First off this is Jeremie’s top rock concepts albums, not the Rolling Stone’s, VH1’s, or even CBB’s top rock concept albums. These are my favorite albums that deliver a solid story backed by great music. I am not speaking for Daren as his taste in music is far different than mine. The first thing you will notice is that Pink Floyd is nowhere to be found. This is due to the fact that I really can’t stand Pink Floyd and I don’t believe a true concept album should require the listener to be high to understand the story. Secondly, while I enjoy Rush and find the songs on 2112 great, the story is cheesy and goofy. Finally, you will also find no mention Green Day’s American Idiot. I would rather stick icepicks in my ears than listen to a Green Day album. So with that…
Jeremie’s Top Rock Concept Albums:
10. The Beatles – Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band
Considered by some to the be the first official concept album. Sgt. Pepper is not only my favorite Beatles album but it makes my list at number ten for telling the story of Billy Shears. I admit to applying a board definition of a concept album to Sgt. Pepper because only three songs actually reference a story [with one being a reprise of the title track], but The Beatles changed the way music and albums were recorded when they released Sgt. Pepper. One could argue Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys started the movement with Pet Sounds [with most songs on a record bearing the same style, as opposed to a collection of previously released singles], but Sgt. Pepper made it commercially feasible.
Signature songs: A Day in the Life, With A Little Help From My Friends, and the rest of the damn album.
9. Trans Siberian Orchestra – Christmas Eve and Other Stories
The metal band Savatage featuring Jon Oliva and producer Paul O’Neil had long desired to write a rock opera with multiple singers backed by a full orchestra. They cited the awkward nature of having a male voice sing female parts as jarring to the progression of a story. Savatage recorded no less than three full concept albums, but the bands’ lasting influence on the genre is that they gave birth to the Trans Siberian Orchestra. TSO was essentially born out of the Savatage song Christmas Eve in Sarajevo 12/24 from the album Dead Winter Dead. What followed is the creation of my favorite band and some of the best blended metal and classical music ever. Christmas Eve and Other Stories follows an angel sent by God to find the good still left on Earth. Simple compared to TSO’s follow up albums but it also contained three of their best songs. TSO is also proof that Pyotr Tchaikovshy’s Nutcracker was meant to be performed with screaming guitars.
Signature songs: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo, Old City Bar, and This Christmas Day.
8. Coheed and Cambria – In Keep Secrets of Silent Earth 3
Coheed and Cambria is definitely an acquired taste, but leader singer Claudio Sanchez has grown on me and as such the band ranks as one of my favorite rock/emo/progressive bands. Admittedly, I have no idea what ’emo’ means, but I like the sound. The four album epic definitely needs the help of the internet to make any sense, but once you get the general story and idea of what Claudio was intending the scope of the narrative becomes massive.
Signature songs: A Favor House Atlantic, Blood Red Summer, title track
Ditto what I said about the previous Coheed album, but with a better track listing.
Signature songs: Welcome Home, Apollo I: The Writing Writer, The Suffering
6. Queensryche – Operation Mindcrime II
A pale imitation of the better album to follow, but proof that Queensryche can still write solid music with a deep, engaging story.
Signature songs: The Hands, I Am American, Hostage
5. Savatage – Streets
The last Savatage album with both Jon and Cris Oliva. The album Streets was what their previous album Gutter Ballet was supposed to be. Also intended to be a double album, but Savatage’s prior album sales made the record company force deep cuts to the tracklisting. The story of the rise and fall and rise and fall and rise of a drug dealer turned guitar player for the New York City streets is compelling while at the same time somewhat incomplete due to the removal or key storytelling songs. However an overall a great metal album. The band always hated that the record company tagged the title as Streets – ‘a rock opera.’
Signature songs: Jesus Saves, A Little Too Far, Believe
4. Dream Theater: Scenes from a Memory
A murder mystery spanning decades with a twist ending. The music is classic Dream Theater with incredible lyrics. Behind Images and Words and Train of Thought this is my favorite DT album. Even if you don’t like Dream Theater this album is worth listening to once with a lyric sheets just to experience the story.
Signature songs: Home, Strange Deja Vu, and Finally Free
3. Kamelot – The Black Halo
Kamelot is an internet find for me as I stumble upon a prog-metal site heralding the Black Halo. They were right, which does happen occasionally with blogs. With musicanship revivaling Dream Theater, the Black Halo is definitely Kamelot’s finest opus. The story is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Faust, which means nothing to me as I haven’t read the play but might mean something to one of our readers. Kind of a Devil Went Down To Georgia type of thing with the selling of souls.
Signature songs: March of Mephisto, The Haunting (Somewhere in Time), Abandoned
2. Trans Siberian Orchestra – The Lost Christmas Eve
Somewhat the same premise as previous TSO albums, but I find this one more enjoyable and overall the superior album because it seems like the crescendo to earlier music. I will see this band live someday. I want to experience the music along with the epileptic seizures induced by their light show.
Signature songs: Wizards in Winter, Christmas Cannon Rock, Different Wings
1. Queensryche – Operation: Mindcrime
This might very well be my favorite album of all time. Each song can stand alone and doesn’t have to be a part of the greater story. Drugs, sex, nuns, priests, mind control, murder and revolution. Prostitute nuns no less! Silent Lucidity might have brought Queensryche some mainstream recognition, but Mindcrime is and will always been their pinnacle. Name me one other better concept album? Nope, wrong answer. There is none. Don’t give me The Wall or Tommy or even Genesis’ the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. All them are like Barney songs compared to Operation: Mindcrime. And for those of you keeping track at home…yes I did just compare the Who to a purple dinosaur. And new Metallica still sucks too.
Signature songs: Suite Sister Mary, Eyes of a Stranger, I Don’t Believe in Love, and Breaking the Silence.