Artist: The Who and The London Symphony Orchestra
Album: Tommy (Remastered)
Label: Ode Sounds & Visuals
Release Date: 09/11/2015
Translating a rock opera (Tommy, 1969) into a symphonic masterpiece (Tommy, 1972) is quite the challenge, even when involving such a masterfully constructed concept album as the Who’s Tommy. With over 100 instrumentalists of the London Symphony Orchestra and a little help from some friends—including Ringo Starr, Rod Stewart, Steve Winwood, Merry Clayton and Richie Havens—Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry reimagine an epic story into an ambitious double-album collaboration. The differences are significant and some renditions are genius—like the beautifully haunting choruses of the Chamber Choir in “Overture”—while others fall short of the initial ’69 disc. The volume the orchestra reaches with a range of strings, horns and percussion takes build-ups and drops to new levels, like in “Tommy, Can You Hear Me,” which gave me goosebumps with the ending’s fade. While psychedelic “Acid Queen” comes alive with Clayton’s gypsy vocals, famed theme song “Pinball Wizard” lacks that rock n roll punch, and the wailing harmonies that make it raw and energetic. Ringo shines in his role as sexually abusive Uncle Ernie of “Fiddle About” and “Tommy’s Holiday Camp,” while Daltry’s embodiment of Tommy sails to new heights, with emotional orchestral and vocal ad-libs, particularly in “I’m Free” and “See Me, Feel Me.” Listening to this remastered disc, released in 2015 at a 24/192 bitrate on vinyl, was a significant update from an earbud-channeled digital compression. While the sonic quality has jumped into the 21st century, the album artwork keeps things classic with the original 1972 packaging.
– Kalyn Oyer