Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Albums We Play All The Way Through
Author James Garcia of Dance On Fire fame posted last week about albums he has to play all the way through-an idea that would have made a great blog hop!
Hopefully Jimmy will not mind me posting my own take on his idea.

Like Jimmy, music is a huge part of my life-take the television, steal the cars, but some of those CD’s you’re going to have to step over my corpse to remove!
As I read Jimmy’s narrative about the emergence of the album format, it reminded me of many a conversation I had with Stephen T. McCarthy back in the days we worked in the same office building.
I love albums, and usually would rather listen to an original album (which usually had a running order that the artist agonized over) than a greatest hits album.
Stephen would usually counter that, especially pre-Pet Sounds and Sgt Pepper, an album was simply a collection of ten songs, and a greatest hits album was no different.
I don’t know if there’s a right answer….but I do know that when you hit me with a concept album, I am in Headphone Heaven!
Here we go with my list (sort of in chronological order) of albums I have to play all the way through (and think you should, too).

The Who -Tommy

Probably my first exposure to a concept album, Tommy was drilled into my head during those years I shared a bedroom with my oldest brother.

It still holds up for me today musically, although some of the lyrics are dated (the whole “Tommy-as-Messiah” theme is very sixties, and does anyone even know what a pinball machine is anymore?).

Yes-Close To The Edge

While not a concept album, the title track to Yes’ fifth studio album, which reached #3 on the Billboard charts way back in 1972, featured themes inspired by Hermann Hesse's book Siddhartha.

The song tracks the awakening of Hesse's character "close to the edge" of a river (and, symbolically, of the serial lifetimes of his soul), where he experiences a spiritual awakening.

Bruford says in his autobiography that he came up with the title to describe the state of the band itself, as he had with its predecessor Fragile (he left the line-up after completion of the recording)

This album set a trend for Yes of structuring an album around a single epic song, a trend that continued throughout their career, seen as recently as 2011’s Fly From Here.

Genesis-The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway

The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway is a double concept album recorded and released in 1974 by the British rock band Genesis. It was their sixth studio album and the last to include frontman Peter Gabriel.

The album tells the surreal story of a half Puerto Rican juvenile delinquent named Rael living in New York City, who is swept underground to face bizarre creatures and nightmarish dangers in order to rescue his brother John.

Several of the story's occurrences and places were derived from Peter Gabriel's dreams, and the protagonist's name is a play on his surname (Rael=Gabriel).  The individual songs also make satirical allusions to mythology, the sexual revolution, advertising, and consumerism.

One of the most creative albums to come out of the 1970’s progressive rock scene, and one of the best concept albums of all time.


Rush- 2112

Released in 1976, Rush’s fourth studio album features an eponymous seven-part suite written by Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson, with lyrics written by Neil Peart telling a dystopian story set in the year 2112. The album is sometimes described as a concept album although the songs on the second side are unrelated to the plot of the suite.

Often cited as the definitive Rush album. In 2012, the album came in at #2 on Rolling Stone's list of 'Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time.'


Horslips-The Book Of Invasions

Even though some credit Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick for being the first concept album, I always thought Horslips took the “core” Tull sound and did it better. Why they never achieved mainstream appeal is beyond me, especially considering this album, which is discovered in my one year as a disc jockey at my college radio station.

Based on an adaptation of Irish legends built into a complex story, and named for the book of Irish mythology the legends were sourced from, it is considered by many to be the band’s best work

If you like Jethro Tull’s style but want your folk-prog without tights, this is your band!

Todd Rundgren-Healing

When are you gonna learn, readers? If it’s a list, I’m going to find a way to include a Rundgren album!

Healing, Rundgren's ninth studio album, explores themes of spirituality and the human condition, with each track focusing on a different aspect. The back cover image of the album (artwork by Prairie Prince) shows the caduceus overlaid by a treble clef and a Qabalistic Tree of Life overlaid by a bass clef, reflecting Rundgren's linking of his spirituality and music.

The first side of the album was a six-song suite telling the story of a spiritual healer, and side two was a three-track suite exploring the use of music to heal one’s self.

