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Concept Albums (Rock)


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Anyone have a favorite concept album? Which one would represent the decade of choice, be it the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s or present? I've been thinking about this quite a bit lately and have come up with a few favorites.

60s - I can't come up with much for this decade. It's not a favorite decade of mine concerning music. Sure, rock and roll was thrown into full gear, but i think it had more to do with sex and politics than music, cuz most of the music from that decade stinks (except for the Doors, of course.)

70s - I can think of one or two. "Dark Side of the Moon" would be my choice for this decade. Would "Tommy" be considered a concept album? I don't think i've ever heard of it, but i saw it on TV in England. Seemed kinda like a real loser movie.

80s - Now here we have a decade of concept albums. Unfortunatley, the ones i can think of are all from the ccm market and only matter to like three people (and they're all regulars on this site). DA's "Darn Floor Big Bite," The Choir's "Circle Slide..." Can't choose between those. Wasn't Talking Heads' "True Stories" some kind of a concept album/movie? And no, "Purple Rain" doesn't count. That's just a bunch of songs thrown into a movie, not a concept album.

90s - Immediately coming to mind are Pearl Jam's "Ten," Nine Inch Nails' "Downward Spiral," and Michael Knott's "Fluid," Adam Again's "Dig," Nick Cave's "Murder Ballads." In this decade, however, U2 and Pink Floyd really started coming alive with "concept tours." And i would imagine in some way that you could call "Pop" and "Achtung" concept records.

Present Day - I don't think i really know of a great concept album. Seems like Tool might be attempting this, "Lateralus" sure sounds like it, and i've heard their tours are fascinating shows built on theme. I wonder if "No More Shall We Part" could be considered.

Just looking for a little feedback. It's a subject i obviously don't know much about and would like to find more out there to try on.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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I'm not going to attempt to do it by decades, but a few that immediately come to mind...

Radiohead's Kid A. This one is a masterpiece of creativity, and, as one friend put it, it's the best sci-fi story I've never read. You could maybe even lump this one together with Amnesiac, as the two albums are obviously related in a number of ways.

Could you call U2's Zooropa a concept album?

In addition to Dark Side of the Moon, a number of Floyd's albums could fit, most obviously The Wall.

And I don't particularly like this one, but Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, maybe?

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The landmark '60s album was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," wasn't it? That's a concept album, isn't it?

:color_: (BTW, I saw this and I thought "psychedelic," a la "Sgt. Pepper's," although I guess it could be a coded way of saying I'm gay, or something)

The '80s started with Styx's "Mr. Roboto," which my brother owned. My favorite came much later in the '80s -- "Operation Mindcrime," by Queensryche! I loved that album.

I'm not sure I could listen to more than one song off it these days.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Could you call U2's Zooropa a concept album?

IMO, most definitely! And it's absolutely brilliant as a concept album (although some of the songs are not anywhere near their best efforts). It's a perfect time capsule of the early 90s

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Radiohead's Kid A. This one is a masterpiece of creativity, and, as one friend put it, it's the best sci-fi story I've never read. You could maybe even lump this one together with Amnesiac, as the two albums are obviously related in a number of ways.

How could i have missed my second-most favorite band in the world? Yeah, actually i think everything since "OK Computer" could almost qualify.

Could you call U2's Zooropa a concept album?

I'd have to go back and listen. That's my least favorite from the greatest band on earth, and i probably haven't put it in the playa for over a year.

The landmark '60s album was "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," wasn't it? That's a concept album, isn't it?

:color_: (BTW, I saw this and I thought "psychedelic," a la "Sgt. Pepper's," although I guess it could be a coded way of saying I'm gay, or something)

I thouught of this but didn't know how to spell "Sgt." I don't really like the Beatles that much, either. They're pretty good for drug-rock, i guess. But others have done it better.

The '80s started with Styx's "Mr. Roboto," which my brother owned. My favorite came much later in the '80s -- "Operation Mindcrime," by Queensryche! I loved that album.

Wow. Never knew that "Mr. Roboto" could be considered in that fashion. I'll have to look for a cheap copy of that.

I don't know how i could've missed it but in the eighties the Cure released "Disintegration," one of the most beatiful projects ever put to tape. Full of all of the anxieties, doubts, fears and feelings of lonliness, it creates a well of negative emotion that collides against the necessary "Lovesong, "Homesick" and "Untitled." It's by far their greatest project, full of all of the highs and lows of the human experience, with Robert's whining vocals the most clear they've ever come across.

