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The Who - Tommy CD (album) cover


The Who



3.93 | 519 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars The Who - Tommy (1969)

Extra, extra - read all about it! Extra!

I recently re-discovered this brilliant rock-opera, the only album of The Who I've seriously listened to. When thinking of it, my father bought it when I was about thirteen years old and I turned out to be one of the few albums we both really liked. I would even go as far as picking up this cd from the living room when my parents weren't at home. Years later I own a double vinyl with all the great artwork in very good shape.

When I looked at the page with reviews of 'Tommy' I was first pretty amazed by the fact this album was recorded and released in 1969. Such an amazing sound for such an early album! The Who had been a famous hard rock outfit (with and excellent live reputation!) before this album and 'Tommy' is the result of a dramatic change of direction. To be precisely: the album is almost completely played without electric guitars, it's a double album (rare at the time), it's a concept album with a chronological story in which all songs are important AND the band suddenly has progressive rock instrumental passages/compositions. For those who haven't heard the album; the idea of an acoustic rock opera might not sound to thrilling, but I can ensure the album really rock's and The Who seriously progressed the way the acoustic guitar can be used for progressive purposes. Furthermore, the sometimes orchestral influenced drums of Keith Moon are a real treat.

Now, I can tell a lot about the great instrumentation and progressive parts, but the the real attraction of The Who's Tommy remains the memorable song-writing and the perfect vocal performances. Here you'll find a list of 25 tracks with at least 15 extremely good and sticky songs you'll never forget. To name a few; 1921, Amazing Journey, Cousin Kevin, Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Sensations.. the list goes on and on. Among the other 10 tracks there are some great instrumental's and short songs that are essential for the story-line. Underture is brilliant 10-minute instrumental track with very progressive and bombastic composition. Harmonically challenging I might add.

The story-line itself is quite interesting, but it's a bit overshadowed by the amazing song- writing of the individual songs. The story is about a boy (Tommy) who sees his father (who just came home from the war) killing a man who slept with his mother. After that he is told; 'You didn't see it, you didn't hear it, you won't tell nothing it all - what you know is the truth'. After that Tommy becomes (apparently) deaf, dumb and blind and he looses interest in everything, except for looking in his the mirror and playing pinball (in which he becomes the best of the world). His family keeps on searching for a magical cure, but in the mean while his wicked uncle Earney and his bulleying cousin Kevin do some pretty 'strange things'. Will he be cured? Better listen to the album yourself!

Conclusion. This is truly a phenomenal record for it's time of release and great leap forward for the concept album in general. Many progressive bands would be influenced by this original and memorable take on the concept named rock-opera. I love the sound and compositions of the acoustic guitars & drums, the great song-writing and the overall result (which in case of a concept album can be much more then the sum of it's individual parts). Though this album is rightfully listed as proto-prog, I must admit I think this album has full- blown innovative mind-set and it's played by masterful musicians. It's a masterpiece for our beloved genre, so I can't resist giving it the full reward.

friso | 5/5 |


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