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Concept album
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Concept album

Usually, in popular music, an album of an artist or group simply consists of a number of songs that the members of the group or the artist have written or have chosen to cover. In a concept album, on the other hand, all songs contribute to a single effect or unified story.

What may have been the first example of a concept album of any form was Little Deuce Coupe, which features 12 songs, each one about about America's automobile culture. Three years later, Frank Zappa & The Mothers Of Invention created an odd farce about rock music as a whole with Freak Out

The album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles is generally considered to have been the first concept album. For this album, the members of the band were each supposed to adopt a fictionalized persona, and the title song, styled as the theme song of the fictional "Lonely Hearts Club Band", wraps around the rest of the album like bookends. However, most of the songs on the album are unrelated to the theme, and the fictional characters have little life beyond the introduction on the first track. There is thus some debate over whether Sgt. Pepper really qualifies as a true concept album, although its reputation as such helped in spreading the idea of concept albums.

Two albums that could be considered generally accepted candidates are S.F. Sorrow by the Pretty Things, which tells the life-story of the eponymous character, and Days Of Future Passed by the Moody Blues, which combines the acoustic instrumentation of the Moodys with the orchestral interludes of the London Festival Orchestra to document a typical "everyman's day". Both these albums were released in the same year (1967) as "Sgt. Pepper".

The concept album, as a concept, at times overlaps with rock opera and to some extent with rock musical. Concept albums are especially common in the progressive rock genre. For classical music that tells a story, or evokes a concrete idea, see Program Music.

An extension of the concept album idea could be seen in a series of albums which all contribute to a single effect or unified story. This was the original plan behind the first four albums by King Crimson, which all were related to the four elements of occidential mythology. These are In the Court of the Crimson King for the Air Element, In the Wake of Poseidon for the Water Element, Lizard for the Fire Element and Islands for the Earth element.

Warning: Plot details follow.

Some other concept albums include: