Lou Reed - Berlin (1973)  

In the growing category of albums I never realized were rock operas, we must add Lou Reed's epic Berlin. This one of Reed's best and most haunting albums. It tells the story of a dysfunctional couple's struggle with drugs, depression, domestic abuse and ultimately, suicide. So, not your average feel good album.

The album was inspired by producer Bob Ezrin's question about whatever happened to the couple from the song "Berlin" from Reed's first solo album. The result is the tragic dark story of Jim and Caroline weaved over 11 songs lasting just under an hour. Ezrin, of course, is no stranger to rock operas having worked with Pink Floyd (The Wall), Alice Cooper (Welcome to my Nightmare), and KISS (The Elder). He does a great job on the production. The band on this album includes guitar greats Dick Wagner and Steve Hunter, Anysley Dunbar on drums, Jack Bruce on bass and Steve Winwood on Hammond organ. Ezrin plays some piano, but it's his kids' heartbreaking cries and screams of "mummy" that are the most provocative sounds on the entire album.

Reed reworked some older material, both from prior solo efforts as well as his time in The Velvet Underground. The songs alternate between sparse acoustic arrangements punctuated occasionally with strings and horn sections. Standout songs include the title track "Berlin," "Caroline Says II," "Oh Jim," and "Sad Song." It's not Reed's most accessible album (though nowhere near his least) but it is beautiful and harrowing at the same time.    

The album was a critical and commercial disaster, earning a not-undeserved reputation as "the most depressing album of all time" in part due to the nature of the story and perhaps in part, because you simply couldn't listen to Ezrin's kids' screaming on "The Kids" without a feeling of gut-wrenching sadness. So you could say, the album succeeded greatly in what it set out to do.

Nonetheless, over the years, the album's reputation improved. Reed finally toured the album in 2007 at the age of 65, along with Bob Ezrin, a thirty-piece band and full choir. The album Live from St. Ann's Warehouse and the film Lou Reed: Berlin capture the show. Sadly, Reed's vocal performance, never strong to begin with, is barely above a croak at this point, marring an otherwise wonderful production. 

Check out the video from a live performance below.

Dreams from the Witch House (2014) 

I admit, I'm a sucker for rock operas. And if you throw in some HP Lovecraft, well then you've definitely got my attention. "Dreams in the Witch House" is a full-blooded modern rock opera based on one of HP Lovecraft's typically creepy stories about things gone wrong in dimensions we can't know or understand. The story is compelling enough on its own and it provides a solid basis for characters and a story arc. But what really makes this piece shine is the caliber of the rock.  

"Dreams in the Witch House" has an over-the-top classic rock sound. If the combination of Meatloaf meets KISS with a side of Trans-Siberian Orchestra intrigues you, you'll love this album. Standout cuts include "The Nightmare" "No Turning Back" and "Signum Crucis" (featuring one-time KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick).  

On the spectrum of Rock and Opera, "Dreams in the Witch House" is a bit more on the musical story side of things with many spoken word narrative sections. So if you're looking for background rock music, this might not fit the bill. But if you want a captivating story for a long drive, I highly recommend it.The whole project was completed in association with HP Lovecraft Historical Society, who also produce excellent old-time radio adaptations of Lovecraft's stories. It's available direct from HPLHS on CD or Vinyl or you can get it at Amazon for $9. This is perfect for Halloween listening.

You can also check out the videos at Youtube

    Ghost Brothers of Darkland County (2013) 

    This next one is a bit of an odd-ball to me. It's not exactly a rock opera, but it's close enough to warrant examination. "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" came together in 2013 as a joint project of John Mellencamp, Stephen King and T-Bone Burnett. Ok, that's quite a parentage right there. Their efforts yielded a star-studded band, an album, a "hardcover" box set and a touring cast. While there's some rock to this whole thing, "Ghost Brothers" is more alt-country-musical than rock opera. So it's important to judge the project on that basis, rather than comparing to a traditional rock opera like "Tommy."  If you are looking for big soaring guitar solos, this is not gonna cut it. 

    But if you like the roots rock music of Mellencamp, Elvis Costello or The Blasters, then it might be right up your alley. However, before every musical number there's a dramatic exposition that takes place. It starts off with the narrator (Stephen King) introducing the tale as a back-country DJ known as the Zydeco Cowboy. These narrative elements are done well with professional actors, and they help move the story along in a way that is hard to do with just songs. But if you just want to listen to the music, you'll be hitting the skip button quite often. The songwriting, the vocals, the playing, the production are all top notch, conveying a real sense of emotion and some nice swampy southern sounds. Standout songs for me include "So Goddamn Smart,"How Many Days," "Tear This Cabin Down."  To be clear, I'm way more a fan of "alt" than "country."  Your mileage may vary. 

