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The Who - Tommy CD (album) cover

TOMMY

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

3.97 | 547 ratings

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Sean Trane
Special Collaborator
Prog Folk
2 stars Maybe The Who's most over-rated album, Tommy was indeed a bit of a revolution back then. Even if they weren't the first group to do a "rock opera" (The Pretty Things were first) or a concept album (rock opera are a pompous title for concept albums), one of the first things that comes to mind is how Tommy hasn't aged well. Aside from the superb artwork (maybe the group's best in that regard), this album is plagued by the (aspiring) ambitions of Townsend, craving for recognition (which he will get) and wishing for My Generation's now-embarrassing lyrics to disappear from the public's collective mind. And the album's great critical reception (not to mention its commercial success) will push Townsend to become even more ambitious and create better works in the future on the capital built from his Tommy experiences.

No need to do a rundown of the album's tracks, but aside from Overture and Underture (both good but not fantastic, and showing Townsend's will to become as bombastic as Emerson), I am no fan of the first vinyl disc, as it sounds just too messy, with too many ideas tried and not expanded. The second vinyl disc fares better (IMHO), but it is also loaded with so many classics that it cannot do otherwise, really!! Aside Pinball Wizard and Can You Hear Me, the album's peak comes at the dramatic finale with We're Not Gonna Take It/See Me Feel Me/ Listening To You closer, which no progheads should escape liking, even if it has been overplayed throughout the years.

Indeed, Tommy is a historical album, but it is also dated. I may sound harsh towards this album, but I really think that this album overshadows somewhat their other works (Quadrophenia is so much better as a "rock opera"), and Ken Russell's movie (which I think is very noisy and close to atrocious) has unduly served the album's cause, to the point that the movie's Pinball Wizard with Elton John's singing gets the preference in terms of airplay, which I find a shame. If anything, Tommy served a bit as training ground for Townsend's future projects, Lifehouse (that will never see the light of day, but the remains are in Who's Next) and Quadrophenia (which will also get a movie treatment, this time serving the cause much better). So as a blueprint, it is not nearly as essential as many classic rockers would have you believe!

Sean Trane | 2/5 |

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