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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, March 12, 1996
Audio DVD, Original recording remastered, Extra tracks, April 27, 2004
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The Who's defining, breakthrough concept album - a full-blown rock opera about a deaf, dumb and blind boy that launched the band to international superstardom, written almost entirely by Pete Townshend is now available as a new LIMITED EDITION Super Deluxe version that that includes 4 audio discs, an 80 page hardback book and a poster.
The audio features the original album re-mastered along with a wealth of previously unheard material in the form of 20 demos from Pete Townshend's archive and also a full live performance of Tommy from 1969 taken from tapes that infamously Townshend asked the band's sound engineer to burn. 18 of the previously unheard and thought to be long lost live tracks are taken from a live show at the Capital Theatre, Ottowa, Canada on October the 15th 1969. Three others, 'I'm Free,' 'Tommy's Holiday Camp,' and 'We're Not Gonna Take It' were lost due to tape reels being changed during the show so are taken from later shows of the same era. As discussed at length in Pete Townshend's autobiography the tapes were all supposed to be destroyed but were kept by long time Who sound man Bob Pridden despite Pete's instructions.
The Super Deluxe box also features a 5.1 mix featuring the complete album remixed in surround sound on new Hi Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray format.
The hardback 80-page full-colour book features rare period photos, memorabilia, a 20,000-word essay by legendary Who aficionado Richard Barnes and a rare facsimile Tommy poster housed in a hard-back deluxe slip-case.
(Disc 1) The original album digitally re-matsered in HD.
(Disc 2) The demos and out-takes. Features 25 tracks (20 previously-unreleased) from Pete Townshend's archive. Tracks 1-23 - Pete Townshend original demos.
All previously unreleased except 2, 11 and 12 - released in 2003.
Track 24 - The Who studio demo/out-take.
Track 25 - The Who studio recording. (NOTE: This version was previously only available on 'The House That Track Built' vinyl sampler).
(Disc 3) The 5.1 album mix - Hi Fidelity Pure Audio Blu-ray.
(Disc 4) The live 'bootleg' album - Features 21 previously-unreleased tracks from various live shows from 1969.
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In the day the Who was one of this reviewer's favorite bands. And Tommy is a great composition by any standard. But p-leeease, how many versions and shameless repackagings of Tommy can the music public tolerate? Consider:
In 1969 the Who released the original two-LP rock opera.
In 1970 the Who released an EP featuring selections from Tommy.
In 1970 the Who released an orchestral version of Tommy with London Symphony Orchestra and a bevy of rock stars.
In 1975 Ken Russell directed the movie Tommy.
In 1975 the soundtrack LP from the movie was released.
In 1990 Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab released a 24 K gold CD of Tommy.
In 1993 the Who remastered Tommy and released it on cassette.
In 1996 the Who brought Tommy to the Broadway stage. An LP of course was released afterwards.
In 1996 the Who released a remastered version of Tommy.
In 2004 the Who released a Deluxe version of Tommy.
In 2007 the Who released the Deluxe version of Tommy in SACD.
In 2013 the Who released Tommy 2013 Deluxe, with songs substantially similar to and containing the same songs and alternative versions as the previous Deluxe version(s).
Now there is ... (drum roll) ... the Super Deluxe Tommy, three CDs with a Blue Ray DVD.
Enough already!! What is the point ??
Tommy is a masterful composition and will withstand the test of time -- and will continue to do so, or at least as long as Pete Townshend is alive to re-market Tommy in yet another version. The continual re-packaging of Tommy serves only to diminish the value of this great musical piece. True, between 1975 and 1996 the Who did not re-released Tommy. During that time period Townshend could have, but didn't, release a disco version of Tommy. We must all thank him for that.
Even with all the extras in this combo this release reeks of rank consumerism. This release deserves one star not because it is a bad release or a bad musical piece but because there appears to be no other legitimate purpose to this new release other than to further gouge more money from consumers.
To my mind, Townshend should have no regrets about not topping `Tommy', as it is easily one of the two or three most important albums and works in the entire Rock canon, similar in importance and possibly superior in quality to `Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band' and `Blond on Blond', to name just two others high in the ranks of great Rock albums.