    Personally, I find this album interesting, but, even with Elvis Costello on board, this is too far afield for repeated listening. I would consider seeing it live, but as an album, it's just not my cup of tea. 


    Crack The Sky - Machine (2010) 

    Crack The Sky is one of those rare bands that shined brightly in the '70s and then all but disappeared from public consciousness, despite the fact that they continued to record and tour. Their namesake debut album scored impressive reviews from Rolling Stone and elsewhere. They opened for bands like Styx, ELO, Frank Zappa and others. But they were on a low-rent label, made every possible management mistake and then went on hiatus for a few years. While they never made it nationwide, they did have a huge somewhat accidental following in Baltimore and after a couple of lost years, got back to work. 

    Although songwriter and vocalist John Palumbo had wanted their second album to be a full-blown rock opera about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, unfortunately that effort got shelved and only one song ("Rangers at Midnight") emerged on that album. However, many of their works are concept albums and a few seem close enough to at least be on the borderline. My personal favorite is their 2010 release of "Machine." It's a solid album and representative of their overall work, but still having a modern sound to it. It even has an overture! 

    Crack The Sky definitely has elements that will sound familiar to classic rock fans. The band was highly influenced by The Beatles and prog rockers like King Crimson and Yes. Songs off this ablum like "Heaven" and "Come Out" could fit quite well in David Gilmour era Pink Floyd. Other songs like "Go Johnny" and "Hyphen American" are more hard rocking, signaling the band's long roots in 1960s rock and roll.

    Overall, it's an album with a statement of warning on the impact of technology on society. And despite the occasional somber tone, it's a great album that holds together nicely. In fact, I would have to rate Crack The Sky as one of the greatest bands I've discovered. You really can't go wrong with any of their albums.

    While I couldn't find live performances from this album, here's a video of "From The Greenhouse" from a few years earlier.

    Green Day - American Idiot (2004) 

    American Idiot is one of those very rare cases where a band decides to create a rock opera and it actually worked. Not only was "American Idiot" a great album, it catapulted Green Day from a niche punk band into mainstream arena rock. 

    The origins of the album or very strange. In 2003, they'd finished recording an album "Cigarettes & Valentines" and the tapes went missing. Deciding it wasn't their best work, the band challenged themselves to come up with something better. With the second gulf war looming in the background, Billy Joe Armstrong wrote songs with a greater social commentary on the power of the 24/7 news media, politics and war. Despite these grand ambition, the album hits the mark.

    While the overall plot is a bit thin, something to do with Jesus of Suburbia getting tired of his home town, meeting St Jimmy a punk rocker or maybe he's a drug dealer and a woman called Whatersername. Anyways, never mind the plot, the songs are among the best the band has ever done. Things kick off with the title track, a three-minute blistering political punk/pop anthem. The album produced four additional singles including "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," "Holiday," "Jesus of Suburbia" and "Wake Me Up When September Ends" and became their best-selling album ever, selling more than six million copies in the US and becoming the bands first #1 album.

    The band's follow up was the 2009 release of "21st Century Breakdown" an even more complex rock opera with even more songs. While the album sold well and had several popular singles, it failed to clear the bar set by "American Idiot." 

    American Idiot became a rock musical in 2009, launching in Berkeley, California and eventually landing on Broadway, London's West End and touring the world. The musical, which included participation from Billy Joe Armstrong fleshed out the story and includes additional songs from their follow up album. I managed to catch the show in Berkely and it was everything you could hope for in a live rock opera musical.

    Here are a couple of video clips from their 2005 appearance at Live 8.

    Brainpool - Junk (2004) 

    I happened to stumble across the song "This is Junk" by Brainpool while listening to a running podcast back in 2008. It's a catchy number that sounded to me like Ted Leo and the Pharmacists with a top-40 radio vibe. After digging further I discovered that Brainpool was a 90's postpunk pop group from Sweden who had several hits in the early 1990s, but ditched it all in 2000 to write a rock opera called "Junk" on the growing commercialism in society. This was a labor of love that took Brainpool four years to complete. And it's an absolute masterpiece.

