The Who Quadrophenia (Polydor) Pete Townshend's third attempt at an extended concept work received a lukewarm response from critics and audiences at the time, but has been belatedly recognised as one of the Who's strongest albums, and as one of the classics of the rock era. Seventeen songs tell the story of a few depressing days in the life of a teenager called Jimmy during the 1960s mods and rockers era in Britain. As with Tommy, to which it was inevitably compared, Townshend used ideas derived from pop culture to explore larger spiritual themes. Its predecessor, Lifehouse - a work that was still 'in progress' more than 30 years later - had been incomprehensible to the rest of the band, and wound up being stripped down to a handful of its best songs for Who's Next, arguably the Who's most consistent studio album. Still not over that disappointment, Townshend opted to take a dictatorial line with Quadrophenia. It's the only album recorded by the classic Who lineup of Townshend, Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Keith Moon, for which he wrote all the songs. To Daltrey and Entwistle's annoyance, he also assumed sole responsibility for mixing it and played most of the instruments, using the band members almost like session players. Townshend's orchestra of synthesisers provides Quadrophenia's dominant instrumental sound but - astonishingly, given the mutinous atmosphere of the recording sessions - all four members deliver career-peak performances. The Wagnerian grandeur of Townshend's arrangements is powerfully backed up by Moon's thunderous kit and timpani work, and by Entwistle's punchy brass parts. On bass guitar 'The Ox' played with sweeping melodic invention, and he laid down the virtuosic obligato on Can You See the Real Me - perhaps the finest instrumental performance of his career and certainly his best since My Generation - in a single improvised take. Daltrey had hit his stride vocally singing Tommy live, and here maintains the form he had exhibited on Who's Next. Townshend's synthesiser work was, along with Stevie Wonder's, easily the most innovative and effective of the era, and unlike most of the synth-drenched prog rock extravaganzas of the early 70s, Quadrophenia still doesn't sound dated. Townshend's slashing rhythm guitar playing is as to the point as ever, and he also plays several of the best solos he has ever committed to record. Drowned, the hit single 5.15 and the anthemic finale Love Reign O'er Me remain staples of the Who's live act to this day. The problem at the time was that much of the rest of the album proved impossible to reproduce live with the available technology. After encountering seemingly insurmountable problems with the backing tapes during the first few attempts to perform the work live in its entirety, Quadrophenia was relegated to a handful of songs scattered throughout the set. A film of the story was made in 1979 with three undistinguished new songs and without many of the original tracks but, in 1996, the surviving Who members - Daltrey, Townshend and, at that time, Entwistle, who sadly died in 2002 - finally took a second shot at touring the album. Images projected on to a screen over the stage helped clarify the story, which Daltrey had enraged Townshend in early performances by laboriously explaining to the audience. The old tape problems were solved by employing supporting musicians to handle some of the parts, and by the use of new sequencing technology which had finally caught up with the demands of the music. Rock opera or oratorio, concept album, song cycle - call it what you will, the Who's most fully realised extended work was definitely ahead of its time.