One thing which surprises me about writing on `Tommy' is how little deep analysis has been essayed about the story behind the songs. In a nutshell, the story is this:
Tommy Walker is born while his father is off on some journey (`It's a boy') from which he becomes several years late in returning. Tommy's mother takes up with a lover, father returns, mother and father kill lover with Tommy as a witness, and mother and father tell Tommy he saw and heard nothing (`You didn't hear it'). (If all you have to go on is the recorded performance on the original album, it is not very clear whether it is the lover or the father who is killed. But, printed copies of the libretto say the lover is the victim.) Tommy becomes functionally blind, deaf, and dumb to all outside appearances, however, it is evident that within his own head, he can see and hear everything (`There's a doctor I've found'). He is tormented by various malicious relatives (`Cousin Kevin' and `Fiddle About') and `treated' by various attempts, including hallucinogens (`Acid Queen'). As he grows up, the only outside experience to which he responds is a pinball machine, at which he becomes expert (`Pinball Wizard'). Tommy is finally cured by watching his image in a mirror smashed by, I believe, his mother's lover (`Smash the Mirror'). Being released from his isolation for Tommy is like being released from a practically lifelong mystical experience heightened by pinball. The charisma with which Tommy is imbued by this experience leads him to become a `New Messiah' (`Sally Simpson') creating a movement which expands beyond local resources (`Welcome') and becomes institutionalized into a ritual modeled after playing pinball while deaf dumb and blind (`Tommy's holiday camp'). The story ends with a revolt of Tommy's disciples against his new religion (`We're not gonna take it').
The theme of being oppressed runs throughout practically all of Townshend's work, although in `Tommy', it takes a back seat to mysticism. The people who dote on the philosophical background of `The Matrix' should sink their teeth into the `Tommy' story and ruminate on that a while. The major musical theme of the work seems to be Townsend's search for a magical chord. And, anyone who, like myself, has seen `Tommy' performed live by the original Who will have no trouble believing Townsend has found his chord as he hits that first great whirlwind chord in `Pinball Wizard'. Talk about a rush! In general, a lot of the music echoes earlier Who works. Townshend seems to constantly cut and paste phrasings from one work to another and I have no problem with this except in the most tedious of the three instrumental pieces (`Underture') in the album.
Some writers have said that 'Tommy' is more like an Oratorio or a Song Cycle than it is an Opera, but I disagree. Neither of these other two genres requires a plot, and an Opera does, and Tommy has a plot. I prefer to think of it as a selection of arias and instrumental passages from which some bridging dialogue has been left out. My biggest problem with this plot is that the actual event that triggers Tommy's autism is only hinted at in the most vague of terms. It is easy to believe that it was a murder, but the lyrics of `You Didn't Hear It' never come even close to saying exactly what the event was. On the other side of the coin, the great majority of the songs on the album `Tommy' directly support carrying the story forward. Practically the only exception is the Sonny Boy Williamson classic `Eyesight to the Blind'. It is probably symptomatic that only `Pinball Wizard', `I'm Free', and `Sensation' out of the 24 cuts in `Tommy' really work for the Who outside the context of the whole work. That's why I'm especially happy to have seen The Who perform virtually the whole album live, four days after it was initially released. It is also interesting to see that the two cuts describing episodes of sadism were written by Entwistle and not Townshend.
This CD contains exactly what was on my original vinyl two record album bought in 1969, suitably enhanced with modern electronics. My greatest respect for Townshend is for creating a classic musical form, the Opera, using an entirely ROCK instrument, with the slightest classical leavening from John Entwistle's French horn on a few early numbers. So many `rock' versions of traditional forms simply overlay rock performances on classical arrangements or make classical arrangements of rock melodies. Aside from `Quadrophenia', the only other work which succeeds at doing this is Spooky Tooth/Pierre Henry work `Ceremony An Electronic Mass'.
Listening to this album and every other early Who album reminds one just how much their performances were a collaborative effort between the original four, and how much we miss Keith Moon and John Entwistle today. We can only say that with `Tommy' and numerous other works and recorded performances, the memory of The Who will live forever.
Seminal work in the history of Rock.
Most recent customer reviews
The product came new in the box I couldn't be happier thank you very for your professionalism