Hotly anticipated as one of the albums of the year, Pete Townshend's orchestral reworking of Quadrophenia is released on 8th June, whilst the live show premieres at the Royal Albert Hall on 5 July. Later shows in Cologne, Munich and Vienna have also been confirmed for October while a further show is rumoured but not confirmed.
As we know, Alfie Boe takes on the role originated by Roger Daltrey and at least according to Townshend, the two are similar in their approaches to performing; Townshend says that they both "give every performance their all". The live performances will be a test of stamina for Alfie as he features on nearly all the tracks so will be on stage for virtually the entire show.
Townshend says that he never thought he'd hear a classical tenor singing his songs and for them to work so well. The fact that they do sound so good is partly down to Alfie's majestic voice but also to the outstanding orchestration by Rachel Fuller. The score sits so well with the original music that you almost can't believe it's taken 40 years to happen. On the face of it, it's an idea that shouldn't work but the faithful interpretation by Fuller ensures it works spectacularly well. The epic scale of a rock opera lends itself to be adapted for opera voices and the classical world and although the tale of disaffected youth at the heart of the story would seem to be at odds with the classical world, it actually gives the story a whole new punch and sounds totally new and fresh. Again, this approach is quite deliberate on the part of Townshend as he hopes younger audiences will come to appreciate classical works more, a view that Alfie must share, given his views on what constitutes good music.
When I spoke to him a few weeks ago, Alfie mentioned that some parts of the role were "trickier than others, mainly due to the emotion behind the words." Alfie has also said that the role is "harder than opera, but thrilling to sing". Nothing controversial about that statement!
Thrilling to sing - I can happily report that the album is also thrilling to listen to! Alfie's vocals sound as if they were recorded live, even though they were recorded in Pete Townshend's studio. Alfie alluded to this as "flowing, being right in the groove" and it shows. The album is totally the Alfie Boe show and hopefully will propel Alfie further into the mainstream public consciousness. Most of the promotional material has been built around Pete Townshend's Classic Quadrophenia as it's his project but after the album release and the live shows, I would expect to see a much wider appreciation for Alfie. This would seem to be backed up by the huge amount of appreciative comments on social media following Alfie's recent appearance on Sunday Night at the Palladium.
I thoroughly recommend this album - right from the outset, it reaches out and grabs your attention and holds it all the way through. With most albums and some operas / shows, there is usually one or two songs that you skip when playing. So far, I haven't found one I felt the need to skip - all of it is sublime. There are two stand out tracks that I was lucky enough to hear Alfie sing live on his recent UK tour, I'm One and Love Reign O'er Me, the latter being the final track. It is also shows off Alfie's soaring vocals to perfection - a marriage made in heaven:
Classic Quadrophenia is released by Deutsche Grammophon on 8 June.
This review first appeared on www.thoughtsofjustafan.com.