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The Who | Tommy:

Album: Tommy, Tommy Deluxe Edition (2003/2004), Tommy Deluxe Edition (2013), Tommy Super Deluxe Edition (2013 

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), Polydor (UK) [2013 Remastered]

CDs (remix) Sampled: MCA (USA), Polydor (Germany), Polydor (Japan)

CDs (Deluxe Edition (2003/2004)) Sampled: Geffen (USA), Polydor (UK)

CDs (Deluxe Edition (2013)) Sampled: Polydor (UK)

CDs (Super Deluxe Edition (2013)) Sampled: Polydor (Germany)

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 (2003/2004) 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: If you prefer the original mix, then the <2013> "Deluxe Edition" (disc 1) is for you. It's the best sounding of the original mix versions.

For everyday listening, I prefer the 1996 remix. I think it is much 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... (Note: I have not listened to the 2013 5.1 mix at this time)

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.

There are different bonus tracks on the various versions (2003/2004 & 2013) of "Deluxe Edition" (noted & comments below) - Please look carefully so you know which is the version you actually want.

About: Tommy

I recall listening to "Tommy" first (and completely) in the late 70's (avoided watching the movie for so many years) and not really liking it. Maybe I didn't get it, maybe I wasn't into the whole "Rock Opera" thing (although I did like "Quadrophenia" from the very first listen), or ????

Don't know.

At some point in the early 80's I revisited "Tommy" and I really liked it (go figure). "Tommy" grew on me with each listen. Great album and easy to understand why so many people became Who fans with its release in 1969...

"Tommy" of course is the album that finally brought The Who the success they both deserved and needed. In some ways it outgrew them and took on a life of its own.

If you think about it, mention "Tommy" and you first have to stop and think *WHICH* "Tommy"?

* 1969
Original album
* 1972
London Symphony Orchestra version
* 1975
Tommy Soundtrack
* 1989
Radio City live broadcast
* 1990 release of
Join Together (which featured a combo of the 1989 LA Amphitheatre and Radio City shows)
* 1990
Original mix MFSL version (with the alternate vocal on "Eyesight To The Blind")
* 1995
Remix CD
* 1996
Isle Of Wight "Tommy"
* 2002
Live At Leeds Deluxe Edition (with "Tommy")
* 2003
Deluxe Edition (With/without) 5.1
* 2010/2012
Live At Hull (with "Tommy")
* 2013 Remastered <Single> CD, Deluxe Edition (different than 2003/2004), Super Deluxe Edition

Did I miss any?

Lots of "Tommy" versions (and this doesn't include Pete's demos)

Wow!

While the above list is long, the <sub> list based on the original 1969 "Tommy" is much shorter. Which of these do I prefer and why?

The 1995 Remix/remastered version.

Why this version?

I spent years trying to find a really great sounding 1969 album - various LPs, CDs, etc...

The better my audio systems were, the flatter these originals sounded. Out of all of these, the original USA Decca LP had the most life to it, but still "fell short" - too "flat" sounding for my taste...

In 1995 the album was remixed. The remix brought the album right back to life. Instead of being somewhat flat, it was DYNAMIC. I am on record that I HATE the use of compression in the studio. Sound by its very nature is dynamic. It can go from a whisper to REALLY LOUD just like that. It's what you hear; it's natural and taking the soft with the loud, both up and down and in and out - goes easier on your ears. The use of compression flattens the natural ups and downs and levels the sound off so it's all kind of the same. When you use too much compression, EVERYTHING BECOMES LOUD. Both the soft stuff and the loud stuff ALL BECOME LOUD - and not only does it sound "wrong" - it doesn't sound any good.

The good news is, the remixed "Tommy" sounds great - it's stunning.

So, why did it get so unnoticed by Who fans?

Well... right around the time of its release, was yet another release... a called, "Live At Leeds Complete".

Just like its name, it was the full concert - unedited. Where it came from, who knows - but everyone had to have it and what the record company fought over (before Polydor and MCA merged - Polydor wanted the complete "Live At Leeds" released, MCA wanted a single disc - the fans lost out), the bootleggers snuck in there...

Instead of talking about how great the new "Tommy" was, what seemed like days after its release, this boot came out and everyone was going crazy attempting (and some succeeding) to get a copy... Wow! LIVE TOMMY AT LEEDS!!!

Timing is everything I suppose...

I listened to and appreciated both. I have all of the "official" versions of "Tommy" and the radio station promo of the Radio City "Tommy" (my 2nd Who concert) - but I like to listen to all of them as each has its merits and different things to admire...

For me, it was the remix... (and if you want to really treat yourself, the Japan pressing of the same is absolutely stunning).

There's really not a bad song on "Tommy" although the band claims that they hate "Welcome" and left it off of their live shows... I think it's just fine...


About: Tommy (Deluxe Edition) (2003/2004)
 
I recall listening to this a few times when it came out in 2003 and putzing around with it a bit... I found the 5.1 mixes interesting, but I don't have the patience to "sit down" and listen to a piece of music. One would think with all my audiophile equipment, I'd be immersed in music all day and night, but that was never true. Music (to me) is perfect for the car. You are a "captive audience". At home, I have too many things to do, and none of them are about "sitting around looking at the walls". So, I bought a 5.1 system with a DVD-A, SACD audio player and I listened to "Tommy".
 
