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The most exciting albums of all time

Sometimes a concept album is a collection of songs united by a common idea and sound, and sometimes it is a full-fledged story about a fictional character inside a created world. We've chosen 15 multi-genre releases whose meaning is revealed only by careful listening from the first to the last track.

The result is quite an impressive top. It includes albums from different music genres. It might surprise you that you can play with live dealers in music-themed slots. And so now you have a new benchmark and an opportunity to add the best music to your playlist, like:

  • The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band;
  • The Who - Tommy;
  • Lou Reed - Berlin.
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The Beach Boys - Pet Sounds (1966).

The band is famous for their beach hits, and Pet Sounds are their bold attempt to get away from hackneyed moves. The plot here is already formed at the level of the titles of the tracks, and the record itself is deeply imbued with teenage reflection. Starting with songs about dreams and hope, the album ends with regret about the past and disappointment.

PetSmart Sounds are considered one of the first conceptual albums in which the songs were tweaked to each other at the stage of creation. Paul McCartney admitted that it was after Pet Sounds that he got the idea for Sergeant Pepper, one of the most popular albums in the world.

What it sounds like.

To us, it sounds like a pretty classic The Beach Boys. To the band's contemporaries, it's the album of yesterday's surf rockers and carefree party kings who have suddenly become more complex and experimental. The most unexpected instruments are responsible for the fullness of the sound, from thermenvox and organ to car horns and bicycle klaxons.

The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

The album's songs are not sung on behalf of The Beatles but behalf of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," led by the fictional character Billy Shears.

By 1967, the Beatles had been starring in Britain for four years and in the USA for three, and the image of young men in suits with the same haircuts was expectedly dull for them. That is why Paul McCartney came up with a crazy idea: to call the band by another name and change the image and sound to get rid of the labels. And so Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was born.

The musicians dressed up in satin suits reminiscent of military uniforms for the album cover shoot and let go of their mustaches and beards. The order of the songs also speaks of a very different band: the album begins with an introduction of the team and its members.

Another brave decision - already on the sound level - is the absence of pauses between tracks. It doesn't seem unusual now, but in the era of vinyl records, the listener was often confused trying to find the groove with the right song.

What it sounds like.

In 1967, The Beatles were beginning to experiment with sound and psychedelics - a trend would peak a year later on the famous "White Album."

On Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Beatles embodied the full potential of Abbey Road Studios. For example, they slow down and speed up the tracks in the songs to achieve particular effects or use a sitar and tempura in the recording. And sometimes an entire symphony orchestra.

The Who - Tommy (1969)

Tommy is a seamless and utterly heartwarming 75-minute tale of a deaf-blind boy named Tommy and the world's first rock opera. The public did not immediately accept the album, but it became a rock classic over time - orchestras played it, films were made, and musicals were staged based on it.

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The events of the album are set after the First World War. In the story, a confident Captain Walker goes missing, and soon his wife gives birth to her son Tommy. Four years later, Walker returns home and discovers his wife's lover there: he kills him right in front of the child in the heat of the conflict.

The parents convince the boy that he didn't see or hear anything and shouldn't tell anyone, resulting in a traumatized Tommy becoming blind, deaf, and dumb. The boy faces a long and thorny road from despair to enlightenment.

What it sounds like.

Like a real opera with refrains, characters, and serious drama, it's all in the garb of rock music that The Who and sympathizers came up with within the 1960s.

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David Bowie - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)

The record is dedicated to androgynous musician Ziggy Stardust and his accompanying Spiders from Mars. Stardust arrives on Earth to preach peace and love through music on a dying planet.

David Bowie is a master of reincarnation, and his characters live on beyond the confines of the album. During the Ziggy Stardust period, the artist asked to be called just that and maintained the image by appearing on stage in a strange futuristic costume reminiscent of the garb of actors in Japanese theaters.

What it sounds like.

It's uneven: pop choruses are interspersed with balladic inclusions and rock 'n' roll motifs with hard rock riffs. But, on the other hand, it is about the kind of music we're used to imagining when we hear David Bowie's name.

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Lou Reed - Berlin (1973)

The most tragic love story in our selection. The characters are Jim and Caroline, who meet in a cafe near the Berlin Wall. The tenderness between them collides with harsh reality, social barriers, and irreconcilable differences. And the finale of the story is the suicide of one of the characters.

By the way, Berlin is not Lou Reed's only conceptual work. Two years after it, the musician released the album Metal Machine Music, which critics call a prototype of noise and industrial. According to many, these musical genres are impossible to listen to.

What it sounds like

Like instrument-rich 1970s art rock with a noir mood and a detached narrator as narrator.

Pink Floyd - The Wall (1979)

The fictional character Pink Floyd talks about his alienation from society, a conventional wall that shields the individual from other people. Pink can't find himself in his family, at school, or on stage and builds a barrier of loneliness and drugs between himself and the world. The latter, however, leads him to madness.

The plot of the album loops, and in Floyd's story, the listener recognizes the features of Pink Floyd leader Roger Waters. Three years after the album's release, director Alan Parker will make a film of the same name, the best illustration of The Wall.

What it sounds like

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It was like Pink Floyd at its most canonical and with signature hits like Comfortably Numb and Another Brick In The Wall, which were then sung more than once at school demonstrations.