Saturday, February 15, 2014

Assembled Multitude -- "Overture from Tommy" (1970)

Like just about everyone I knew in college, I owned the Who's Tommy -- which is usually considered to be the first "rock opera."

I didn't really appreciate Tommy as a whole until I listened to it from start to finish a number of times while riding my bike several summers ago.

There are quite a few little gems on the two Tommy LPs -- especially "Christmas," "Go to the Mirror, Boy," and "Sensation" -- as well as the big hits like "Pinball Wizard," "I'm Free," and "We're Not Gonna Take It."

But some of the most compelling music on the album are the two extended instrumental pieces titled "Overture" and "Underture."

An overture was originally an instrumental preface to an opera.  Later composers began to compose stand-alone orchestral pieces called "concert overtures," like Tchaikovsky's famous 1812 Overture.

Broadway-style musicals also feature orchestral overtures that  are played before the curtain rises.  Such overtures usually incorporate snippets of themes from a number of the musical's songs.

The "Overture" to Tommy samples "We're Not Gonna Take It," "Go to the Mirror," "Pinball Wizard," and other songs.  The "Underture," which essentially opens Act II of Tommy, is more free in form.

The track titled "Overture" on the Who's recording of the Tommy really combines two distinct musical pieces.  At about 3:45 of that track, the true overture (which is 100% instrumental) seamlessly transitions into a brief song with lyrics.

Because the theme of this year's "29 Posts in 28 Days" is instrumental music, I've decided to feature the cover of the "Overture" from Tommy that was recorded by the Assembled Multitude -- a group of Philadelphia studio musicians (also known as Mother Father Sister Brother, or MFSB) who spent most of their time backing soul artists like the O'Jays, the Stylistics, and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.  It's 100% unadulterated instrumental -- nary a vocal in sight.

The Assembled Multitude was the brainchild of producer Tom Sellers, who organized the ensemble in 1970.  They recorded one eponymous album, which included covers of several familiar rock songs from back in the day -- including "Woodstock," "Ohio," "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," and (last but certainly not least) "MacArthur Park":

(I don't think there is such a thing as a bad version of "MacArthur Park," although none of the covers really match Richard Harris's original recording.)

Here's the Assembled Multitude's cover of "Overture" from Tommy, which made it all the way to #16 on the Billboard "Hot 100" chart in the summer of 1970:

Click below to buy "Overture" from Amazon:

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