13 Songs, 41 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

In their heyday in the mid-‘80s and early ‘90s, New Jersey’s Smithereens played ‘60s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll, strong on melody and electric guitars. In the new century, the group have embraced their roots like no other, re-recording classic rock for its own sake, from an entire re-creation of the Beatles’ Meet the Beatles and their early B-sides to an abbreviated take on the Who’s 1969 rock opera masterpiece Tommy. Artistically, it’s more about execution than innovation. The Smithereens aren’t re-interpreting the material but stripping it to its essentials and enjoying Pete Townshend’s timeless melodies in the process. They can’t hope to better the Who’s own take on “Pinball Wizard” or “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” but they show a genuine understanding of the music and modest tracks such as “It’s A Boy” and “Go to the Mirror” resonate with power and grace. The guitar sounds are strong and singer Pat DiNizio may be no Roger Daltrey but he’s an ambitious understudy, while drummer Dennis Diken knows better than to try and outdo the great Keith Moon, though the playing on “Sparks” is pretty damned inspired.

EDITORS’ NOTES

In their heyday in the mid-‘80s and early ‘90s, New Jersey’s Smithereens played ‘60s-inspired rock ‘n’ roll, strong on melody and electric guitars. In the new century, the group have embraced their roots like no other, re-recording classic rock for its own sake, from an entire re-creation of the Beatles’ Meet the Beatles and their early B-sides to an abbreviated take on the Who’s 1969 rock opera masterpiece Tommy. Artistically, it’s more about execution than innovation. The Smithereens aren’t re-interpreting the material but stripping it to its essentials and enjoying Pete Townshend’s timeless melodies in the process. They can’t hope to better the Who’s own take on “Pinball Wizard” or “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” but they show a genuine understanding of the music and modest tracks such as “It’s A Boy” and “Go to the Mirror” resonate with power and grace. The guitar sounds are strong and singer Pat DiNizio may be no Roger Daltrey but he’s an ambitious understudy, while drummer Dennis Diken knows better than to try and outdo the great Keith Moon, though the playing on “Sparks” is pretty damned inspired.

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Ratings and Reviews

4.3 out of 5
26 Ratings

26 Ratings

B.Casey ,

Bravo, Well Done!!!

Wow, what can you say...A Great Group paying Tribute to a Great Group!!! Well done and worth every penny.

T. Sinclair ,

Deft, Dumbstruck & Blindingly Brilliant!

In the 40 years since The Who’s “Tommy” album was first released, it has been turned into an overblown London Symphony Orchestra production with “guest stars”, a motion picture, a Broadway musical and even a ballet. Now The Smithereens have taken what had once become bloated and have stripped it back down to its essence with their no frills “tear it up” version of “Tommy”. The Who’s producer Kit Lambert originally wanted to make this “rock opera” truly operatic by bringing in an orchestra for the album’s recording. However, the Who resisted that idea because they wanted to recreate the album live in concert as a four piece unit. The Smithereens have remained true to that vision and, in fact, their stated intention was to tailor their studio rendition of “Tommy” more like the Who’s raucous “Live at Leeds” performance rather than the album version. Judging from their popular energized versions of The Who’s “The Seeker” and “Behind Blue Eyes” that they have frequently performed live in concert, The Smithereens have ably demonstrated that they have the talent (and, perhaps more importantly, the no holds barred rock attitude) to render the fury of the Who’s music through their own power pop prism. (And all of this musical prowess and reinvigoration in the studio bodes well for a forthcoming Smithereens album of original new songs scheduled for later this year.)

Just listen to this album’s appropriately titled “Sparks” instrumental with lead guitarist Jim Babjak’s combustible power chords and Dennis Diken’s rumbling drums and lightning fast drum fills. They take us on a guided tour through the Who’s musical landscape with a quick detour through The Smithereens’ rocky terrain. Rhythm guitarist and lead singer Pat DiNizio’s distinctive powerhouse vocals enliven and reboot songs like “Acid Queen” while imbuing the subtler numbers like “I’m A Boy” with admirable finesse. “The Thrilla” emulates sensurround with nimble bass lines during such lofty numbers as “Overture”. Kurt (The Grip Weeds) Reil adeptly co-produces/reproduces the album along with occasional musical contributions of his own (i.e. mellotron, organ and backing vocals). The CD is illustrated fittingly with front and back covers by William Stout (who also designed the iconic “Tales From the Who” album cover) and contains informative liner notes written by Jim Babjak and Bill Crowley.

Other highlights from this album include “I’m Free” which rocks much harder than the Who’s more sedate studio version. Here The Smithereens treat it like the rock anthem it always should have been. “Amazing Journey”, “Christmas” and “Go To The Mirror” (all featuring Jim on lead vocals) are performed as if the Smithereens were The Who’s distant power punk cousins. “Eyesight To The Blind” finds Pat mining the blues fluently on vocals with occasional backup from a celestial choir. When The Smithereens play the soaring “Sensation” (with Dennis on lead vocals), it makes mincemeat out of the Who’s rather anemic and horn-drenched 1989 “Tommy Live” tour version of the song (which wasn’t even performed live during the “Tommy” portions of their early Leeds and Isle of Wight concerts). “Pinball Wizard” features Dennis singing up front with Pat on tandem vocals (including what may or may not be an homage to Shocking Blue’s “Venus” for a few strumming acoustic bars near the very beginning). By the time they close the album by adding some raw punk-tinged guitar chords to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, The Smithereens have impressively marked their territory. They’ve accomplished the nearly impossible task of delivering a 40 year-old Tommy and making him seem newly reborn.

Losendos2011 ,

..wow..

I have to say this a pretty special cover..all songs come across raw and powerful..you can tell they loved doing this because it sounds fantastic and is played fantastically..The Who were also my musical genesis..my beginning..those opening chords of Pinball Wizard made me want to play guitar..the chorus in Listening To You filled my young adolescent head with peace…great cover guys..I can appreciate this as much as the original recordings (live & studio)..thanks Simthereens..

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