What I heard was pretty cool. But at the end of the day, did it matter? (Meaning, how often am I going to listen to this because it requires me to be somewhere I don't want to be?) So, what did I do? I took the 5.1 mixes and collapsed them down to 2.0 and made a CDr for myself to listen to the "different mix" "Tommy". It sounded different than the original mix, but it wasn't quite my "cup of tea"...
 
Armed with car stereo which can play 5.1, I gave it another listen. What I found was some additional separation between the instruments, a "drier" vocal (the ambience was missing) and an overall more "bombastic" sound. I didn't really like it. Personally, I think 5.1 is great for movies (people and action coming and going from all around you), but music is meant to be heard in front of you (as in a concert). To me, this is more of a "novelty", but not something I would want to listen to on a regular basis.
 
The "bonus" tracks here kind of remind me of
The Who Sell Out (Deluxe Edition). Perhaps more fitting on a rarities box set, than on "Tommy".
 
Here is the list of all the non-Pete demo bonus tracks:
 
* I Was - This song seems to finish as soon as it starts!
 
* Christmas (Out-take) [Instrumental] - Nice, but... where's the vocal?
 
* Cousin Kevin Model Child [Different mix from
Odds & Sods] - appears to be the 1969 mix version.
 
* Young Man Blues (Version 1) [
The House That Track Built version, remixed] - One of the most requested non-CD Who tracks. The original mix version is
only still available on vinyl and bootleg CD.
 
* Tommy Can You Hear Me? (alternate version) [Instrumental] - Nice, but... where's the vocal?
 
* Trying To Get Through - Sort of a live studio out-take. Seemed like Pete was trying to create another song, but ended up tossing this one.
 
* Sally Simpson (Out takes) - lots of false starts and the band having a good time doing so.
 
* Miss Simpson [Actually an alternate version of "Sally Simpson"] - this is pretty good. Seems like they are just "getting to know" the song.
 
* Welcome (take 2) [Instrumental] - this goes on a bit long - again, where's the vocal? :)
 
* Tommy's Holiday Camp (Band's version) [Instrumental] - I like this. In the end it was scrubbed for Pete's demo.
 
* We're Not Gonna Take It (alternate version) [Who version, performed like the Pete Townshend demo version] - a nice early "work in process" version. I like this. I still wonder how "Listening To You" came about to finish up and complete "Tommy"...
 
* Dogs Part 2 - hMMM... it's already on the "Who's Missing"/"Two's Missing" and "Rarities" collections - would it have been better to use the alternate "Eyesight To The Blind" vocal version instead?
 
Wasn't "Now I'm A Farmer" recorded for "Tommy" ?
 
I don't know. Rarities album? Deluxe album? Where does this stuff really belong?
 
The Pete demos (which follow the above) have a bit too much compression and are actually louder on the CD than the previous music. Hence, you need to turn the volume down a notch or two if you want to keep them playing at the same volume. The "Another Scoop" version of "Christmas" was used vs. the much better "Tommy Demos" version. The demos themselves sound better than the bootlegged versions, but the compression needs to be backed off (or eliminated)...
 
OK - so getting back to the 2.0 Disc 1 of "Tommy".
 
I've probably played every international release of "Tommy" on LP and CD trying to find the "best" sounding "Tommy" (prior to the 1995 version). It was hard to find. I suppose the original 1969 USA Decca LP sounded best - but good luck finding one that hasn't been worn down by overplay. On CD, there were lots of "experiments" that didn't quite "make it". This version sounds pretty good, but again, has a bit too much compression for my liking (compression is the enemy of dynamic range).
 
My personal point of view is that the 1995 remixed version completely blows away the 1969 version. So, while you might have a "best" 1969 version, in my mind - it's obsolete. Let's say you had to score these and you give the Decca LP an 8/10 overall rating, perhaps the Deluxe CD a 7.5 and the previous MCA single CD from 1993 a 7.0. The 1995 remix is a 10 (overall) - so how can an 8 or a 7.5 compare to a 10? It can't. It's not just about a "mix preference", the original version sounds "dull" compared to the remix.
 
I'm sure this isn't the last of the 1969 "Tommy" CDs. Looks like the folks in Japan aren't done with the Who, so I would expect another "remastered" single CD version sometime in the future (if I were a betting man...)


About: Tommy (Super Deluxe Edition)

In 2013, 3 "new" versions of "Tommy" were released:

* A single CD version with the original mix, but new mastering.

* A "Deluxe Edition", 2 CD version (which is different than the 2003/2004 "Deluxe Edition")

* A "Super Deluxe Edition, which has 3 CDs and 1 blue ray 5.1 mix DVD

Confused? (See track listings below for clarification as to which version has which tracks, etc...)

