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Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Great Concept Album Horror: The Grand Finale

For the last several weeks, I’ve told you the stories behind some of the worst concept albums in rock music history and also a couple that are downright fantastic.  For the final column in this series, I’d like to give you a short list of some others that are magnificent.  A few of these are going to be very familiar but if you haven't heard them in a while, you should do yourself a favor and spend some time with them again.  

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon:  It’s hugely popular and famous.  Everyone’s heard of it.  If you haven’t listened in a while though, revisit it.  There’s a reason it’s the best selling concept album of all time.  It's practically flawless in its execution and flows so seamlessly from song to song that you could teach a class on proper album sequencing with it.

It spent 741 consecutive weeks  on the Billboard Album Chart.  That’s over 14 YEARS!  It has sold copies in the millions and deservedly so.  The entire album is linked above.

My Chemical Romance – Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge:  This is not an album for everyone as the music is harsh and abrasive, but check out this concept.  A man loses his life in a gunfight.  He makes a deal with the Devil in Hell that if he delivers the souls of a thousand evil men to Satan himself, he can get his life back and return to the woman he loves.  Satan hands him a gun and the rest is a breakneck ride.  That's the kind of concept that should be launching a comic book series or even a movie, so it comes as no surprise that after this album, the band's mastermind, Gerard Way, began writing for Dark Horse Comics on the side.  He was also recently announced as a writer for Marvel (on a Spiderman series, no less).
   My all time favorite MCR track is on this album.  It’s called “Helena” and I’ve linked it above.

Frank Zappa – Joe’s Garage Acts I, II & III:  What’s not to love about Frank Zappa?  Well, that depends on how much of a sense of humor you have.  Personally, he's one of my heroes.

The man was smart as a whip, a musical genius and had an impressively irreverent sense of humor.  All of that is apparent on Joe’s Garage.  Warning though, this is not an album for everyone.  It tells the story of the evils of rock and roll in some hilariously ribald and (let's be honest) juvenile lyrics.  While it’s not for everyone and kind of falls apart in the third act, it’s still a fun listen.  The story is told by the "Central Scrutinizer", a shadowy character who is warning the listener of the dangers of following the rock and roll lifestyle.  In particular, he wants to make sure that you keep those awful sexual urges in check (whether you're a guy or a girl).  Eventually, it goes on to preach about the values of sex robots (again, tongue firmly planted in cheek here).

   If you're not sure whether to give this a shot, listen to the link above (but be warned that it's NSFW).  The song is called "Why Does It Hurt When I Pee?".  I'm pretty sure you can guess the subject matter.  

Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime:  It’s a heavy metal concept album that not only tells a well thought out narrative story, it does it effectively and with style.  In fact, it is done so well that the band was able to successfully play it live in concert in its entirety.  Behind the band, two video screens showed animated clips to thread the songs together in the few places it was needed.  I saw this tour when it hit Atlanta and it was amazing!

Operation: Mindcrime tells the story of a young heroin addict who is used as an assassin by a shadowy organization.  When he falls in love and decides to make a break for it, all manner of hell comes down on him and the woman he loves.  It is incredibly effective, with just the sort of down ending you want from a story like this.  The entire album is linked above, but again it may not be your cup of tea.  If you don't like your guitars loud and your rhythms driving, then you may want to go somewhere else.

Rush - Clockwork Angels:  There is no reason that the final studio album by Rush should be this good.  What's more, it's a fantastically realized concept album set in a steampunk world where life is dictated by an all-powerful Watchmaker.  One young man decides to go his own way and encounters a ton of weirdness.  

Drummer Neil Peart came up with the concept and then worked with novelist Kevin J. Anderson to write a book to accompany the release of the album.  It was so well received, Anderson wrote a sequel called Clockwork Lives.  Musically, the album is everything Rush fans love about this band.  The song "Caravan" is linked above but you can find the full album on YouTube in Playlist form.

   And of course there are a lot more great concept albums out there.  Feel free to share your favorites with me in the comments or on Facebook.  I hope you’ve enjoyed the last eight weeks or so of concept album craziness.  I know I enjoyed writing them.

  Speaking of enjoying writing, I really enjoyed writing my book The Wash and I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy reading it.  Check it out over at Amazon!   


Lisanne Harrington said...

All interesting stuff. Other than Dark Side of the Moon, I'd never heard of any of the albums, but I enjoyed reading their tales.

Michael Whildon said...

Always enjoy Pink Floyds great work! Also a great is The Police with "Synchronicity"