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The Who | Tommy:
Album: Tommy, Tommy Deluxe Edition
LPs (vinyl) Sampled: Polydor (UK), Decca (USA), MCA (USA), Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Japan)
CDs (original mix) Sampled: Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Japan), MCA-2 disc 1st pressing (USA), MCA-single disc 2nd pressing (USA), MFSL-gold (USA)
CDs (remix) Sampled: MCA (USA), Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Japan)
CDs (Deluxe Edition) Sampled: Geffen (USA), Polydor (UK)
LP Comments: The Decca (USA) sounds far better than any of the others (more dynamic, better sound quality), but it is very difficult, if not impossible to find a copy that hasn't been played to death. After the Decca, they go downhill, with the German being slightly better than the UK and the Japanese copy sounds dull and lifeless. Note: It is very difficult to find original Decca LP copies in excellent condition. They've all been played endlessly.
CD (original mix) Comments: None of these sound very good. However, the best one, is the single disc MCA (USA), which was their most recent attempt to improve the album, before it was remixed.
Note: MCA went through several disc revisions prior to the remixed version. (1) The original 2CD version. (2) The 2CD "New Master" version, denoted by "NM" on the disc face. (3) The single disc version (as preferred above).
CD (remix) Comments: Both the MCA (USA) and Polydor (Germany) sound identical. However, the Polydor (Japan) has something "extra" which makes it sound better than either.
CD (Deluxe Edition) Comments: Note #1: This CD is offered as a "hybrid". It has standard CD tracks (which will play on any CD player) as well as SACD tracks (which you need a special player for). Both the Geffen (USA) and Polydor (UK) sound identical. Note #2: The "Deluxe" version is also offered as a DVD-A. This format will play 5.1 on a standard DVD (video player), but also has enhanced sound for the DVD-A (Audio) format.
The <standard CD> source for "Tommy" on disc 1 is from the original stereo master tapes (i.e. the original mix). The CD sounds very good. If you prefer the original mix - this is probably the best of all original mix CD versions. Disc 2 (bonus material) is remixed from the multitracks. This material also sounds very good. There are also several of Pete's "Tommy" demos as bonus material. These sound good too, but are mastered a little louder than the rest of the CD.
The SACD (5.1) tracks are completely remixed and different than the 1996 remix or the original, 1969 mix. This new mix puts an added emphasis on the drums and bass. After listening to these new mixes on a 5.1 system, and then <the same mix> collapsed to 2.0 (stereo), I feel I've learned a lot about mixing.
The 5.1 version of "Tommy" is very interesting. While it doesn't sound like the band is in the room with you, the instruments and vocals are much more spatial and you can hear everything more distinctly. Parts that may have been or seemed buried in the past, now pop out at you. Adding to that, there are changes in the mix, which just are very cool effects and nice touches. An example of that, is during the fade of "Tommy Can You Hear Me?", the instruments begin to fade and Roger's vocals take over the center speaker.
After much ado, I was able to "convert" the new, 5.1 mix to a 2.0 (stereo) mix. Since I spend more of my listening time in the car, I wanted to have this new mix on CD.
Noticeably absent from the 5.1 mix and carried through to the 2.0 is the ambiance of the original and 1996 remixed versions. The music is missing that little bit of echo, reverb or whatever was originally used. This takes a little getting used to. Further listening I felt that this mix was a bit murky. About 3/4s of the way through, I realized why - the extra emphasis on the bass and drums, drowned out the guitar! While the guitar is very prominent on the 5.1, it is mostly buried here (No wonder the murky feeling!). This is where the "education" about mixing comes about. Many times fans wonder, "Oh, why don't they just do this, or just do that?" The answer is, when you start changing the mix radically, you might not like the results!
While playing "Fiddle About", I noticed ~.5 - ~1 second gap (blank space) towards the end of the song. Don't know if this was only on my disc, a manufacturing defect or ???
Summary: Before the "Deluxe Edition" of the album was released, your only choice for a great sounding "Tommy" on CD was the 1996 remix. If you prefer the original mix, then the "Deluxe Edition" (disc 1) is for you.
For everyday listening, I prefer the 1996 remix. I think it is more dynamic and vibrant than the original mix. All of the <1996> remixed versions sound great! However, the Polydor (Japan) is superior.
If you want to "immerse" yourself in "Tommy", the 5.1 mix will do the trick...
Other Comments: Somewhere after the original release, UK copies from had a completely different vocal track on "Eyesight To The Blind". I've read before that this occurred when Polydor changed printers from Ernest J. Day & Co., to Howard's Printers (Slough), Ltd. However, since I have a copy with the alternate vocal on the original printer -- I guess that's not true. Before it went out of print in the 80's, they changed the vocal back to the original. The same <alternate> vocal track can be found on the MFSL <gold> CD and the bonus disc on the 2004 Japan pressing of Then & Now.
The "Deluxe Edition" features some interesting bonus tracks (listed below), which are a combination of outtakes, previously released (and now remixed) tracks and a few Pete Townshend demos (noted & comments below).
About: Tommy (Deluxe
Track Listing: Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind, Christmas, Cousin Kevin, The Acid Queen, Underture, Do You Think It's Alright?, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, There's A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash The Mirror, Sensation, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Welcome, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It
Track Listing (Brazil single LP version): Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Eyesight To The Blind, The Acid Queen, Do You Think It's Alright?, Pinball Wizard, There's A Doctor, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Sensation, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It
Track Listing (Deluxe Edition): Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks,
Eyesight To The Blind, Christmas, Cousin Kevin, The Acid Queen, Underture, Do
You Think It's Alright?, Fiddle About, Pinball Wizard, There's A Doctor, Go To
The Mirror, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash The Mirror, Sensation, Miracle Cure,
Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Welcome, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It,
See Me, Feel Me
Bonus tracks: I Was, Christmas (Out-take) [Instrumental], Cousin Kevin Model Child [Different mix from "Odds & Sods"], Young Man Blues (Version 1) ["The House That Track Built" version, remixed], Tommy Can You Hear Me? (alternate version) [Instrumental], Trying To Get Through, Sally Simpson (Out takes), Miss Simpson [Actually an alternate version of "Sally Simpson"], Welcome (take 2) [Instrumental], Tommy's Holiday Camp (Band's version) [Instrumental], We're Not Gonna Take It (alternate version) [Who version, performed like the Pete Townshend demo version], Dogs Part 2, It's A Boy [Pete Townshend Demo], Amazing Journey [Pete Townshend Demo], Christmas [Pete Townshend Demo - "Another Scoop" version], Do You Think It's Alright? [Pete Townshend Demo], Pinball Wizard [Pete Townshend Demo]
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