Stephen Chapman

The second incarnation of my blog

Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #96 The Who – Tommy

Based on the top 100 albums in Rolling Stone magazine’s top 500, I have set myself the challenge of hearing and appraising each album. I hope to be surprised and educated along the way.

Number 96 is The Who’s rock opera Tommy.  It was released as a double album telling a loose story about a “deaf, dumb and blind kid” and was the first musical work to be billed overtly as a rock opera. Released in 1969, the album was mostly composed by Pete Townshend.

The album contains some classic Who songs including I’m Free and See Me Feel Me with Pinball Wizard being a standout of course (though Pete Townsend is said to dislike it), but it feels wrong to pick individual songs in a package like this.

What surprised me was how the album was so accessible. Unlike some “musicals”, there wasn’t a huge amount of filler and the music is quite light in places, despite the dark subject matter. Despite being a double album, it doesn’t feel long. I had partly expected the album to feel like a collection of songs, but they all tie-in well and the instrumental parts help bind the album together.

I’ve seen the film and the stage musical of Tommy and the stage show was far better than the movie. The Ken Russell film doesn’t help the music, burying it in a rather over the top production, so I would recommend sticking with the album.

The performance by The Who, as to be expected, is highly professional with a thundering melodic bass, crazy drums that seem to fit perfectly and some skillful guitar playing. Then you get to Roger Daltrey’s vocals that seem to be at the limit of his range all of the time without ever faltering.  The band play brilliantly throughtout, the vocals from all are great and the album a surprisingly enjoyable find.

My rating: 7/10

Listen to the album via Spotify here.

See the Top 100 here.

One comment on “Rolling Stone top 100 albums: #96 The Who – Tommy

  1. Raybeard
    December 6, 2013

    Don’t know why, but unable to play any of this – and, alarmingly, it’s not going to be the only one. Pity, because I only know it from the Ken Russell film (where the word ‘overblown’ would be an under-statement), which is entertaining enough on its own terms but not the best medium in which to appreciate the music. Will keep trying to access it through other means.

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This entry was posted on September 13, 2013 by in music and tagged , , .

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