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The Who - Tommy CD (album) cover

TOMMY

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

4.02 | 355 ratings

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thehallway
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Apart from being historically significant as the first "rock opera" (or at least the first good one), Tommy is a beautiful and personal album that stands the test of time as being warm and easy to listen to. This is really quite rare for gargantuan, conceptual double-albums, and although some songs don't stand well on their own or are simply boring, the majority of the record is a consistent pleasure to listen to.

Pete Townshend is famous for his mastery of chords, and certainly every composition on Tommy is based around chord sequences, rather than the riffs that other guitarists of the time were known for. And they are great chord sequences, probably on a similar level to a band like Yes; innovative yet simple-sounding, and always optimistic (there are very few songs in a minor key on Tommy). The songs are built around Townshend's guitar of course, and both the acoustic and electric get put in the spotlight (not really any solos though). Piano, organ and some horn from John Entwistle get put to good use as well, although the sound of the album isn't particularly varied. I think the echoey drums and vocals get a bit tiring by the fourth side, but it's the storyline that keeps you interested.

Deaf, dumb and blind until the end, Tommy is not the most interesting character in the world, and most of the album just describes his growing up.... but in such as fantastic and dramatic way. They get it even better in the film version. The philosophical and spiritual undertones of the piece are perhaps cliché now, but certainly add weight to the story and carry a message, even if it's an obvious or immature message. I see ties with Plato's cave and the misleading nature of our senses. What a surprise when the boy without senses reaches enlightenment through pinball! It's good fun if nothing else, and although Townshend has dissed the song Pinball Wizard in the past, I find it to be a necessary and relevant part of the album's charming, loving nature (which so many subsequent rock operas have lacked).

Overall, Tommy is kind of unique in being such a literal, yet totally economic album. There's no big orchestrations (in 1969 anyway....) and everything sounds rather modest and thought-out. The vocal harmonies are a dream on tracks like 'Cousin Kevin' and 'We're Not Gonna Take It'! Of course, the album has received all the love it deserves, so there is little more to add.... other than, don't expect anything too drastically progressive. I think that's obvious anyway.

thehallway | 4/5 |

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