Top 10 “Plot Rock” Concept Albums

According to Reggie Bender

Top 10 “Plot Rock” Concept Albums

  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 Venus and The Blue Angel [both starring Marlene Dietrich]).
  5. Preservation Acts I and II — The Kinks ([I’m a Ray Davies-KINKS fan.] Critics have bitched about this concept record, 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: not one second is “filler.” 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 terrifically weird 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, Joe, towards the end.)
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