    The result was a stunning work reminiscent of the best of the concept albums from the 70's and 80's. Brainpool combined classic rock hooks in the style of The Who, The Clash, Oasis, Pink Floyd, ELP, Queen, David Bowie --and Ted Leo. Not only is the music good, it's eery; like finding a rare unreleased bootleg from a supergroup of classic rock veterans. Brainpool performed "Junk" live with the Malmo Symphony Orchestra in 2005 and then... they broke up.

    Unfortunately Brainpool never found much success outside of Sweden. Maybe the toil of working on a rock opera for four years was too much. "Junk" had a live run in LA and a more limited performance in New York, but sadly the band appears to be on a semi-permanent hiatus. There have been rumors of another album but nothing has come other than the occasional Christmas song.

    While you won't find the CD in the racks at your local musical retailer, you can get it at Amazon, iTunes, etc. To me "Junk" is one of the greatest rock operas ever and a definite source of inspiration for "Underground Radio".  Some of the highlights include "Anybody Home?", "What Have I Done and Why Have I Done It?", "Who's That Man?"

    There are a couple of videos on YouTube if you want to give it a listen.

    Styx - Kilroy Was Here (1983) 

    When I was in high school Styx was everywhere. They had litany of songs (or arguably the same song over and over) that landed in heavy rotation on radio, at parties and dances. I mean you couldn't avoid "Lady," Lorelei," "Light Up" etc. The songs were catchy, the guitars were good, but somehow it was all a bit cheesy. But about every twenty years I put on some Styx and I gotta admit, these songs are all pretty great. They're upbeat, positive, and musically quite sophisticated in a unique hard rock / prog genre. They're up there with ELO and far more melodic and tuneful than Yes.

    The original band was formed by Dennis DeYoung and fraternal twin brothers John and Chuck Panozzo, three teenagers growing up in Chicago. They changed names a few times, went to college together and added other musicians, most notably guitarists James "JY" Young and later Tommy Shaw. It took quite a few years and several albums for Styx to really establish themselves. Their early albums didn't do very well and they were never popular with critics. But they toured relentlessly and built an audience. They were able to deliver four multi-platinum selling albums reaching their highest peak with the concept album "Paradise Theater," achieving the #1 spot, selling four million copies and delivering three top 10 singles.

    And then, they decided to do a rock opera.

    "Kilroy Was Here" is not a bad album. The big problem was it was largely Dennis DeYoung's baby and the rest of the band was not excited about the project. While the songwriting (and vocals) were evenly divided, the material isn't as good as their earlier album. In particular it doesn't have the hard rocking songs like "Renegade" or "Too Much Time On My Hands" or the grandiosity of "Light Up" or "Come Sail Away." The much lamented "Mr Roboto" is quite good (if a bit goofy) and "Heavy Metal Poisoning" is not bad, though it could just as easily have been by Spinal Tap.

    DeYoung, undaunted, wanted to bring a bunch of rockers into a higher form of visual story telling. Their 1983 tour played to smaller theaters and included a 10 minute non-musical film to explain the plot and background to the audience. The rest of the band hated it, they were losing money and eventually Tommy Shaw, mired in drugs and alcohol, quit. 

    The plot itself is pretty standard rock opera fare: Rock music is illegal, rock star Kilroy is locked up, his bandmates break him out, there's an evangelical guy they fight against, er something like that. If "Kilroy Was Here" had come before "Paradise Theater" it probably would have done reasonably well and they would have recovered. 

    Unfortunately, Styx never really regained their former glory. They were on and off for a few years, with a well-received reunion tour with the entire band (including Dennis DeYoung and Tommy Shaw) but new albums were weak and they settled back into acrimony and argument when DeYoung was unable to tour due to illness.

    I managed to see one of Dennis DeYoung's recent shows and it was quite good. He still has the pipes and the mad synthesizer sounds. He has a good band, but it's probably not quite the same. Styx also tours on their own with Canadian musician Gowan filling in for DeYoung. In recent shows the band started playing "Mr Roboto" in their encore, a sort of vindication for DeYoung.

    The album is definitely worth a listen, as is their Greatest Hits album. And check out the video of "Mr Roboto." 

    KISS - Music From The Elder (1981) 

    Although KISS had established themselves as highly theatrical three-chord rockers in the early '70s and rose to great heights with their "Alive" album, by the end of the decade they'd started to lose their way. By 1978 they released four solo albums at the same time, trying the patience of even the most devoted fan. They followed that with two lackluster albums the disco-infused "Dynasty" and "Unmasked." 

