Key To Music Grades

A - You will never be whole without it
B - Highly recommended
C - Flawed, but still pretty good
D - It's your money, not mine
F - Why couldn't this have been burned in Fahrenheit 451?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Who - Tommy (1969)












Yeah, I know. The classic Who album. The pinball wizard. The great rock opera. Whatever. This album had been so thoroughly propped up on an untouchable musical throne that, after hearing it for the first time, I thought I was a court jester being played for a codpiece fool. Seriously, this isn't a great album -- it's not terrible, either, but that's not saying much, is it? "Overture" is fantastic. I remember being quite excited to hear such a strong beginning, and then remember spending the next half hour waiting for "Pinball Wizard" to come on. Sure, "Sparks" and "Christmas" are fairly decent numbers, and "Underture" at least tries to be as good as "Overture," but the pomp was obviously draining what power the album possessed and pissing on it. Bad rock opera, bad. After the glorious "Pinball Wizard", it's merely more of the same little narrative vignettes and poor musicianship. "Go To The Mirror!" is a great tune though, as is "Tommy, Can you Hear Me?" I really enjoy "I'm Free" and that's about it. This is simply a monstrous album, long-winded and most certainly diluted. My good friend Borges once remarked that writing cumbersome novels was relatively wasteful in expressing an idea when it could easily been done in a few concise pages. Perhaps Pete decided he really really wanted to build a portcullis when all he needed was a privacy fence. Ditto for Thomas Mann and his stupid magic mountain. C+

8 comments:

Jeff said...

When I first heard this album, I had the same reaction you did. I thought there was a lot of filler that was there just to continue the story, but the more I listen to it the more I appreciate the music. I think even the songs I once labeled as filler are solid. It may be my favorite Who album.

By the way, I saw you are writing a review for In Utero in a few weeks or so. It's one of my favorite albums, I'll also post a review within the next few weeks or so. I'm hoping you appreciate the album more than Bob does...

David Amulet said...

This is what i call a great "bookend" album. It starts well and it ends strong. What's in between is mixed at best.

I much prefer Quadrophenia, which may not have the highest highs of Tommy ... but it certainly has nothing near the lows.

The Mad Hatter said...

Jeff,

I'd like to agree with you, but this album has undergone every litmus test known to man, and I still can't wrap myself around it. That said ...

David,

While I don't think Quadrophenia is the greatest album ever, especially by these guys, you're spot-on; its lows are not nearly as awful as on Tommy. It's a much stronger album, much more consistent.

Starrlight said...

The only Who album I feel the need to own is Who's Next.

The Mad Hatter said...

Starr,

Who's Next is one of the greatest albums ever. Everyone needs to own it. That said, the Who are pretty strong in my book. It's funny how their most ubiquitous is probably one of their worst.

dmarks said...

I love "Tommy", and have 3 versions of it now.

bob_vinyl said...

Tommy certainly has some showtuney lows that make it difficult in parts, but it's a pretty good early attempt at a rock concept album. Overall, it probably falls into being important more than great outside the context of history, but there are some great tunes on it. And at least it's better than The Wall.

The Mad Hatter said...

Bob,

Yeah, I can't deny its ambition. I think they greatly improved with Quadrophenia, though. That's clearly a better album.