I still feel i'm missing something though.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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My thought is that the album is the story of a prodigal son, or a Wanderer if you prefer. The first nine songs are the voices of the world around us; the final track is from the perspective of the Wanderer himself. It's fitting, then, that the last song is performed by a new voice.

I've never thought of it that way, but I will next time I listen. It makes sense and certainly fits the idea of a concept album. Nice interpretation, Josh.

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Yeah, very cool Josh. I think i'll give it a whirl much sooner than originally anticipated.

-s.

In an interstellar burst, I am back to save the Universe.

Filmsweep by Persona. 2013 Film Journal. IlPersona.

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"Zooropa" is my favorite U2 album, a terrific illustration of our techno/consumerism-obsessed era and the individual's spiritual travails within it (hmm, not unlike a Douglas Coupland novel, as a matter of fact).

Interesting interpretation, Josh, though I look at it differently: "Numb" is sung in the first person, and "Some Days Are Better Than Other" seems to clearly speak of personal experience as well. Also, "The Wanderer" isn't the only song off this album with a still-roving prodigal theme, in that "The First Time" speaks of one whose father gave him the 'keys to the kingdom,' but he 'threw away the key.'

Just some thoughts to add into the mix...

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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1. Yeah Stef, Tommy really is a pioneer concept album. It was a hard sell to thier producers, the mainstream had no room for "concepts" like that at the time. It isn't thier best stuff, but it is a beautiful drama. The film adaption is a good cult watch. But then there is always Quadrophenia, and even before these two was: The Who Sell Out, which is a pretty cutesy anti-media diatribe, but it really took the idea of a "concept album" to a new level, complete with commercials.

2. And isn't this a "film and spirituality" music thread? what about Jethro Tull's Aqualung? A rambling improvisational exploration of God's place in the world. Well, the first half anyway ("My God"). Man, that stuff is great live. The second half then is like a foil of the first half. I have never seen the vinyl cover, but I hear it is extremely interesting and teases out these concepts of the presence and absence of God.

3. The Moody Blues, Days of Future Passed is glorious classic rock, a 60's slice of life concept album that takes you down the rabbit hole. That is one to play for the angry people in your life.

4. There is the always neglected Frank Zappa, his We're Only In It For The Money is a brutal parody of Sgt. Peppers and by extension the whole hippie commercial culture. There are more than a few of his 60+ albums that are conceptual. Actually, I guess we should just say that the guy was a concept himself who just happened to play the guitar really really well. Believe it or not Freak Out! IS a concept album and it PREDATES Sgt. Peppers. (And Sgt. Pepper's doesn't even have a song cycle for heaven's sake, it is just barely a concept album itself. But it is the Beatles, so let us love them.)

5. Let's try and forget Lou Reed's Berlin.

6. The Alan Parson's Project did an Edgar Allen Poe album. I have never heard it. But he also did I Robot, which though being different from other things he did is fairly interesting.

7. I am a big fan of Roger Water's concept albums. Pros and Cons of Hitchiking is actually an album he wanted to do before they came out with The Wall. It is brilliant and has a great blues score underneath it all, some great languid slide quitar. Radio Kaos is definitely a throwback to the 80's era Floyd, a lot of synth and sax. It's concept story though is really engaging. A bit tough to tease out from the songs, but cool nonetheless. And if we are talking Pink Floyd, then Animals must be mentioned as being both thier music and thier understanding of a "concept" album totally refined. That is thier best work. The last legit Floyd release Final Cut is pretty much all Waters doing his "concept" thing, but good stuff.

8. Far and away the best and most underground concept album of the 90's is Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane over the Sea . They represent the best of the now defunct Elephant Six collective. That album really is a mindblower. After just two listens you will spin it for months. Their previous album is pretty good as well, but not quite so genius.

9. I suppose that Sigur Ros first full length album could be considered a concept album, well, probably both of them actually.

10. God Speed! You Black Emperor's latest Lift your Skinny Fists like Antennas To Heaven is a great concept album, but I don't like it nearly as much as the first two. Thier "stories" are a bit abstract as well, so they probably only verge on being concept albums in anything other than general themes.

11. There is always the Rush "space/future" albums. Now there is some fantastic music. 2112 is the Ayn Rand inspired drama of a man in the future who leads a revolution through music. The first track is 22 minutes of prog-rock bliss before math rock even existed. Caress of Steel is also a concept album, but doesn't have the epic feel of 2112. Hempisphere has a great cover, but is verging for them on slipping out of the "concept".

