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The Who - Tommy CD (album) cover

TOMMY

The Who

 

Proto-Prog

3.95 | 520 ratings

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Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer
3 stars As someone who is familiar with the Who from hearing their handful of hits on classic rock FM, it's a nice surprise to find Tommy, a thoughtfully composed and well played concept album. There's a lot to like here, and I think the reviews here on the Archives speak the truth in that one's enjoyment of this album will depend on taste and biography. For me, Tommy is a mixed experience.

It's at its most enjoyable when the band is playing ambitiously, such as on songs like "Overture," "Underture." These songs have dynamic energy and very skilled delivery. The band sounds great, and it's fun to hear music from the most classic or classic rock era so skillfully played; it's a vintage sound that stands the test of time. For me this is light-years more enjoyable than anything the Beatles ever put out.

I suppose it's not a coincidence for me that my favorite songs are both instrumentals, because I found the story, lyrics, and vocal inflection bland. This is definitely a "rock-opera" album, which is a euphemism for "musical with electric guitars." I do not like musicals, and the amount of storytelling that the Who crams into this album is cumbersome and distracting. The best concept albums allow their concept to drift in and out of the abstract, so that the listener can chose to be all in to the story, or enjoy songs individually without loosing much. You can't do that with Tommy, because every song is narrative.

The rave reviews of this album often have phrases like, "when I first heard this," or, "I remember when," which points strongly towards the high marks on this album coming from nostalgia. I don't have a problem with nostalgia, because it colors much of what we like and dislike, but because I am nostalgia-less when it comes to the Who, my experience listening to Tommy was one that grabbed hold of the great moments, and was left waiting during the downtime. The flow and momentum is too weird to be a straight ahead rock album, but not so well composed to be a true prog-rock album.

An album with that many highs and lows is worth a rock-solid 3 stars. Check it out if you like the Who's "greatest hits," or if you're interested in the development of the prog-rock movement.

Songwriting: 3 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 2 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Prog Leviathan | 3/5 |

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