Greatest Concept Albums of All Time

12/30/2010
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(Gibson) Concept albums rarely fare well with critics, with reviewers often lambasting such efforts as pretentious or rife with Spinal Tap-ish excess. Nonetheless, in recent years the concept album has enjoyed a resurgence, with discs by the likes of Radiohead, The Flaming Lips and Arcade Fire sporting connected storylines or overarching themes. It's too soon to say whether these albums will rise to the level of a Tommy, but as shown by the list below, the history of the concept album is strewn with classics.

10. Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon (1973): No album has come closer to coherent perfection both thematically and musically as this masterpiece from Pink Floyd. Shaped by Roger Waters' sense of alienation (and "inspired," one suspects, by the fractured psyche of Floyd founder Syd Barrett), the album probed its dark themes with the sort of exquisite craftsmanship normally associated with a classic novel. David Gilmour's searing solos, especially on "Time" and "Money," remain among the most momentous in rock history.

9. Rush 2112 (1976): Prog-rock and heavy metal were fused more brilliantly than ever on this conceptual effort, which proved to be Rush's breakthrough album. Spanning one full album-side, the 20-minute title track presented a harrowing portrait of a world in which individual expression is crushed at every level. Alex Lifeson's metal riffs gave the music a hard edge that distinguished it from the flighty tendencies of Rush's British prog-rock counterparts. Today, many of the album's themes seem prescient.

8. David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars (1972): The loose concept behind David Bowie's most renowned album seems silly on the surface: extraterrestrial arrives to save a dying Earth, extraterrestrial becomes rock star, extraterrestrial is destroyed by adoring fans. But within that cartoon narrative lies some of the most exciting music ever committed to vinyl. Tethered to Bowie's exquisite songwriting, Mick Ronson unleashed soaring riffs, explosive power chords, and sustain-drenched solos that reached otherworldly dimensions. Check out the rest of the list here

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