The Who (1969)
The first famous rock opera, and possibly the best. The story is frequently silly, but certainly not dumb – and therefore sidesteps pretension. It tackles numerous heavy themes in a meaningful, but unassuming way, as well as providing humor, pathos, and of course, catchy pop rock. It’s a piss-take of organized religion, but it’s spiritual, and never spiteful about its satire. Some other topics are addressed in an intelligent way as well. It’s unbelievably well-composed, catchy, and musically pure, utilizing a bare-bones setup to achieve a surprisingly epic sound that still rocks. The band never abandons its funky, punky chemistry, but also utilizes more subtle techniques to serve the concept, toning things down for most of the record and using as little overdubbing and amplification as possible. The LP does a good job of not repeating its musical motifs too much (except on “Underture”, which is forgivable). Tommy is the kind of revolutionary album whose innovation is almost beside the point because the record is just so freaking great.
Key tracks: “Overture”/”It’s A Boy”, “Go To the Mirror!”