Arlen Roth Talks Concept Albums
There once was a time, particularly started in the mid-Sixties, when the idea of a “concept” album was a very popular thing. So popular in fact, that it for quite a while became the thing for rock bands and solo rock artists to do. It was primarily spearheaded by The Beatles, who always seemed to have a particular “bent” to their records, which of course, everyone eagerly awaited to see and hear! (I can remember going to my local record store, just to actually watch them open the boxes of the latest Beatles record, just to see what it looked like!)
The Beatles picked up on this trend and the attention that each of their releases was getting, so much so, that when they released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, the real “era” of the “concept” album was born! The way I have always looked at it was also from my own musical perspective. I always felt that anything that wasn’t a “concept” album was somehow something that was dis-jointed, and a work that lacked direction and purpose.
I really feel that any album an artist or band creates should be essentially a “concept” album. After all, that record is supposed to represent you during that place and time, and be a work of art that has a “point of view” that only it can have at that particular juncture. Ironically enough, it is just this that helps make an album timeless and what carries it forward in the hearts and minds of those who listen to it. It’s kinda funny how that works, but I guess it’s just because an album that is true to itself will always have a deeper and longer-lasting effect on the fans who buy it!
As far as the actual “concept” of an album is concerned, it can really occur at any time. I have done many a recording many years after a particular song may’ve been conceived, but that particular tune may actually be the one that “sets the tone” for my particular album. It may inspire other works on that record, or it may inspire a particular approach to the mixing and overall sound of the album as well.
Certainly, “consistency” is what we are looking for when making an album that has a “concept”, both in sound, recording approaches and of course, performance!
This latest Slide Guitar Summit album I have done with many great guest artists joining me has an obvious concept, but when it comes to the actual music, there are other threads that run through it besides the obvious “slide guitar” connection, and I try to make that happen throughout the entire album, and for all the artists concerned. Even the fact that I have had to record in 3 different locations, (one live!) has also presented a bigger challenge in terms on keeping the sound and the performance consistent on this record! In the end, the “concept” will hopefully be all intact, and the album will “speak” as one work of art, created at one place and time for me, in my life!