The album’s release would trigger his first appearance on Saturday Night Live, as well as a video from the album (for the single “Time Heals”) being among the first music videos aired on MTV (I have seen it credited as the second and as the sixth video played).


Marillion-Misplaced Childhood

Misplaced Childhood is the third studio album from neo-progressive rock band Marillion’s first incarnation, released in 1985 and still their most commercially successful album, reaching number one in the UK album charts in June 1985 and spending a total of 41 weeks on the chart, the longest chart residency of a Marillion album.

Misplaced Childhood was the band's first full concept album, consisting of two continuous pieces of music on the two sides of the vinyl.  

The story has thematic elements of lost love, sudden success, acceptance, and lost childhood, along with an upbeat ending.  Several of the songs contain autobiographical references, and while Fish would leave the band after the follow-up album and tour, and launch a solo career that continues with the release of his latest album in 2013, he would never match the commercial success of this effort.

Marillion would continue on after the split with a new singer….more on that to come later in this post.

Queensryche-Operation: Mindcrime

Operation: Mindcrime was Queensryche’s third studio album, and is, in my opinion, their high water mark. It is a concept album and a rock opera, with a story following a recovering drug addict who becomes disillusioned with the society of his time and reluctantly becomes involved with a revolutionary group as an assassin of political leaders.

I was late to discover this album (1997, thanks to Lance), but it soon became a favorite, and is, also in my opinion, THE concept album of the 1980’s (apologies to Marillion)



If Operation: Mindrcime was the quintessential concept album of the 80’s, then I think Brave has to be awarded that moniker for the 90’s.

After lead vocalist Fish left, the surviving members recruited Steve Hogarth to take over front man duties, and after two albums of shorter, more “radio-friendly” songs, Marillion delivered this concept album based on a news story Steve Hogarth heard on the radio about a girl who was taken into police custody after being found wandering the Severn Bridge. She did not know who she was, where she came from and refused to even speak. This inspired Hogarth to write a fictional story about this girl and what might have led to her being on the Severn Bridge in this state.

Dream Theater-Scenes From A Memory

For their fifth studio effort, Dream Theater wove a tale of the discovery of a man’s past life, which involves love, murder, and infidelity, into a concept album.

While the band is a little hard for my taste, the album is exceptional, voted #1 on Rolling Stone's list of 'Favorite Prog Rock Albums of All Time.'


Spock’s Beard Snow


Snow is the sixth studio album of the progressive rock band Spock's Beard, and the final album with main songwriter and vocalist Neal Morse, who left immediately after the release of the album due to his conversion to Christianity.

A double-CD concept album, Snow explores similar ground to classic concept albums like The Who's Tommy and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis. It was released in 2002 on InsideOut Music.

While, in my opinion, the preceding album (V), was this lineup’s finest effort, I cannot help but wonder what might have happened had Neal stayed with the band. Although the subsequent two lineups have produced stellar efforts, the commercial success that seemed to be growing with each album stalled after Morse’s departure.


Transatlantic The Whirlwind

Never one to rest on his laurels, Neal Morse, even though he was prolific in his solo efforts, reunited the progressive “supergroup” Transatlantic for a third album, “The Whirlwind,” in 2009.

Written with Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater), Roine Stolt (Flower Kings), and Pete Trewevas (Marillion), the album consisted of a single 77-minute title-track, with the same spiritual lyrics that Morse had brought to Spock’s Beard and the first two Transatlantic albums.

A new album was recorded this year for release in early 2014. I’d recommend this one to any rock fan.


Arena-The Seventh Degree Of Separation

Arena has never achieved mainstream success in their two decades of history, and their latest effort, a concept album about someone’s last hour of life and first hour of death, did not change that, even though musically it found the band in accessible and commercial territory.

It Bites-Map Of The Past

Formed in 1982, progressive rock band It Bites cannot be accused of being in a hurry.

Map of the Past is the band’s fifth studio album, released on March 26, 2012, and is their first concept album.

Written by singer/guitarist John Mitchell and keyboard player John Beck during the course of 2011, the album’s concept deals with the theme of the past, as seen through old photographs.


