Wednesday, July 1, 2015
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: PETE TOWNSHEND'S CLASSIC QUADROPHENIA
The heck with Tommy; Pete Townshend's best rock opera is Quadrophenia. The story is better, the music is better, it actually makes sense. Tommy was first, and had Pinball Wizard, one hell of a stand-alone rocker, and that has given it more status over the years, that's all.
What Quadrophenia has is a fabulous musical score, and that's what Townshend was keen on promoting with this project. Aging and knowing it, he plans on turning his major pieces (Quad, Tommy, Lifehouse) into works for orchestra, definitive editions. First, he brought in his significant other, orchestrator Rachel Fuller, to compose a new score. Then, it was recorded with the full Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as a large choir. Finally, lead vocals were added.
About the score: it's really wonderful, especially the longer, instrumental pieces where you get to hear the terrific, sweeping melodies Townshend created in the first place. These truly do lend themselves to orchestral treatment, and lose none of the rock and swagger.
Now, speaking of rock and swagger, I really don't understand the full dynamic of Townshend's relationship with Roger Daltry, but nobody sings these songs like him. Here, someone suggested opera singer Alfie Boe would be a good choice, but often he's just too mannered. Using Phil Daniels, who starred as Jimmy in the film version to sing the Dad roles was just some sentimental casting, and his voice is unappealing. Billy Idol comes back as the Bell Boy, a role he's done before, which is fine. But really, if Townshend had wanted the definitive version with orchestra, there's no reason Daltry shouldn't be doing it.