What does it sound like?:
The rock / orchestra cross over has been done by a number of bands, with varying degrees of success. Kiss playing with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra in 2003 might not have been a musical masterpiece but seeing the entire orchestra in evening dress and face paint was an out and out winner. Anyway, if anyone’s music is suited to the full strings and brass treatment it must be “Tommy”, having already been a stage play, a ballet, a film and recorded by the LSO as far back as 1972. And now it’s Tommy’s 50th anniversary.
Although The Who’s current “Moving On!” tour includes orchestral treatments of songs from “Tommy” and “Quadrophenia” amongst others, this recording is a prequel, featuring Roger Daltrey and his solo band (which includes Pete’s brother, Simon). and conductor Keith Levenson (also on the “Moving On” tour). Recorded in Budapest and Bethel NY (or as Wavy Gravy would have it, Woodstock), Roger and band are backed by the Budapest Scoring Orchestra. Levenson believes “Tommy” is a classic, telling Classic FM – “Rogers’ ‘See Me Feel Me’ is as inspiring as Pavarotti’s ‘Nessun Dorma’. ‘Uncle Ernie’ as devastating as Pagliacci and ‘The Acid Queen’ the contemporary Carmen.” Crikey.
For those of us less familiar with the opera Pagliacci and more used to the original 4 piece production it turns out to be every bit as attention grabbing as the original. Roger is in fine form, and some of the songs really prosper from the expanded soundstage that a full orchestra gives. “Eyesight To The Blind” is a tour de force, whilst “Acid Queen” and “Fiddle About” become majestic. Indeed the main trade off seemed to be a slight slowing of the pace of some songs, and – for example on “Pinball Wizard” – a touch less in your face punch than the rock band version offers. “I’m Free” and the closing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” round out proceedings in an anthemic manner.
Overall? Neither better or worse. Just very enjoyably different.
What does it all *mean*?
50 years on, Tommy would have been ace on the X Box.
Goes well with…
A really large mirror.
Might suit people who like…