September 19, 2020

1996-03-28 – The Los Angeles Times

1996 03 28 The_Los_Angeles_Times_Thu__Mar_28__1996_

A Reissued, Remastered ‘Tommy’ Recalls Past Thrills

* t t *
THE WHO
“Tommy"
MCA

he disheartening, middlebrow

Broadwayization of “Tommy"

couldn’t have been a bigger
slap in the face to many Who fans
than if parts of the classic 1969
rock opera had been licensed for
use in toilet bowl commercials.

After seeing the musical at the
La Jolla Playhouse in 1992. I
doubted I would ever be able to
listen to the Who's original album
again with the old admiration and
wonder.

But it didn't take much more than
the overture of this digitally re-
mixed and remastered edition of
“Tommy" to become enthralled
again by the power and majesty of
Pete Townshend’s music and vision.

On most scorecards. the Beatles’
“Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club
Band" stands as the most extraor-

dinary album accomplishment in
'60s British rock. But “Tommy" is
arguably an equally enduring

work—a spiritual-edged explora-
tion of reality and purpose in life,
with special focus on adolescent
confusion and the role of idols in
society.

This new edition comes with an
extensive e'ssay about the evolu-
tion of “Tommy” by Richard
Barnes, a valuable chronicler of
the Who over the years. It’s a
fascinating history, filled with un-
likely developments in both the
writing and recording of the album.

Consider, for instance, the his-
tory of “Pinball Wizard." which
has become in some ways the
album's signature song.

Partway through the recording
of “Tommy.” Townshend played a
rough mix of the music to influen-
tial British rock critic Nic Cohn.
Flustered by Cohn’s lukewarm re-
sponse, Townshend, aware that.
Cohn was a pinball fan, rushed
home and added a pinball element
to the story.

“I attempted the same mock
baroque guitar beginning that's on
‘I’m a Boy’ and then a bit of
vigorous kind of flamenco guitar,"
Townshend says in the liner notes.
“I was just grabbing at ideas."

Though not impressed at first by
the song, Townshend was so en-

couraged by the enthusiastic reac-
tion when he played the demo in
the studio that he started thinking
more seriously about the song, and
it became a pivotal part of the
work. —ROBERT HILBURN

**% Blng Crosby, “A We Bit of
Irish," Celtic Heartbeat/Atlantic.
The album only runs 27 minutes
and wasn’t all recorded in Ireland,
as suggested by the cover, but it is
still a nice post-St. Patrick’s Day
tonic. Crosby salutes his Irish her-
itage in this inviting collection,
drawn from various radio and tele-
vision broadcasts. The songs range
from “When Irish Eyes Are Smil-
ing" to “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral

(That's an Irish Lullaby).” -R.‘11.

** Various artists, “cums May-
flold' a Chicago Soul, " Legacy. If
you have “People Get Ready, "
Rhino’ a excellent, three- disc May‘-
field retrospective, you ’ve got the
Mayfield catalog pretty much covl
ered. These 18 tracks were written
or produced by Mayfield for Okeh
Records in the mid- ’60s. There 'are
a couple of hits, including Major
Lance’ s 1963 “The Monkey Tiiné‘. ’
Mostly, the music here—featut‘ing
such artists as Walter Jackson, ‘
Gene Chandler and Billy Butler '&
the Enchanters—lacks the pas.-
sionate and distinctive edge of
Mayfield' s own recordings. -R H

1(
.4

CLUBS

Continued from F2
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