This all-star production of Tommy, starring Roger Daltrey, Rod Stewart, Merry Clayton, Richie Havens, John Entwistle, Steve Winwood, Richard Harris, Ringo Starr, Maggie Bell, Graham Bell, Pete Townshend, and Sandy Denny, is a love-it or hate-it affair. Conceived by producer Lou Reizner, it initially got the endorsement of Townshend, who was present for all of the sessions (as well as singing one part), saw it at one point as a realization of some of what he'd visualized when he'd first written the piece (the Who's original version was recorded too hastily to treat the music as he would've liked, with more than three instruments). Others felt that it was an overblown, leaden interpretation, weighed down by the sheer mass of the 100-piece orchestra and the vast orchestration of the music (courtesy of Wil Malone). Originally released by Ode Records in a slipcased box with a full libretto, it became a million-seller, however, and was one of the more elaborately conceived and packaged rock releases of its era. Despite its elephantine dimensions, a certain coldness that comes with it, and some problems with the dynamic range that not even the CD solves entirely, this is a beautiful interpretation of the piece and several of the songs -- all of Daltrey's numbers are outstanding, and Clayton ("The Acid Queen"), Havens ("Eyesight to the Blind"), Stewart ("Pinball Wizard"), and Harris ("Go to the Mirror Boy") seldom, if ever, had better moments on record. The majestic conducting of David Measham lends itself well to "Welcome" and "See Me, Feel Me," while Malone's arrangements impart a few unexpected and beautiful timbral effects to the "Overture," "Amazing Journey," and "Sparks," as well as all of those numbers already mentioned. Rhino's CD reissue recreates the original booklet and is very cleanly mastered, though some work should have been done on the dynamic range, since the soft passages still sound a little too soft.
AllMusic Review by Bruce Eder
|Tommy, a rock opera|