Psychedelic-era music is fascinating to me. There's nothing like the real thing, and the musicians (kids, really) that created albums like this one truly were dedicated to new sounds and ideas.
They say that S.F. Sorrow was truly the first rock opera, predating Tommy by a few months in late 1968. It does present a sequence of songs that tells the story of one Sebastian F. Sorrow in a more or less linear fashion, so I suppose there's some credibility to the claim.
I hadn't heard this album until I bought
a nice original copy last spring. Album cover freak that I am, I was attracted more by the neat, die-cut "tombstone" gatefold sleeve than anything else. I always thought Pretty Things' mid-60's music was interesting, the band had a nasty edge that compared favorably to their more famous contemporaries, the Rolling Stones.
But I was unprepared for the collection of pop mini-masterpieces on this one.
The album has a marvelous flow, from beginning to end, showcasing a number of memorable tunes ranging from tough rockers to experimental mood pieces to acoustic/electric pop (a la Tommy). Produced at Abbey Road studios some months after Sgt. Pepper, the Pretties used a similarly wide variety of effects and instrumentation, along with spoken passages and other sounds which impart a nice late-60's British flavor to the album. Obvious care was taken to stitch the segments together into a richly satisfying whole which rewards repeated listening. As the jazzbos say,
it knocked me out!
It turns out that I'm not the only one who missed out on this record, it wasn't even available in the U.S. until six months after its initial UK release, on the fairly obscure Rare Earth label. Sorrow wasn't well-promoted and was never a big seller (though that's good for collector geeks like your truly!). It's amazing to find out that an album this good was virtually ignored at a time when bands like Iron Butterfly and Vanilla Fudge were packing auditoriums and selling zillions of albums. Go figure...