    In order to regain control of their sagging career they decide to team up with Bob Ezrin who had produced their very successful "Destroyer" album as well as albums by Alice Cooper and Pink Floyd's "The Wall." So of course, they decided they should record... a rock opera!

    "Music from the Elder" started with a comic-book level story by bassist Gene Simmons about a secret society (The Council of Elders) who every generation identify some gifted youth and mentor him to fight, ah, evil, or something. KISS set the seemingly impossible goals of gaining critical success with a rock opera while also going back to basics to bring back their most loyal fans. Sadly, they could not have picked two goals that were in more direct opposition. Maybe if KISS had better songwriting chops or really went back to their roots of three chord rock, they could have achieved success. Unfortunately, "Music from the Elder" is the worst of both worlds. Original drummer Peter Criss had left the band by then and guitarist Ace Frehley would soon follow suit.  

    It's an album so bad that when presented to Casablanca Records, the company resequenced the tracks, scrambling any attempt to understand the admittedly sophomoric storyline. By any standard, what they delivered is pretty awful. It lacks the energy and straightforward rock appeal of traditional KISS hits, while failing to stand out by the measures of prog rock. The songs are bloated, boring and there's an incongruous use of strings, orchestra, choir and medieval melodies that would be more fittiing to an ELP outtake. 

    The best songs from the album are "World Without Heroes" and "Mr Blackwell" but even those pale compared to KISS's better songs. I only came to appreciate KISS in the mid 90's when they did their first reunion. Because of their makeup and cartoonishness, they are in many ways an underrated band. That said, you are much better off with "Alive," one of numerous greatest hits packages, or even the 1998 reunion album "Psycho Circus" instead of this crap. 

    Still, I'm happy that "Music from the Elder" exists because it was at least a small part of the motivation on my own rock opera Underground Radio. I figured if KISS could attempt a rock opera, anyone could. 

    Frank Zappa - Joe's Garage (1979) 

    For a lot of people, Joe’s Garage remains one of the most approachable of Frank Zappa’s works. Technically a triple album when released on vinyl in 1979, it's long since been reissued as a double CD combining Acts I, II and III and clocking in at just under 2 hours. 

    Although the title track has the usual Zappa key and tempo changes, it has a catchy sing-along chorus and just the right amount of humor to not overwhelm the casual listener. 

    Zappa narrates the story as the “Central Scrutinizer,” providing the necessary explanations that keep the story moving along as Joe moves from Garage Band to degenerate rock star, a criminal and ultimately gives up on his musical dreams to worker at the Utility Muffin Research Kitchen Facility. It’s got the usual rock opera themes of dystopian society, music is illegal, yada yada yada. (In tribute to Zappa, we snuck in a few references to "Louie, Louie" in Underground Radio. 

    The lyrics range from profane (“Crew Slut”) to comical (“Why Does It Hurt When I pee?”) and occasionally profound: 

    Information is not knowledge 
    Knowledge is not wisdom 
    Wisdom is not truth 
    Truth is not beauty 
    Beauty is not love 
    Love is not music 
    Music is the best 

    Considering the album was released in 1979 against the backdrop of government censorship of rock music, it’s an appropriate and compelling social satire. 

    The album has several epic guitar solos and an occasional ‘70s disco-funk influence, but overall the album holds up. The penultimate song is the instrumental “Watermelon in Easter Hay” a signature Zappa song, that his son Dweezil regards as one of his father’s greatest solos. It’s a truly majestic piece of work, intended as the product of Joe’s tortured imagination. Here's a video of Dweezil Zappa playing it: 

    Klaatu - Hope (1977) 

    If you know one thing about the obscure prog rock band Klaatu, it's that in the late 1970s they were rumored to be the Beatles. Of course, that wasn't the case, as legions of Beatles fans later realized when they, you know, actually listened to the first Klaatu album. But they were a pretty good, if undervalued band.   

    Haling from Toronto, these three studio musicians thought that "the music should speak for itself." Hence, no bios, photos or interviews with the band, not even credits indicating who played or wrote the songs. And since they were signed to Capitol Records, some bonehead reporter for the Providence Journal thought it must be the fab four reunited.  

