124. The Pretty Things - S. F. Sorrow (1968)
1. SF Sorrow Is Born
2. Bracelets Of Fingers
3. She Says Good Morning
4. Private Sorrow
5. Balloon Burning
7. Baron Saturday
9. I See You
10. Well Of Destiny
12. Old Man Going
13. Loneliest Person
Here you go, a Rock Opera! It was one of the greatest influences on The Who's Tommy for example and it is more an interesting album due to concept that really due to any inherent amazingness.
It is a musically non-offensive album however, there is nothing particularly wrong with it. There are some quite interesting uses of intrumentation, some very Jethro Tully flutes, some eastern influenced sounds, so on and so forth. Yet, it all is very much a staple of the age, there is really nothing that innovative sound-wise. It is good, but it doesn't blow your mind. There's something of the Beatles, something of Psychadelia and even the Stones in it. It is however less than the sum of its parts.
So, a not bad, but unimpressive album of British Psychadelia. It's main merit is, however the fact that it is a narrative story from beginning to end, but not a very impressive one, they are not that good writers... The album basically left me in a big shrug. Buy it at Amazon UK or US.
1. S. F. Sorrow Is Born
2. Private Sorrow
3. Old Man Going
4. Loneliest Person
S.F. Sorrow's narrative is different than others in the Rock Opera/Concept Album genre: while Tommy and Pink Floyd's The Wall relay their concept through the lyrics of their songs, The Pretty Things tell the bulk of the story through small paragraph-like chapters which were printed between each song's lyrics in the liner notes of the LP and the CD. These explanatory notes were also read aloud between song performances by Arthur Brown during The Pretty Things' only live performance of the opera.
Like The Wall and Tommy, S.F. Sorrow opens with the birth of the story's protagonist. Sebastian F. Sorrow is born in a small nameless town to ordinary parents in a house called "Number Three." The town is supported by a factory of some sort, referred to as the "Misery Factory." ("S.F. Sorrow is Born") Sorrow, an imaginative boy, has a relatively normal childhood until it ends abruptly when he needs to get a job. He goes to work with his father at the Misery Factory, from which many men have been laid off. This might make S.F. the object of hate in a sense that he might be a scab in the story, or perhaps the young boy who is taking some older man's job. ("Bracelts of Fingers")
Sorrow's life is not yet over, though. Joy still exists for him in the form of a pretty girl across the street. She says "good morning" to him every day, and he thinks about her constantly. This is the factor that keeps him going despite his childhood's abrupt ending. The two fall in love and become engaged, but their marriage plans are cut short when Sorrow is drafted. ("She Says Good Morning")
Sorrow joins a light infantry and goes off to fight in a war, possibly World War I. Sorrow sinks into a daze, living out the entire war in a funk. Soon the sounds of gunfire and artillery become the rhythm to his life in a daydream. He survives the war and settles down in a land called "Amerik" (obviously referring to the country America, because the first words of the song Balloon Burning are "New York"). Sorrow's fiancee travels by "balloon", perhaps the Hindenberg, to join him, but it bursts into flame at arrival ("Balloon Burning"), killing all aboard. Sorrow is left alone, his beloved fiancee dead ("Death").
Sorrow drifts into a state of depression that leads him on an epic journey to the center of his subconscious. When wandering the streets, he encounters the mysterious Baron Saturday (a figure from Haitian mythology). The black cloaked–Saturday invites Sorrow to take a journey, and then, without waiting for a response, "borrows his eyes" and initiates a trip through the Underworld. ("Baron Saturday")
The trippish quest begins by taking flight into the air, where Sorrow is driven by a whip-cracking Baron Saturday. Sorrow thinks he is flying toward the moon, which would have been lovely as he always had a fascination with it, but instead he sees that it is instead his own face. The Baron pushes him through the mouth of the face and then down the throat where they find a set of oak doors. Saturday throws them open and prompts S.F. Sorrow inside where he finds a room full of mirrors.("The Journey") Each one of them shows a memory from his childhood, which Baron Saturday suggests that he studies well. After the hall of mirrors comes a long winding staircase which brings him to two opaque mirrors that show him the horrible truths and revelations from his life. ("I See You")
Sorrow is destroyed by his journey; it leads him to understand that no one can be trusted any longer, and that society will only do away with you when you become old and serve it no longer. ("Trust") He is driven into a dark mental seclusion where he suffers from eternal loneliness. Much like The Wall, S.F. Sorrow is the tale of a man who has endured hardships which he uses to build into a mental wall that cuts him off from the rest of the waking world, and leaves them without light. ("Old Man Song") At the end of the album he identifies himself as "the loneliest person in the world." ("Lonliest Person")