In 1984 watching MTV I caught a video that was very different. One Night in Bangkok was a concept video from the concept album Chess. The song is neat and different and for kid like me that was raised on musicals from my Mom it was genius. After the song hit I didn't know any thing more about the album Chess for a few years.
1987 I was a senior in Miami Killian High School and I was singing in the coral ensemble. The director Mr. Matthews was looking for works for us to preform and he brought Chess back into my world. I learned much more about the musical from what we sang and I loved every minute of it.
1989 attending Miami Dade Community college and still singing. I found the concept album for Chess in a second hand CD shop. It was the original concept ie the British version and it was awesome. I devoured the songs and for a 20 something idealist the themes running through them hit all the right buttons.
Now I can still put the CD on at anytime and lose myself in the story and music. Different things speak to me now but it still stands the test of time.
The beauty of the album is first it is a great collaboration of song writers. Take the music of ABBA which lends itself to story telling and then add the lyric great Tim Rice to weave the story through the words. Second the story itself, as a child of the end of the Cold War I knew of the Chess matches between evil USSR and the noble USA. Imagine a 20ish young man looking behind the scenes with the story told and finding the people involved might not be so black and white as the Chess board is.
The themes are mature and deep, nationalism, drive for career, abandonment of family and can love survive success. The story is crafted equally well through the music and the lyrics. If you want to hear some very clever and words that sound right out of real life listen to Argument and Pity the Child.
As good as the Concept album was the show for many years didn't translate well to the actual stage. I saw the American tour and it just didn't quite work, the curtain had fallen by that time and the East Vs West didn't work. There were a few more attempts until
2008 a very stripped down version sticking the the original Concept album with limited dialog other than the songs. The performers included Idina Menzel, Adam Pascal and Josh Groban. Finally it is the closest to what I pictured in my mind.
If you want to listen to history and very current situations preformed wonderfully give Chess a listen.
As always listen to the best your ear's deserve it.