Saturday, August 16, 2008

Top Ten Concept Albums

The concept album has been mostly a fixture of the rock arena dating from the sixties. It can be argued that they existed earlier, but the idea definitely crystallized in that period, most notably with The Beatles. Yep, they're in this list, so don't be worried about that.

I picked these and put them in this order mostly on a whim. I either felt it was a great example of the concept album (in my opinion) or just because I like listening to it (definitely my opinion). I have had no training, classical or otherwise, in the field of music. I cannot play any musical instrument. I just know what I like. Not a musical expert what so ever. Not me.

So, without further ado:

10) Jethro Tull - Thick as a Brick

It was intended mostly as satire against some of what they felt were the more pretentious bands, and a jab at the news media as well.

9) Rush 2112

Man, this was some spacy stuff when it came out. Naturally, we all zoned out to this and A Farewell To Kings. I liked this one better, so it's on the list.

8) Styx The Grand Illusion

Styx was a pretty popular band during my high school days. This album came out in 1977, the year I graduated. My eight track tape was worn out both in my car and at the dorm the next year in college.

7) The Beatles Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

This album is often considered to be the pioneer concept album - at least in the popular rock arena. The music is definitely user friendly, and the boys from Liverpool had a lot of fun with the album cover. The collage of celebrities include W.C. Fields, Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Laurel and Hardy, and Sigmund Freud among others. One of my college pals was a Beatle freak, affectionado, and he claimed the crashing car (to the right of the "S") was symbolic of the Paul Is Dead legend.

This album has a lot going for it - great music, great album cover, lots of mystique, but it isn't necessarily a coherent concept album. The White Album isn't as good, in my humble opinion. You can only listen to Revolution 9 just so many times.

6) The Who Tommy

Another pioneer. Tommy can be considered the first rock opera, even though it really isn't an opera per se. It is for sure a concept album - the story of Tommy, the deaf dumb and blind boy, is told from beginning to end. I can listen to this album any time, any day.
5) Pink Floyd Wish You Were Here

I didn't really get into Pink Floyd until college, so this album had been out a while before I'd given it a listen. It was worth the wait. "The Floyd" really made a name for themselves by releasing a whole string of concept albums. In my humble opinion, this is one of their best efforts.

4) Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds

Now this is a concept album - H. G. Well's The War of the Worlds set to music. If ya like classic sci fi and rock, this one is right down yer alley. Richard Burton narrates, and Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues is one of the singers. The haunting melodies match Hayward's mournful tone - if you've never listened to it - well, ya just gotta.

3) Horslips The Book of Invasions: A Celtic Symphony

Oookay, this one is pretty obscure. I'm pretty much meat and potatoes when it comes to music, but here I'm touting something less than mainstream. Back in the day, when local radio stations had local disk jockeys (rather than someone owned by Clear Channel and broadcasting from across the continent), I heard this on a little Sunday night show that showcased obscure music the DJ wanted to play. This was one of the albums. A trip to the local head shop/music store and hey, there it was.

Horslips was a seventies Irish rock band that based their music on traditional jigs and reels. I could tell you this album speaks to my Irish heritage, but that would be a big load 'o crap. I just like it, period.

Thank you, Steve Dino.

2) Electric Light Orchestra Eldorado

The story follows a Walter Mitty-like character who mentally journeys into fantasy worlds via dreams, to escape a mundane reality he can't tolerate. Besides all that, I've been an ELO fan for years, and this is one of their best albums, period. Out of the Blue was also a pretty cool album, and it came with a cardboard cutout model of the ELO flying saucer, which was doubly cool. Eldorado is better, though.

1) Alan Parson's Project Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Ok, this one really and truly is a concept album - it is based on short stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Thus spoke the Raven, nevermore nevermore nevermore. 'Nuff said. The "Project" put out some serious albums, including I Robot and Eye in the Sky. I like this one the best, though.

Pink Floyd The Wall

Okay, so I lied. I've got eleven on my list. I don't care. One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, one ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them. Whoops, wrong genre. Turn the volume up to eleven. Okay, still in the wrong genre. The Wall is probably the most extravagant example of a concept album, ever. I anxiously awaited it's release, and had to see the movie. I've listened to this album stoned, and tripping (well in my past, I guarantee you). It still wears well. It didn't need those "enhancements," even if I thought they were at the time. Nearly thirty years later, I still enjoy listening to this album. It would be one of my "desert island" choices.

Yeah, I kinda like it. So, what are your favorite concept style albums? My choices pretty well stop in the early eighties, as has my musical tastes. Why do you like your favs?


Anonymous said...

Good list. I'm unfamiliar with Jeff Wayne and Horslips. Off the top of my head, a couple others come to mind.

White City by Pete Townshend and Misplaced Childhood by Marillion.

I guess it depends on your definition of "concept album", but ELP's Brain Salad Surgery could qualify. Karn Evil #9 is certainly long enough.

Hmmm, How about King Crimson -- In the Court of the Crimson King?

See, coffee is kicking in. I'll stop now.

CGHill said...

I put up my own list of ten, and there's one duplicate. Go figure.

Anonymous said...

Operation Mindcrime by Queensryche. Rockin' and good! :)

Anonymous said...

The Mars Volta's "De-Loused in the Comatorium" and "Frances the Mute" are both really good. Also Coheed and Cambria have a pretty epic series of concept albums about a sci fi epic they wrote.

Anonymous said...

S.F Sorrow by The Pretty Things would certainly be number one for me....the first recognised rock opera. Ciaran and I realise that the horslips youve chosen is one of their better albums, the superior choice would surely be The Tain, their version of the Irish epic poem...its a similar but earlier album. it would be number 2. as for the rest i would pretty much only rate those 2 as great concept albums. Ciaran Mc Cavana.

Unknown said...

I like this concept albums, but i want to know the concept