The Who – Quadrophenia (MCA, 1973)
Quadrophenia was The Who’s second attempt at a long form concept album after the famous Tommy from 1969. It tells the story of a young man growing up in working class England during the Mods and Rockers gang troubles of the early to mid 1960’s – an important time when the band was just coming into it’s own and had it’s first hits.
The Who were one of the finest rock and roll bands in terms of sheer musical talent and while they didn’t always live up to their potential, this record makes the most of their assets. The late John Entwhistle in particular stands out with his pulsing bass lines leading the charge in much of the music. Synthesizers are also used tastefully and well as an arranging tool to augment the bands sound. This was a new and emerging technology in music at the time and the band took full advantage of it. Keith Moon is all over the music of course, with his surf-influenced drumming propelling the music along.
The music alternates between songs with vocals and instrumental interludes and some of the songs rank amongst the finest performances of the band’s career. “The Real Me” blasts out with some of the most forceful bass playing heard in rock music to that time, while “Sea and Sand” and “I’m One” showcase Pete Townshend’s understanding of street youth culture and songwriting mechanics. “Love Reign O’er Me” is one of the ultimate vocal showcases for Roger Daltery’s powerful, almost operatic singing.
The Who may have become a parody of themselves during the past few years with the endless reunion tours, Entwhistle’s senseless death and Townshend’s embarrassing legal troubles, but this record proves that they were once a formidable band, capable of very powerful music.
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