Since the above 3 variations are a "subset" of the "Super Deluxe Edition", I'll focus on the content of that and hopefully all of this will make some sense...

Disc 1: "Tommy" (original studio album, 1969 mix). I prefer the remix to the original mix - to me, it's more 3D - more separation of the instruments, more drums, more "Tommy" overall. However, if you prefer the original mix (some people prefer it because it's "original" - others prefer it ) - this version is newly mastered and from what I've heard, the *best* of all the "original" mixes. Over the years, I've pulled out almost every "Tommy" humanly imaginable to find the "best sound"... My go to disc is any Japan CD pressing of the 1996 remix - that's *my* favorite. If you prefer the original mix - *this* is the best of the bunch... (It's available in this box set, in the "Deluxe" 2CD set and as a single disc version).

Disc 2: "Tommy" (Pete Townshend Demos & Extras). The sound of the demos on this disc is STUNNING. Not only does it sound much better than the "bootleg" versions of the same, there are all kinds of nuances that I've never heard before - great stuff! Newly added is "The Hawker" - Pete's demo of "Eyesight To The Blind" - LOVE it. Wow! "Christmas" seems to be yet another mix variation than anything I've heard before. It sounds closer to the one on the various bootlegs, but the metronome was mixed down and sounded a bit different overall... Missing are the John Entwistle demos, demos for any of the "Tommy" outtakes, alternate demo versions (Pete sometimes has variations in his demos - i.e. the 3 versions of "Christmas") and "Tommy's Holiday Camp". At first I was a bit annoyed that "Tommy's Holiday Camp" was missing (the "Who version" of this song is pretty much the same as the demo - but the mix and mastering aren't the same - so you can't just "copy/paste" it in there...). However, the 2nd time I listened to the disc - it bothered me less that it was missing. Maybe I'm just getting old...

The outtakes on this disc are: "Trying To Get Through" (which you might recognize from the 2003/2004 "Deluxe Edition") and lastly... the correct "Young Man Blues" (from The House That Track Built).

Note: This is the 4th attempt to release this version of the song:

1) Odds & Sods (1998) - a slower, R&B style take from the same session
2) "Tommy Deluxe Edition" (2003/2004) - the same take, but remixed (5.1 & 2.0) from the multi-tracks
3) Odds & Sods (2011 - Japan Only CD) - another take from the same session
4) "Tommy Super Deluxe Edition" (2013) - the correct, original version as released in 1970

Disc 3: A newly mixed, 5.1 Blu Ray "Tommy". I'm not a big fan of 5.1 music mixes - to me, they are more of a "one time listen", novelty. Haven't heard this yet. Not sure when/if I will...

Disc 4: Live "Tommy" 1969/76... I think most folks will like this. The ultra-live fans won't like the transition between 69->76 (where "Tommy" meets the Tommy Soundtrack). I can say with certainty that the folks involved (who produced this album) tried desperately to find a 1969 "finale" - but unfortunately the right quality tapes were *not* available.

Unlike "Live At Leeds" - the 1969 recordings are not a "soundboard mix". Most of the 1969 shows were recorded with 2 microphones on stage (left and right channel). This style is what I would call a "professional audience recording". Personally, I'm not a fan of the 2 mic stage mix. There is too much picked up by these mic's - which would normally be balanced (and perhaps filtered) out via a typical board mix. Personally, I'm pretty content with "Tommy" Live At Leeds. Some folks like and appreciate every type, style and variation of live recordings (this is more for them and I'm sure they will enjoy it.)

One day I would love to see The Who's Woodstock performance released (in a "Leeds" mix). I think that would be a great addition to The Who's catlogue.

 The "Super Deluxe Edition" box also comes with a nice book & poster and a new 5.1 mix of "Tommy".

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 (2003/2004): 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]

Track Listing (Deluxe Edition (2013):

Disc 1: (Remastered Original Mix Album)
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

Disc 2: (Live "Bootleg" Album) Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind, Christmas, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It's Alright?, Fiddle About, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, There's A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Smash The Mirror, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Welcome, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It, See Me, Feel Me

Track Listing (Super Deluxe Edition):

Disc 1: (Remastered Original Mix Album) 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

Disc 2: (Pete Townshend Demos & Extras) Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Dream One, Sparks, The Hawker, Christmas, The Acid Queen, Underture (Dream Two), Do You Think It's Alright?, Pinball Wizard, There's A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Success, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, Smash The Mirror, Sensation, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Welcome, We're Not Gonna Take It, See Me, Feel Me, Trying To Get Through, Young Man Blues

Disc 3: (Blu Ray 5.1 Mix) 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

Disc 4: (Live "Bootleg" Album) Overture, It's A Boy, 1921, Amazing Journey, Sparks, Eyesight To The Blind, Christmas, The Acid Queen, Pinball Wizard, Do You Think It's Alright?, Fiddle About, Tommy Can You Hear Me?, There's A Doctor, Go To The Mirror, Smash The Mirror, Miracle Cure, Sally Simpson, I'm Free, Welcome, Tommy's Holiday Camp, We're Not Gonna Take It, See Me, Feel Me

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