If there's one thing better than a well-crafted and well-executed rock album, it's a well-crafted, well-executed album that is also able to tell a captivating story through it's lyrics. Concept albums are a way of showing another level of complexity and thought in an artist's music. Be it an album with a running central theme or an expansive rock opera, a good concept album has the power to engage and enthral a listener the way that not many other records are able to.
Concept albums are not a recent development, arguably dating back to the 1950's with Frank Sinatra's classic 1955 album In The Wee Small Hours. Since then, a plethora of different artists have developed the premise in order to create their own concept records that have stood the test of time to become some of the most beloved albums of their era.
If you're looking for some stellar concept albums, then these ten are definitely worth listening to...
10. Arthur (Or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire) - The Kinks
The Kinks' seventh studio album, Arthur (Or the Decline and Fall of the British Empire) revolves around the character of Arthur Morgan, a working class man living in post-war England that emigrates to Australia in the hopes of a more prosperous future. In reality, the protagonist of the album was inspired by Arthur Anning, the brother-in-law of Ray and Dave Davies, whose life served as the basis for the album and it's overarching narrative.
Through the perspective of Arthur Morgan, the album explores a number of different themes that relate to Arthur's life in England. Tracks such as "Yes Sir, No Sir", Some Mother's Son" and "Mr. Churchill Says" all focus on war and Arthur's personal losses as a result from it. "Victoria" and "Young and Innocent Days" centre on Arthur's nostalgia for his pre-war life. Even British class values and attitudes are given attention with irony-drenched songs like "Brainwashed", "Shangri-La", "She's Bought a Hat Like Princess Marina" and "Nothing to Say". With a plethora of politically-charged songs, brief interludes like "Drivin'" and "Australia" provide some respite to the barbed, satirical lyrics of the other tracks. The album concludes with the title track "Arthur", a more positive, upbeat song that effectively summarises the whole narrative and ends the album on a high note.
Overall, this album is terrific to listen to. Every track features a wonderful blend of creative lyrics, beautiful melodies and the thunderous distorted guitars that the band trademarked in the early 1960s. After a lukewarm response to The Kinks' last album, 1968's The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, Arthur became the foundation of a comeback for the band in the late 1960s and early 1970s, coinciding with the lifting of a five-year touring ban in the USA. Brilliantly crafted and well-executed, Arthur serves as a turning point between the classic rock 'n' roll of The Kinks' earlier work, and the more alternative content that they would produce later in their career.