The Boxing Lesson

Box sets grow up and out

The Boxing Lesson

The Who

Tommy: Super Deluxe Edition (Geffen/UMe)

Even in its heart-of-the-atom demo, "Amazing Journey" zips through the British Invasion's primordial chaos to ground zero of rock & roll's original sin: the concept album. The Beatles' revolutionary lurch into modernity, 1967's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, turned the era Technicolor by illustrating the power of thematic encapsulation. Six months earlier, closing second LP A Quick One, another super-fab English foursome invented the rock opera on the six-part suite of its title track. Three years later, the Who's Tommy notched together 24 tracks into a 75-minute narrative like actual rocket science. "Deaf dumb and blind boy/He's in a quiet vibration land/Strange as it seems, his musical dreams/Ain't quite so bad." Thus hatches the genre's Andrew Lloyd Webber, Pete Townshend, whose mouthpiece Roger Daltrey emotes over an instrumental trio hurling sonic boulders like deities in an Olympian thunderstorm. Townshend's demos in this 4-CD, vinyl-size hard case with an immersive 80-page backstory don't match their counterparts on 2011's super-deluxe "director's cut" of Quadrophenia, but the remastered double-LP floats in the space between your ears like 3-D audio. Moreover, a bonus live "bootleg" assembles the entire musical from the ensuing tour definitively, a seismic shaking all over that makes the studio version suddenly sound like demos.

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