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Album Review

July 18, 1993|DON HECKMAN


"The Who's Tommy: Original Cast Recording"

RCA Victor

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The cast recording of the current Broadway version of "Tommy" is a peculiarly bloodless reading of a score that has, until now, seemed capable of enduring almost any interpretation. Visually stunning as the award-winning theatrical performances may be, little of the show's live energies have found their way onto this two-CD release.

Michael Ceveris, as Tommy, is a Ted Neeley sort of rock singer--a bit of the feel of the rhythms, some of the energy, but always a trifle too precise and careful to capture the roaring passions of Roger Daltrey's original. Cheryl Freeman generates more heat with "Acid Queen," and Marcia Mitzman, Jonathan Dokuchitz and Paul Kandel (as Mrs. Walker, Capt. Walker and Uncle Ernie) provide respectable Broadway renditions of their roles.

But George Martin's production of the recording--with an "expanded instrumental ensemble"--is too reminiscent of his work on "Sgt. Pepper" (complete with piccolo, trumpet and swooping synthesizer). As in the 1972 London Symphony version and the 1975 Ken Russell film, the raw guitar harmonies and gripping (if chaotic) story of Pete Townshend's original are imprisoned in musical overproduction and commercial high expectations.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to four stars (excellent).

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