Pink Floyd-Dark Side Of The Moon

I know this screws up the whole chronology, but I had to save the ultimate for last. If there is ONE album that simply MUST be played from start to finish, it is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. And you better use headphones, too-you really want to catch it all!

I do not have to rehash the particulars for you-released in 1973; recorded using some of the most advanced techniques of the time; engineered by Alan Parsons; tracks featuring themes of conflict, greed, the passage of time, and mental illness, reflecting various stages of human life, beginning and ending with a heartbeat and all sequenced to run continuously; 740 weeks on the Billboard charts.

Rumours have circulated since at least the late seventies that The Dark Side of the Moon was written as a soundtrack for the 1939 film “The Wizard of Oz.”  I myself took part is several chemical-enhanced observations to find synchronicities (such as Dorothy beginning to jog at the lyric "no one told you when to run" during "Time", and Dorothy balancing on a tight-rope fence during the line "balanced on the biggest wave" in "Breathe") although I was never as convinced as my friends

David Gilmour and Nick Mason have both denied a connection between the two works, Roger Waters has described the rumours as "amusing," and Alan Parsons has stated that the film was not mentioned during production of the album.

But I’d encourage you to try it anyway…with lots of alcohol or smoking material.

So there you have it...some you may be familiar with, some not, but I'd encourage you to give them a spin!




  1. Very interesting and cool blog bit "concept", LC.

    I must confess that as I was reading along, I was thinking: Where is 'Dark Side Of The Moon'? Don't tell me he left out 'Dark Side Of The Moon'!

    Glad to see it appear, at the bottom (really the top).

    Most of these albums I have not heard before (3 or 4, I have heard). Most I will never hear. I don't object to "concept albums" per se (in fact, I like the idea), but I think they are not often pulled off too well. And since it is usually Prog-Rock bands that attempt them (and I find most Prog-Rock bands pretentious), it's not surprising that I'm not a fan of the form.

    However, as much as I think 'Dark Side Of The Moon' is a genuine musical masterpiece, my all time favorite "concept" album (and one of my favorite albums of any type, any form, ever) is 'LIVING WATER: The Surfer's Mass' by The Malibooz.

    It is the Catholic Mass presented as California Surf Music; a TOTALLY unique concept pulled off with astounding beauty, divine harmonizing, and even an assist from God in the mixing of one track!

    Perhaps the most criminally unknown album in existence, and my favorite "concept" album bar none. (And I ain't never even been a Catholic!)

    I enjoyed this blog bit, DiscDude.

    ~ D-FensDogg
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. Glad you enjoyed it-I wish I could take credit for the idea, but...

      Yeah, I left DSOTM for last on purpose.

      Can you believe I work with a guy our age who had never heard the album? I brought the disc into work and he copied into his iTunes but was going to delete songs like "Speak To Me."

      I made him promise to leave it all there and for the next year, listen to the whole thing from start to finish.

      I've listened to the sound clips of "Living Water: and they did not grab me-maybe I'll just add it to my next order and give it a real chance-always better to hear the whole thing.

      It's not like it would be the end of the world if I did not like it and had a CD sit on a shelf in the fourth upstairs door on the right...with a few of his cousins...

  2. Some great choices here, and admittedly, a lot that are new (to me). I love 2112 and DSOTM. The rest I'm going to have to check out. Spock's Beard might be the most unusually cool band name I've ever heard.

    does anyone even know what a pinball machine is anymore?

    Any time I go to the arcade (the one that serves beer, of course) you can find me on the pinball machine. I love those things.

  3. Bryan-

    So pinball machines still exist? I have not seen one in a long time!

    They got the name "Spock's Beard" when one Morse brother said they would only get a record deal in an alternate universe, and the other said "yeah-like when Spock had a beard!"

    Arlee Bird (Tossing It Out) saw them once with me in LA, having never heard a note before, and he seemed to enjoy the show. I think their best albums are "Day For Night," "V," "X," and the newest, "Brief Nocturnes..."

    That also gives you a sampling of the three lead vocalists.