Sunday, October 25, 2020

Now That There's Time

Digital Downloading did a number on the concept LP; on the album in general. Since the Beatles' Rubber Soul, LPs were meant to be listened to in their entirety. Music was something to do, not something for the background. Now that there’s time, here are some of those albums, concept albums, meant to be listened to, sitting on the couch between the speakers.

Pink Floyd – Animals 1977
(George Orwell – Animal Farm, 1945) A farmyard critique of the socio-political Britain of the 1970s. Divided into three groups; (the ruthless) pigs, (the combative) dogs and (the unquestioning) sheep that represent the social hierarchy. Orwell, a popular choice for influence, also inspired Bowie's Diamond Dogs and Muse's The Resistance.

Led Zeppelin – IV 1971
(J. R. R. Tolkien – Lord of the Rings 1955) Although Led Zeppelin's catalog is peppered with Tolkien references, owing to Robert Plant’s fascination with the series, Led Zeppelin IV is the most obvious choice to reference. Songs like "Battle of Evermore" which mentions the Ringwraiths, Sauron's servants of Middle Earth and "Misty Mountain Hop" pay homage to the Misty Mountains, described by Tolkien in Return of the King. Led Zeppelin were exceedingly conceptual, even when an LP ventured away from the subject matter. Case in point the cover for Houses of the Holy, a take on Arthur C. Clarke's magnificent novel, Childhood's End.

Camel – The Snow Goose 1975
(Paul Gallico – "The Story of the Snow Goose: Story of Dunkirk," 1940) This one is based on Gallico’s emotional short story of the same name, an illustrated story of friendship and love set against the backdrop of war and loss. The musical accompaniment is a suitably sensitive and atmospheric journey, which can reportedly be listened to alongside reading the novella. No, I haven't tried it. I've watched the Star Sequence of 2001 while listening to Pink Floyd’s "Echoes," but reading to music eludes me.

The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot 1977
(Isaac Azimov - I Robot - 1950s) You might think a spacey/funky concept record based on the works of Isaac Asimov would be as corny as Kansas in August, but I Robot is not that STYX album with "Mr. Roboto" (note: I kinda like "Mr. Roboto"). If the textured, mostly instrumental songs on this release aren't convincing enough of its merit, consider that band member Eric Woolfson spoke at length with Asimov about the album's concept, and the author was on-board with it. Everything was concept with Parsons, by the way, the engineer who gave us Dark Side of the Moon. His first "Project" LP was Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allen Poe; another must-listen.

Bruce Springsteen – The Ghost of Tom Joad 1995
Inspired by the book and John Ford’s 1940 film adaptation, as well as by Woody Guthrie’s "The Ballad Of Tom Joad," Springsteen wrote The Ghost Of Tom Joad, a modern-day appropriation of the same Great Depression, a stripped-down acoustic album, not unlike Nebraska.

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