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THE VAULTS / CD REISSUES

Individual Moments Shine on Remastered 'Quadrophenia'

July 20, 1996|ROBERT HILBURN

**** THE WHO "Quadrophenia" MCA

Eight out of 10 Who fans will almost surely name "Tommy" as the classic British band's more enthralling rock opera, but that doesn't mean you should ignore the recommendations of the two who vote for "Quadrophenia."

Though "Quadrophenia" has long been overshadowed by the greater commercial success and more accessible story line of its predecessor, Pete Townshend's sprawling 1973 work explored the contradictions and insecurities of youth with a sometimes breathtaking ambition.

From the unsettling rush of waves at the start of the album to the final cleansing rain, "Quadrophenia" was not only a salute to England's Mod generation, but also Townshend's attempt to capture in music the conflicting personalities of the four Who members themselves.

This remixed and remastered version of the original double album is being released in association with its staging last month by the surviving members of the Who at the Prince's Trust concert in London and additional shows this week at New York's Madison Square Garden.

Where the work's scope is what impressed you when the album was first released, it's the individual moments that stand out now. "I'm One," for instance, once seemed just a 2 1/2-minute speck in the sprawl, but it now stands as a beautifully compact description of the issues of youthful self-doubt and ultimate idealism that were at the core of much of the Who's magnificent music.

The young man in the song wants to be accepted by his peers so badly that he tries his best to be just like them, starting with clothing:

Where do you get

Those blue, blue jeans

Faded, patched, secret so tight?

Where do you get

That walk, oh, so lean?

Your shoes and your shirts all just right

In the end, however, he realizes that his individuality is worth preserving and he declares: You'll all see . . . I'm the one.

Typical of the sensitivity and craft of the album, "I'm One" underscores why Townshend and the Who remain one of rock's legitimate treasures.

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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