124. The Pretty Things — S.F. Sorrow (1968)
- I first listened to this album maybe three weeks ago, driving from SF back to Oakland. I was disappointed, to say the least, to discover the album itself isn’t about San Francisco sorrow, but instead about a man named Sebastian F. Sorrow. Sure. Let’s not dwell on that.
- This is a concept album, the first true rock opera, and I suppose that excuses the main character being named “SF Sorrow” a bit — melodramatic in the right way. The album starts out pretty strongly with the birth of the aforementioned Sebastian, but it quickly becomes rather blah from there. It’s not offensive; just unfocused in the way that I find many rock operas to be. There are good ideas in here; I wish instead of trying to make an opera, they’d put those ideas into songs.
- That said: the band evidently wrote chapters to the story in the liner notes, alternating with the tracks themselves to tell the story of our boy Sorrow, who ends up the Loneliest Person In The World. The first time the band performed the album, they mimed the story to backing tracks of the music, with full mime body paint, taking turns performing roles. That sounds stupendously insane for 1968, and I appreciate that they Went For It with the first rock opera ever made. It does nothing to convince me that there’s brilliance here, but I do have to throw them a bone of respect.
Next up: Simon & Garfunkel get experimental with Bookends.
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