Tommy by The Who

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Tommy by The Who
Tommy by The Who

Album Released: 1969

Tommy ::: Artwork

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2.It's A Boy2:07
4.Amazing Journey3:25
6.Eyesight To The Blind (The Hawker)2:15
8.Cousin Kevin4:03
9.The Acid Queen3:31
11.Do You Think It's Alright?0:24
12.Fiddle About1:26
13.Pinball Wizard3:50
14.There's A Doctor0:25
15.Go To The Mirror!3:50
16.Tommy Can You Hear Me?1:35
17.Smash The Mirror1:20
19.Miracle Cure0:10
20.Sally Simpson4:10
21.I'm Free2:40
23.Tommy's Holiday Camp0:57
24.We're Not Gonna Take It6:45


This is Townshend's first rock opera, and whilst he gets the opera part right, he's a bit wide of the mark on the rock aspect.

Fans complain about the disjointed nature of the plot here, but if you've ever been to a regular opera, you'll know the program often contains synopses like 'Fine della Città - having observed Formica Fischio in the ballroom with Bambola Albero - decides it is time to avenge his father's death, and proceeds to prepare a large pie while singing the aria "La luna gioca i tamburi negligentemente"'.

So Townshend really captures a lot of the elements of opera, from the absurd plot to the repeating musical themes (not just the obvious ones like "See Me Feel Me", but also little touches like reprising the "Pinball Wizard" chords in the coda of "I'm Free").

Another vital operatic principle that comes through is that the music must support the emotional value of the libretto - listen to the raging rhythms of "Go to the Mirror", the lilting melody of "Welcome", the unresolved harmony relaying the worry in the chorus of "Christmas".

The overture however, is more reminiscent of Broadway shows, with its (admittedly well-done) medley of tunes rather than the more delicately-crafted theme-and-variations typical of opera.

Nonetheless, Townshend has done about as well as can be expected of a first-time operatic composer. Of course, most operas run two to three hours, but this one is plenty long enough as it stands (in fact, the instrumentals "Sparks" and "Underture" are questionable - this is an opera, not a ballet, right?).

Some of the rock writing however, sounds under-developed. "1921" could be a great song - it has a lovely melody and a touching sentiment - but it veers off too quickly into its second section. "We're Not Gonna Take It" - a song title made for rock and roll if ever there was one - is a bit too cheerful, of all things (substitute Twisted Sister's version and you've got the right attitude).

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by Reviewer: Steve Knowlton (blogging at Steve's Record Reviews)

A complete and total mistake, Tommy is an album whose existence as a bad influence I utterly despise, it being a pretentious load of complete nonsense, and - last but not least - a tough album to listen to all at once.

So why do I give the album a good rating? Well, there just happens to be some very fine, even great songs found herein: "Pinball Wizard". "We're Not Going to Take It", "1921", "Acid Queen", Entwistle's sick "Cousin Kevin", "Smash the Mirror", maybe even two or three more.

So the album works as all albums work at a basic level, as a collection of good songs - The Who continue to make musical advances and broaden their scope, though I do wish they would've included at least one numbingly loud feedback-laden rocker in the old Who style to shake things up.

Some of the songs I've mentioned above are of Townshend's first rank. The problem is that I find it frankly impossible to listen to this album in one sitting. Setting aside the filler written to move the plot along for a moment, the main problem is that every song seems to be written in the same damn key (E, I think), which makes Tommy one of the most numbingly monotonous albums I've ever made myself wade through.

The Who also endlessly repeat several musical motifs ("Sparks" *groan!*) - did concepts like variation never occur to them? I mean, c'mon Pete, if you're going to compose a double album, it well behooves you to come up with more than five or six chord progressions. And like I said, the songs aren't all that consistent, such that the ones I haven't mentioned generally aren't very good. But still, the great stuff almost makes up for it. Almost.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

Ignoring its silly plot, Tommy is an incredible feat - a double-album with really only about 20 minutes worth of musical ideas, with the opening "Overture" containing most of them.

Luckily however, there's enough variation to keep the album consistently entertaining. Hit singles abound - "Pinball Wizard", "I'm Free", and the see me, feel me bit that pops up every now and then, along with the great instrumental "Overture".

The problems with the album include a pointless 10-minute reprise of "Overture" and "Sparks" combined (called "Underture"), a really annoying Entwistle song called "Fiddle About", and some dull material near the end - "Sally Simpson", "Welcome", and about half of "We're Not Gonna Take It". There's also a bunch of stupid connecting bits, but they're short enough to be ignored, except for the aforementioned "Fiddle About".

Musically, the album would be much improved if it were condensed to one LP, made up of Overture/It's a Boy, You Didn't Hear It, Amazing Journey/Sparks, Eyesight to the Blind, The Acid Queen, Christmas, Pinball Wizard, Go to the Mirror Boy, I'm Free, and We're Not Gonna Take It. Then add the reissue's bonus tracks The Seeker, Heaven and Hell, and probably some live numbers.

That limited selection of tracks may not make much sense conceptually, but at least it doesn't have a bunch of filler. Oh, one last note: avoid the film! It's awful.

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by Reviewer: Cole Reviews (blogging at Cole Reviews)