Sound — 4
It has been previously said that The Who's 1973 studio album "Quadrophenia" is one of the band's most important records, as well as an album that no rock advocate's collection should be without. It's perhaps for this reason that Pete Townshend's decision to revisit the original pressing and put a new spin on it more than four decades since it's original release is surprising. In the eyes of some dedicated followers of The Who, this would be the same as David Gilmour wanting to re-record "Dark Side of the Moon" or Jimmy Page putting a new wave feel on the debut Led Zeppelin record while claiming their motives were backed by creative influences. That being said, what we do find on Townshend's newly released "Classic Quadrophenia" effort is something that dedicated fans should be able to readily appreciate, but is by no means a casual listen.
Songs such as the opening "I Am the Sea" and the originally anthemic "The Real Me" have been transformed entirely into classical music epics that almost entirely isolate themselves from the original rock attitude of the indigenous recordings. This particularly damages the upbeat energy of the latter, and the operatic vocal stylings of Alfie Boe, who most accurately leaves the listener feeling as though he's listening to the "Quadrophenia" album from an alternate universe that was written as an opera, doesn't exactly help matters. This is as close to a reimagining as one could get, but at the same time it's also one of the largest downsides to "Classic Quadrophenia."
What was initially an album that left the listener actively paying attention to the proceedings has since been reduced to a compilation of songs that blandly mesh together. "The Punk and the Godfather" effortlessly alternates into "I'm One," in that the symphonic arrangements courtesy of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Boe's approach don't do the original songs justice and lose any differentiating sense. One of the album's few saving graces is the introduction of punk rocker Billy Idol on "I've Had Enough," which is inconsequently about the point where this listener almost lost any remaining interest in this release. Idol's distinctive snarl is a proper homage of Roger Daltrey's soulful approach and brings enough of his own character into the fold before we return to the methodology of the preceding tracks. Idol does reappear for a few more redeeming contributions on "Sea and Sand" and "Bell Boy," however three semi-enjoyable songs just isn't enough to keep a continuously disappointing effort afloat.
Lyrics — 5
Returning to a previous point, Alfie Boe is in no way a terrible vocalist; in fact, his distinctive approach fits the opera genre rather well. It's when Townshend attempts to unify Boe's singing atop Roger Daltrey's lyrics and rework the entire composition of The Who's "Quadrophenia" to fit an orchestra arrangement that it all heads downhill rapidly. Billy Idol's appearance is a readily accepted one, and that isn't because he is a better singer than Boe; it's because Idol taps into the raw emotion that made the original recordings so important in the first place. Briefly touching upon the lyrical content, the performers don't appear to stray away from any of the original pennings here.
Overall Impression — 4
While it may have seemed like a good idea initially, what we find on Pete Townshend's "Classic Quadrophenia" is about the musical equivalent of when a toddler attempts to put together a 500 piece puzzle himself. Sure, there you may be able to recognize some areas of the scene from the box, and it in no way means there was a lack of effort in the process, but the end result is bound to look like an unorganized mess. There are some moments where Townshend's latest installment begins to take shape (largely due to the credit of Billy Idol), but in the end we're left with a rather disappointing offering.