[Review] Tommy as performed by The London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir with Guest Soloists (1972)

A symphonic interpretation of Tommy featuring guest vocalists that include Roger Daltrey, Rod Stewart and Ringo Starr.

Kronomyth 7.5: Fiddling about.

I stand corrected. Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth is not the most ridiculous attempt at a “classical” rock album. Two years after the release of Tommy, the world’s fascination with Pete Townshend’s story of a deaf, dumb and blind boy showed no signs of abating. Someone decided that an orchestral adaptation of the double-album opus would be a good idea, and apparently got a lot of talented people (including three-fourths of The Who) to buy into it. Those people were badly duped, though perhaps less roughly handled than the consumers who shelled out good money for this musical travesty.

Now, there are people who have fond memories of this release, which I would attribute to: a) the excellent packaging, b) a natural interest in orchestral/classical music and c) the general brilliance of the original score. More than a few times—e.g., “Overture,” “Underture,” “Sensation”—I was reminded anew of just what an amazing journey Tommy represents. But I wouldn’t have taken Rod Stewart, Ringo Starr and Richie Havens on that journey. And I wouldn’t have tarted up songs like “Sally Simpson” with strings and harps. If you’re intent on bringing home a brother to the original Tommy, I’d guide you to the Ken Russell film score. Elton John sings rings around Rod Stewart, and that goes double for Tina Turner compared to Merry Clayton. Speaking of singers, the fact that Roger Daltrey (whose name is inexplicably misspelled in the album credits) sings a good half of the songs is this production’s saving grace. Had they tried to replace him with piecemeal guests, I probably wouldn’t have made it through the second record.

I love classical music and Tommy is one of the great musical achievements of the twentieth century, but I also know a lipsticked pig when I see one, and stuffing it into a ballroom gown isn’t an improvement. And so another London Symphony Orchestra record review ends with a gratuitous reference to bestiality…

Read more Who reviews

Original 2LP Version

A1. Overture
A2. It’s A Boy
A3. 1921
A4. Amazing Journey
A5. Sparks
A6. Eyesight To The Blind
A7. Christmas
B1. Cousin Kevin
B2. The Acid Queen
B3. Underture
B4. Do You Think It’s Alright
B5. Fiddle About
B6. Pin Ball Wizard
C1. There’s A Doctor I’ve Found
C2. Go To The Mirror Boy
C3. Tommy Can You Hear Me?
C4. Smash The Mirror
C5. I’m Free
C6. Miracle Cure
C7. Sensation
D1. Sally Simpson
D2. Welcome
D3. Tommy’s Holiday Camp
D4. We’re Not Gonna Take It / See Me, Feel Me

The Players

The London Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Choir with Graham Bell (A3), Maggie Bell (A3/B4/C3/C4), Merry Clayton (B2), Roger Daltrey (A3/A7/C2/C5/C7/D2/D4), Sandy Denny (A2), John Entwistle (B1), Richard Harris (C2), Richie Havens (A6), Ringo Starr (B5/D3), Rod Stewart (B6), Pete Townshend (A1/A4/D1), Steve Winwood (A3/A7/B4/C1/C2). Produced by Lou Retzner.

The Plastic

Released on 2LP, 2CS and 8-track in 1972 in the US (Ode, SP/ZCO/8T-99001) and Germany (Ode, 86 467) with gatefold cover and lyrics booklet.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1991 in Japan (Century, CECC00228).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc in 1992 in the UK (Essential, ESM CD 404).
  3. Re-issued on compact disc on November 19, 1993 in Japan (Century, CECC00613).
  4. Re-issued on silver vinyl 2LP in 2015 in the US (Ode/The Orchard).

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