    At any rate, when all these Beatles rumors surfaced, sales for their first album soared. And admittedly, there are a couple of Beatlest-esque tunes on the first album, notably "Subway Sub Rosa" and "Little Neutrino." Meanwhile the band shrugged off the rumors since they were busy in London recording their second album, the rock opera "Hope," with the London Symphony Orchestra. And The Carpenters released had a hit single with their version of Klaatu's "Calling Occupants from Interplanetary Craft."  

    And I've got to say, "Hope" is one helluva an album. Although it clocks in at just over 40 minutes, it is ambitious and grandiose musically and thematically. It tells the story of an ancient race or planet of space travelers and a lonely lighthouse keeper at the end of space or who the heck knows what. There is a story here, which is why I think this qualifies as a rock opera more than just a concept album, but I wouldn't be able to explain it to you. Still, I would put it up there with SF Sorrow by The Pretty Things. It's that good an album.  

    While the whole album is excellent, I view "Long Live Politzania" as the best cut. Ok, and some of the vocals on this album do sound a bit like George Harrison but I think it's just coincidental. The guitar work on "Madman" is also excellent. The music has a '70s extravagance that you will either love or hate. There are elements that compare with Queen, King Crimson, the Beach Boys, fellow Canadians Max Webster and more.  

    Unfortunately, at some point the truth behind the rumor ("Klaatu is Klaatu!") surfaced and there was a huge backlash against the band. This was unfortunate because the band had nothing to do with these rumors. The band recorded three more albums before breaking up.    

    The first three albums are excellent while I consider the last two a bit more hit-or-miss. There's also an excellent box set called "Sun Set" which includes all of Hope with all of the London Symphony Orchestra sections fully restored. The albums are available on Amazon, iTunes and from the official Klaatu website.  

    Since live footage of Klaatu is relatively hard to come by, here's a 1974 live performance on CBC Music Machine with a song from their first album.  

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

    Here's a surprise: I never realized David Bowie's masterpiece "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars" was a rock opera. It's such a good album it stands on its own in a way that most rock operas don't. Clocking in at 11 songs in 38 minutes, it's a triumph in economy celebrating '70s wanderlust, teenage angst, alienation, and great hooky rock and roll.

    This is Bowie at his most accessible and creative. He's not yet trying to slipstream his way into Eno or Motorik, he's doing his Bowie thing the way only he can do it. Best of all, he's assembled a band of absolute star musicians, longtime sidemen MIck Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass and Woody Woodmansey on drums. Ronson's brilliant guitar riffs, tasty licks and power chords contribute greatly to the classic sound of this album.

    The album tells a somewhat convoluted tale of a bisexual alien rock star who comes down to warn of earth's impending destruction and then, well, who the hell knows what happens after that. It doesn't matter. Because every song on here is great. The album kicks off with "Five Years," "Soul Love," "Moonage Daydream," Starman," and so on. Somehow Bowie crafted an album that hangs together perfectly. It's filled with great melodies, a mix of tempos and styles ranging from the R&B influenced "Soul Love," the folksy acoustic "Starman," the "wham bam" 50's boogie rock homage "Sugragette City." And then you've got the finale "Rock and Roll Suicide" a near-perfect lament to loneliness. 

    Unlike a lot of rock operas (and honestly, a lot of Bowie) this album still sounds great today. It's a masterpiece, right down to the cover shot of Bowie outside a furrier shop on Heddon Street in London. 

    The band embarked on an extended eighteen-month tour playing England, Europe, North America and Japan. Sadly, Bowie announced the end of the band at the end of the tour on stage at the Hammersmith Odeon, to the surprise of Woodmansey and Bolder. Here's a video from that final gig. Ziggy played guitar!

    Wishone Ash - Argus (1972) 

    Wishbone Ash is one of those epic '70s bands that burned brightly for a few years, releasing top 10 albums, playing stadiums worldwide and then seemingly vanished. If you weren't listening to prog rock in '72 or maybe '74 you might never have heard of them. They never had a charting single in the US, no rock documentary, no "Behind the Music" MTV special, nothing. That makes it all the more surprising that 50 years later they are still recording and touring in the US and Europe.

    Although Argus, their most famous and best-selling album, is not a rock opera, it comes pretty close. It's a concept album with a pretty solid unifying theme (something to do with England and uh, fighting for king and country, I think) the music more than makes up for it. Maybe one more song on theme with some characters or story and it could qualify as a rock opera, so we'll cut them some slack. It's kind of an amazing album that ranges from prog rock to folk-rock harmonies and hard rock solos with a hint of classic English blues.