12. I have heard from a fellow sci-fi fan that a Hungarian band named something like Marsbeli Kronikak put out an album that reproduces Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles intstrumentally.

13. And...Alice Cooper! Yes, indeed From The Inside is a visit to the asylum for alcohol detox. Not a very cheery album.

14. And let us not forget the most influential concept album of the 70's: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. That is the rock concept album par excellence. That was such a concept album that Ziggy Stardust toured for the next few years before being killed by Aladdin Sane. It seems that so much of Bowie's music is more "concept" music through the personas he adopts as he tours.

15. I have a great disc named "Ambient Theology" that is a pretty good electro-industrial album that is supposed to embody the 6 days of creation. It was put out by one of the very few good Christian synth-jockeys.

16. Isn't Soul Cages by Sting a concept album? There are some Sting fans here, they would know better.

17. Tori Amos has two or three concept albums doesn't she? I am not a fan of hers, but I remember that Boys for Pele is an interesting story.

18. Another favorite of mine is Kraftwerk, whose Computer World visions are concept music at its finest. Same with Trans-Europe Express, these albums are basically performance art.

19. We could stick Brian Eno's Before and After Science right here after Kraftwerk.

20. Recently, the pretty good prog rock band The Mars Volta put out De-Loused in the Comatorium which is kind of a return to the old prog-rock epic tradition.

21. I think my favorite two concept albums in my collection though (I do actually collect concept albums specifically) are The Orb: Orbus Terrarum which is a very industrial jungle mix that spans the earth geographically like Baraka, there is an exquisite narrative quality to it. The other is Gorecki's Third Symphony which emotes the story of the Polish Holocaust through a series of exquisite poetry sung by Dawn Upshaw. I guess that could be considered a "concept album."

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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16. Isn't Soul Cages by Sting a concept album? There are some Sting fans here, they would know better.

Yeah, I suppose you could call it that. Good catch.

Interesting interpretation, Josh, though I look at it differently: "Numb" is sung in the first person, and "Some Days Are Better Than Other" seems to clearly speak of personal experience as well. Also, "The Wanderer" isn't the only song off this album with a still-roving prodigal theme, in that "The First Time" speaks of one whose father gave him the 'keys to the kingdom,' but he 'threw away the key.'

I think some of these voices are from the Wanderer's fellow travellers, though many of the songs apply to the central character, as well.

Let me refine my idea: The first nine songs are the voices inside The Wanderer's head. Some of them may even be his own voice. But the final track is the one in which he clearly speaks up and introduces himself.

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Josh Hurst wrote:

: Actually, I've never really understood how Pepper is a concept album. :?:

In theory, it was supposed to be a concert album, but of a concert that had never actually happened -- the Beatles had just announced that they weren't going to tour any more, so instead of going out on the road in person, they would send out this album. But there's only three tracks on the whole disc that sound remotely like a 'concert'.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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There isn;t really much more to add to this conversation. I was glad to see some people sticking up for the 60s and mentioning St. Pepper's and Ziggy Stardust.

As for Lou Reed's Berlin let's remember that that was kind of a Warhol creation and, interestingly enough, Ziggy was like a Bowie tribute to Warhol.

Has anybody heard the new Lou Reed THe Raven? I heard one tune on the Charlie Rose show that I found quite interesting and thought provoking. He still does the beatnik poetry to music and I like it.

...the kind of film criticism we do. We are talking about life, and more than that the possibility of abundant life." -M.Leary

"Dad, how does she move in mysterious ways?"" -- Jude (my 5-year-old, after listening to Mysterious Ways)

[once upon a time known here as asher]

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Has anybody heard the new Lou Reed THe Raven? I heard one tune on the Charlie Rose show that I found quite interesting and thought provoking. He still does the beatnik poetry to music and I like it.

Granted, I am a fan of all thing Warhol, but Berlin is still pretty bad.

Is The Raven one in which he quotes from Poe and Shakespeare?

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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I don't believe it. A concept album discussion comes up on a Christian board and no one meantions "Whole" and "Slow and Steady Wins the Race" by Pedro the Lion/ "Whole" was my introduction to Bazan's work, which has become some of my favorites.

Also, Soft Bullitten and Yoshimi by The Flaming Lips are fantastic.

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Also, Soft Bullitten and Yoshimi by The Flaming Lips are fantastic.

You think so? I've always thought the Lips' songwriting to be a bit amateurish, and Wayne Coyone is a wretched vocalist, in my opinion.

But good call on both records being concept albums. I'm with you on that one.

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