Posts Tagged ‘The Who’

CONCEPT ALBUMS! My Top Ten “plot rock” LPs.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

CONCEPT ALBUMS! Featuring my Top Ten “plot rock” LPs.

Calling out around the world! This blog is for people everywhere who dig concept albums. What makes a recording a concept album? That discussion is part of the fun.

I welcome all comments.

My name is GEORGE GRIGGS. I’m a New York rock/pop songwriter whose work is often produced and performed in live musical theater. My musical influences are The Kinks, The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Robert Pollard, Noel Coward.

And I LOVE concept albums!

My latest CD creation is, “Transmitter Man: a rock radio play” songs by George Griggs/Produced by Todd Tobias (Guided By Voices, Robert Pollard, The Circus Devils). Check it out.

Each week I focus on a particular element of concept albums. I am especially interested in the creative process: the songwriting and how the concept evolved.

So all of you songwriters, fans of any particular concept album, rock bands who have recorded (or who are in process of creating) a conceptual album, GET IN TOUCH! Post a comment! Visit this blog anytime!

Before we get into any, “Hey dude, Pet Sounds is not a concept album.” Or “Don’t you know the difference between a ‘rock opera’, a musical and a concept album!?” This blog has a passion to explore all of them.

As an intro I’m going to cite my Top Ten favorite concept albums with a story line: yeah, “plot rock”!

These albums have seen me through years of good times and hard times. They’ve helped me escape into my imagination and the “theater in my head.” Visualizing these stories, as the recording played, was a very satisfying, exciting experience. I always get a rush from a good concept album. All of my TOP TEN have distinct characters and cool story. This list might change tomorrow, but right now…

MY TOP TEN “plot rock” albums are:

  1. Quadrophenia — The Who (A young mod’s struggle to come of age in the mid- ’60s. Usually at the top of everyone’s concept album list.)
  2. Arthur — The Kinks. (Tells the story of a London man, Arthur, and his son’s decision to move to Australia during the aftermath of World War II. The music is remarkable. The songs never stray too far from the album’s subject matter, making this one of the most effective concept albums in rock history.)
  3. Tommy — The Who (Full blown rock opera with great overture and exhilarating finale. Stay away from the horrendous Broadway version.)
  4. Berlin — Lou Reed (The album’s songs form a loose storyline about a doomed romance between two chemically fueled bohemians. Some songs I recognize as “scenes” from two movies: Blonde Venusand The Blue Angel [both starring Marlene Dietrich].)
  5. Preservation Acts I and II — The Kinks (I’m a Ray Davies fan. Critics have bitched about this concept record, [or is it a musical?] but I like the characters and story — even with the spoken “announcements”. R.D. did it with his own unique style.)
  6. Jesus Christ Superstar — Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice (A classic! It still holds up amazingly well. You can’t beat the original LP. But if you want to hear an interesting, indie rock rendition of this famous rock opera, check out Jesus Christ Superstar: A Resurrection [Daemon Records]. It stars Indigo Girls Amy Ray as Jesus and Emily Saliers as Mary Magdalene.)
  7. A Grand Don’t Come For Free — The Streets (UK garage musician, Mike Skinner, aka The Streets created a tight story line for this album. Skinner said he read the script writing book “Screenplay” by Syd Field and applied many screenwriting techniques to this LP. Every individual song on this album is excellent, yet they all serve the narrative. A “movie for the ears”–compelling, poignant, funny story album. He really pulled it off!)
  8. Pinball Mars — The Circus Devils (Songs by Robert Pollard [of the band Guided By Voices], co-writing with Todd and Tim Tobias. Something you must experience. A bizarre alternate universe of rock music with characters Pinball, Z, Flush and others. It’s terrific and all in 35 minutes.)
  9. The Wall — Pink Floyd (Burnt out rock star, “Pink,” retreats into his inner hell in an L.A. hotel room. Lots of music motives re-appearing. Schizoids all over the world play this LP non-stop, but we all dig it.)
  10. Joe’s Garage — Frank Zappa (Satirical rock opera, but wait! There are many spoken lines — so is it a true rock opera? Satirizes social control mechanisms, consumerism, corporate abuses, gender politics, religion, and the rock & roll lifestyle; all these forces conspire against the title protagonist: an average young man who simply wants to play guitar and enjoy himself. This album was improvised in a weekend, some of it around previously existing songs. The narrative is long and winding but Zappa manages to make it hang together. I actually feel sorry for the title character towards the end.)

 I sometimes come across an obscure concept album whose title, or synopsis, sounds fascinating enough for me to lay down my $ and buy. One such concept album is SPACE CRACKERS by the band CLAWJOB.

This album is quirky, funny, catchy songs, distinct characters, well performed and recorded–and it actually has a solid fast moving plot!

I sent CLAWJOB questions about their concept album Space Crackers.

They graciously replied.

Their interview will be posted next week. CLAWJOB answered my questions and their responses are awesomely informative (especially for those who are out to create their own concept albums). Clawjob also has a very quirky, entertaining web-site. CHECK THEM OUT!

The Circus Devils (LP “Pinball Mars” #8 on list) are also being featured in my future blogs:

You can check out tracks from my own Transmitter Man: a rock radio play here

Let’s hear from you.