Classic Albums is a British documentary series about pop, rock and heavy metal albums that are considered the best or most distinctive of a well-known band or musician or that exemplify a stage in the history of music.

Classic Albums
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes62 (TV episodes)
Running time45–50 minutes
Production companiesIsis Productions
Eagle Rock Entertainment
Original release
Sky Arts
VH1/VH1 Classic
Release1992 (1992) –
2021 (2021)

Format edit

The TV series was made by Isis Productions and distributed by Eagle Rock Entertainment.[1] It is shown on various broadcasters including BBC, ITV, Sky Arts, VH1 and VH1 Classic. They are also available on DVD. The show is similar in structure to VH1's short-lived 2001 series Ultimate Albums.

The music, and its production, is dissected by the musicians and/or producer playing the multitrack recordings and singling out tracks that one does not usually consciously hear when listening to the music, giving insight into the way the sound is built up. Also, the individual musicians play back pieces, which are then blended with the original recording. Almost all songs are dealt with, focusing almost entirely on the music itself, how it was composed/realised. Personal aspects of the band or members are occasionally dealt with, but mostly only if they serve this purpose.

TV episodes are 50 minutes long but the DVD releases contain much additional material. All the releases in this series are done with the co-operation and full authorisation of the artists involved. The series producers are Nick de Grunwald and Martin R Smith. Various directors have been used for the series but the majority of the programmes have been directed by Bob Smeaton, Matthew Longfellow and Jeremy Marre.

History edit

The television series is unrelated to a radio show devised by radio producer John Pidgeon as a vehicle for Roger Scott, following the disc jockey's move from Capital Radio to BBC Radio 1 in 1988. The first hour-long series, produced independently by Pidgeon and Scott, opened with Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms in May 1989, followed by The Rolling Stones' Beggars Banquet, Genesis' Invisible Touch, Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, The Who's Who's Next, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Police's Synchronicity, Eagles' Hotel California and U2's The Joshua Tree. Scott died of cancer five months later, and the second series aired posthumously. Further programmes were presented by Richard Skinner.

The first episode of Classic Albums was actually a documentary called "The Making of Sgt. Pepper". This documentary focused on The Beatles' landmark album and was produced in much the same way as the Classic Albums series. Isis Productions and Nick de Grunwald helped co-produce this documentary and it helped lay the template for the Classic Albums series. It aired in 1992 both on the Disney Channel in the United States and ITV's The South Bank Show in the UK.[2]

Episodes edit

Most episodes focus on one particular album in a band's catalog. The three exceptions have been the Grateful Dead, Rush, and Frank Zappa, each of whom had a pair of albums featured in a single episode.

The Who and The Doors were each featured in three episodes, and Frank Zappa in two – first as a solo artist, and later as a member of The Mothers of Invention.

The albums that have been covered are:[3]

Year Artist – Album
  1. Paul SimonGraceland (1986)[4]
  2. Grateful DeadAnthem of the Sun (1968) and American Beauty (1970) (see Anthem to Beauty)
  3. Stevie WonderSongs in the Key of Life (1976)
  4. The BandThe Band (1969)
  5. The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceElectric Ladyland (1968)
  6. Fleetwood MacRumours (1977)
  1. U2The Joshua Tree (1987)
  2. Phil CollinsFace Value (1981)
  3. Meat LoafBat Out of Hell (1977)
  4. Bob Marley and the WailersCatch a Fire (1973)[5]
  5. Steely DanAja (1977)
  6. The WhoWho's Next (1971)
  1. Iron MaidenThe Number of the Beast (1982) (see Classic Albums: Iron Maiden – The Number of the Beast)
  2. Elton JohnGoodbye Yellow Brick Road (1973)
  3. MetallicaMetallica ("The Black Album") (1991)
  4. Lou ReedTransformer (1972)
  5. Elvis PresleyElvis Presley (1956)
  6. Judas PriestBritish Steel (1980)
  1. Sex PistolsNever Mind the Bollocks (1977)
  2. Deep PurpleMachine Head (1972) (see Classic Albums: Deep Purple – The Making of Machine Head)
  3. Def LeppardHysteria (1987)
  1. Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon (1973)
  1. Simply RedStars (1991)
  2. NirvanaNevermind (see Classic Albums: Nirvana – Nevermind) (1991)
  3. MotörheadAce of Spades (1980)
  4. QueenA Night at the Opera (1975)
  1. CreamDisraeli Gears (1967)
  1. Frank ZappaApostrophe (') (1974) and Over-Nite Sensation (1973)
  2. Jay ZReasonable Doubt (1996)
  1. The DoorsThe Doors (1967)
  2. John Lennon/The Plastic Ono BandJohn Lennon/Plastic Ono Band (1970)
  3. Duran DuranRio (1982)
  1. Black SabbathParanoid (1970)
  2. Tom Petty and the HeartbreakersDamn the Torpedoes (1979)
  3. Rush2112 (1976) and Moving Pictures (1981)
  4. The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (1966)
  1. The DoorsL.A. Woman (1971)
  2. Primal ScreamScreamadelica (1991)
2012 Peter GabrielSo (1986)
2013 The Who – Tommy (1969)
  1. Don McLeanAmerican Pie (1971)
  2. Carly SimonNo Secrets (1972)
2018 Amy WinehouseBack to Black (2006)
2019 The CricketsThe "Chirping" Crickets (1957)
2020 Tears for FearsSongs from the Big Chair (1985)
  1. The WhoThe Who Sell Out (1967)
  2. Soul II Soul - Club Classics Vol. One (1989)
  3. SuedeComing Up (1996)
  4. Gil Scott-Heron - Pieces of a Man (1971)
  5. The Doors - Morrison Hotel (1970)
  6. The Mothers of Invention - Freak Out! (1966)

Dutch episodes edit

In the Netherlands, special episodes were produced exploring landmark Dutch albums. There were two series produced for two different channels.

The first ran in 1997 on the channel NCRV, in between episodes from the BBC series. These were never released on dvd.

The second ran in 2011-2012 on the channel VPRO.[7]

References edit

  1. ^ "Classic Albums". Myspace.
  2. ^ The Beatles – The Making of Sgt. Pepper 5/5. 16 February 2010 – via YouTube.[dead YouTube link]
  3. ^ "Eagle Rock". Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2007.
  4. ^ Director & Producer: Jeremy Marre (25 November 2016). "Classic Albums: Paul Simon: Graceland". Classic Albums. BBC. BBC Four.
  5. ^ Producer: Jeremy Marre (8 October 2016). "Classic Albums: The Wailers: Catch a Fire". Classic Albums. BBC. BBC Four.
  6. ^ "Classic Albums on". Archived from the original on 5 April 2014. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
  7. ^;selecties&startrow=1#pageCounter[permanent dead link]

External links edit