Monday, January 5, 2015

Why Have You Never Heard This?

Revolver is what, like the 5th greatest album of all time? Didn't matter once Sgt. Pepper taught his band to play.  Or how about Greetings From Asbury Park, forever in the shadow of Born to Run, and what is Born to Run but three minute songs in eight minute jackets?  Happens all the time. Yet, what about those albums you've never heard?  Not AM10s necessarily, but albums like misfit toys, banished to some Christmas island somewhere.  Periodically AM will ask why?  Why have you never heard...

S.F. Sorrow (AM5) by The Pretty Things.  It's a pity that S.F. Sorrow never had the commercial impact of its Abbey Road contemporaries' Piper at the Gates of Dawn or Sgt. Pepper, all three recorded simultaneously in 1967.  The Pretty Things had two monster hits in "Rosalyn" and "Don't Bring Me Down" (both covered by Bowie on Pin Ups), yet sales for S.F. Sorrow were modest at best.  S.F. Sorrow is arguably the first concept album, an incalculable influence on 
Pink Floyd and The Who (you can hear Tommy all over the place), not to mention a hundred wannabees of psychedelia.  It's the first album on which one song segues into the next, not just through crossfades, but based on purposefully orchestrated interludes.  This is an album of substance.   

S.F. Sorrow examines the life of Sebastian F. Sorrow, a young man who's seen war, loss and deceit, and ultimately withdraws himself from society (sound familiar, Roger Waters?). The album's obscurity is mystifying, and this isn't your typical organ-fuzzed-out-guitar-inaccessible psych album; might make sense if it were. Most of the acid trip here relies on masterful production, some pretty metal-esque jams ("Old Man Going"), inspired musicianship, and unlike a dozen rock operas to follow, it's never, pretentious or boring. It doesn't have half what it takes to top AM, but for S.F. Sorrow to be forgotten is a travesty.