    Wishbone Ash pretty much invented the twin lead guitar sound which went on to influence bands like Thin Lizzy, Judas Priest, Steely Dan and even the Eagles. As mentioned, the band still records and tours, led by original guitar player Andy Powell. While they never surpassed the impact of Argus, they've had a productive career with 20 studio albums, a dozen live albums and many compilations. If you want to get a taste of the band, I recommend Argus, the compilation Time Was, and the live album Live Dates. There are some solid later albums including New England, Bona Fide, Elegant Stealth, No Smoke Without Fire.

    I've seen them live on several occasions in recent years, in a small club in Michigan and they did not dissapoint. These were among the best live shows I've seen. Checkout some vintage live clips on YouTube

    The Who - Tommy (1969) 

    For good or for bad, for most people The Who's "Tommy" is the definitive rock opera. When I tell people I wrote a rock opera, the usual question is "You mean, like Tommy?" Yeah, like Tommy, but better.  

    While I'm a fan of much of The Who's material, I can't say "Tommy" ever really clicked for me. There are some great moments for sure, and I love the theme that's repeated throughout. It's particularly rockin' on the french horn. But as a double album, Tommy clocks in at a bloated and overdone 75 minutes. With a lot of editing this would have been a fantastic single album. Still, the story is pretty good, if a bit cryptic, but it's certainly withstood the test of time. People interpret Tommy in their own personal way, which is probably what Townshend intended.

    Highlights include "Overture", "Underture", "Pinball Wizard", "I'm Free", "We're Not Going To Take It". But if I never hear "Cousin Kevin" or "Fiddle About" again, it will be too soon.

    Still, we owe The Who a debt of gratitude for popularizing the rock opera form in a way that no one else has before or since. But it's a shame Pete Townshend never gave credit to The Pretty Things for inventing the whole genre with 1968's "SF Sorrow."

    Here's a video of The Who performing Tommy live at Woodstock.

    Pretty Things - SF Sorrow (1968) 

    If you ask most people to name a rock opera, they'll probably come up with "Tommy" and not much else. Until recently, I had assumed The Who's "Tommy" was not only the definitive rock opera but also the first. But as I learned listening to the public radio show SoundOpinions, Pete Townshend was beat out by a year with a release of the album "S.F. Sorrow" by the UK band The Pretty Things

    The Pretty Things started out as a typical UK R&B band with a claim to fame of being hairier, dirtier and raunchier than The Rolling Stones. The Pretty Things' first two albums ("The Pretty Things", "Get the Picture" both released in 1965) are steeped in American rhythm & blues with cranked-up fuzz guitar. The music is not to everyone's taste, but if you like '60s garage rock sound, it's brilliant. By their fourth album they were stretching beyond the form and had the idea to create a collection of songs that told a story. 

    S.F. Sorrow was recorded at famed Abbey Road studios in London, in 1967 where the Beatles and Pink Floyd were also recording. The music and production is definitely of an era; if you can get past the occasional sitar, woodwinds and backwards tape studio effects, it's a brilliant album that combines melody, lush vocal harmonies, and psychadelic garage rock full-gain Marshall stack guitar solos in ways that I'd never imagined before. It makes S.F. Sorrow a tremendous discovery. Many of the songs sound like they could be from some long lost Beatles bootleg session. Standout cuts include "S.F. Sorrow is born", "She Says Good Morning", "Balloon Burning", "Baron Saturday", "The Journey" and "I See You."  Also "Mr Evasion." And "Talkin' About the Good Times." Ok, I like almost everything on this album.  There are a few clunkers for sure, but overall these fit in with to the broader '60s context and make the best songs stand out even more. 

    Alas, S.F. Sorrow album got little support in America. The band continued to record for many years, with a somewhat evolving crew of band members. They remained a successful cult band with a dedicated fan base. After 55 years of recording and touring, they performed their final concert in 2018 featuring special guests David Gilmour and Van Morrison. Sadly, lead singer and chief songwriter Phil May passed away in 2020. 

    The Pretty Things never really got the recognition they deserved for their early blues-based albums, their pioneering pyschadelic sound or their creation of the first ever rock opera. More importantly, they are a missing link in the history of English rock. I don't think you can really understand the evolution of rock and roll without listening to this album.

    Here's a YouTube video with most of the original lineup of The Pretty Things live from Abbey Road in 1998 recreating "S.F. Sorrow" in it's entirety along with some help from David Gilmour of Pink Floyd. (Skip ahead to 3:15 where the music starts.)