's essay, studio diary and commentary on the demos excellently written and of great interest to anyone loving this music, and all the original album cover content there intact (the photo book, lyrics and so on). The other bits and bobs (posters, lyric sheets, photos) are fine but hardly essential, but the whole is a great item, one that you'd want out on display, not hidden away from sight.
So, Quadrophenia is a five star work of art, and whilst elements of the package are truly superb, it's unfortunate that there are missed opportunities that had they been included would have rendered this artifect definitive, and the benchmark for all future reissues of classic albums.