We’ve all been privy to the book that has been made into a movie. We’ve had those long conversations about what elements the movies missed from the book and how the book is so much better. We’ve even had a few of those rare conversations about those movies that are in some ways better than the book (looking at you Children of Men).
Movies aren’t the only medium of adoption for books, there are also a handful of musical pieces that have been created. Most of the time, it’s a single song: Kate Bush’s Wuthering Heights, Steve Hackett’s Narnia, Led Zeppelin’s Misty Mountain Hop are just a few to name.
What about full albums? One song is not enough time to get all the nuances of a book translated properly. There have been a handful of full length albums that have taken on the task of adapting a book, and I’ve compiled my five favourite.
Leviathan by Mastodon: Moby Dick by Herman Melville
This is by far the easiest one to pick out. Leviathan by Mastodon take’s the raw energy from Herman Melville’s book Moby Dick, and ramps it up to 11. This album exemplifies the blinding passion and rage felt by Ahab over the White Whale monster Moby Dick.
As much as I loved the book, the album does weed out a significant amount of information dumping of the whaling industry of the 1800s. What’s left is a power driven essancence that only the sludge metal band of Mastodon can pull off. The first and last tracks off the album are easily my favourite.
Music Video for Blood and Thunder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=labytsb3gfI
Check out Herman’s Novel here: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/242662130
War of the Worlds by Jeff Wayne: War of the World by H.G. Wells
Taking a page from Orson Welles, Jeff Wayne constructed more of a Radio Play to music with his interpretation of H.G. Wells timeless novel. Interspersed with spoken word of characters, this grand opera spans the entirety of the book, and doesn’t miss a single beat. The album has made it much easier to translate from two factors: The Length of the novel (it’s not too long) and the length of the album (It’s a double disc record).
Although Wayne’s story doesn’t really deal with the raw fear of the characters, or the horrors saw from the narration, the album stays very faithful to the book. Being released in the perfect cross-roads of Progressive Rock and Disco from the late 70s, the album embodies both musical forms. Many of the songs have energetic and fun movements, with an orchestration of strings, while presenting songs running into 10 minutes. The album even got a reworking with a new cast of actors, including Leslie Nielsen as the main protagonist.
Here’s the music Video for ‘Forever Autumn’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A8Qc5bUqLII
Check out the book here: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/65412130
On a Dark and Stormy Night by Shadow Circus and A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
One of the most beloved children’s Science Fiction books has been captured into music by Shadow Circus. This album presents the full story of Meg and Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe and their world hopping adventure to save Meg and Charles Wallace’s Father.
With such a mind bending science fiction from the source material, Shadow Circus doesn’t shy away from the quirky and over the top quality of the book. My personal favourite moment was Charles Wallace’s take over, which I felt was a perfect audio representation from the page.
Here’s the music Video for ‘Whosit, Whatsit, and Which’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sjS1w3p2OA
Check out the book here: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/120768130
The Snow Goose by Camel and The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico
This may be the most interesting of all the titles found on this list, as it provides more of a soundtrack to the novel rather than an interpretation of the novel. With no lyrics or spoken word, the album is purely instrumental, with only the track titles to give us clues as to the bases for each piece. That is, of course, outside of the actual music found within the album.
The album follows the book pretty solidly, creating themes for characters as well as locations. We also have major events, such as coming across the great marsh, crossing the ocean, and landing in Dunkirk.
Unfortunately, this item is not available through our catalogue, but the album is: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/313560130
And you can see the band play a section of the album here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrjvkcEQ8vw
Myths and Legends of King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table by Rick Wakeman and The once and future king by T.H. White / Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory
Rick Wakeman, past keyboardist for the Band Yes, is no stranger to interpreting books and historical events into music. ‘King Arthur’ may have been his most ambitious program to date with a tour of figure skaters to dance to the music. Taking a look at key figures and events, ‘King Arthur’ has dedicated songs to Galahad, Lancelot, Gwenview, Merlin the Magician, and King Arthur himself.
As Rick is a keyboardist, this album is rampant with it. He also has a full orchestra to help back him up, so there are a full brass, strings, and wind section to help Rick pull off the pompous sounds of such an epic tale. It even feels all medieval with the use of chants and big trumpets.
Check out this live performance of the track Arthur: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP64j589WPk
You can check out the book The Once and Future King here: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/384042130
Paradise Lost by Symphony X and Paradise Lost by Milton
Honestly, I’m surprised it took as long as it did for a power metal band to tackle Milton’s Paradise Lost. The work is just begging to get the power metal treatment, and Symphony X delivers. This isn’t the first book to get the musical treatment from the band, they’ve also tackled Homer’s Odyssey (although, that was a single song that was 20 minutes long).
Filled with meaty power hooks on guitars and passionate vocals weaving the story together, Paradise Lost tackles the concepts of life, death, despair and lost. But in the most fun way possible (we swear).
Here’s an epic(ly lame) music video for their track ‘set the world on fire’: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG8orlq6_yE
Check out the book here: https://vaughanpl.bibliocommons.com/item/show/254011130
And that’s the list of five! There were a few other albums that could have been included that I would recommend checking out as well: Neal Morse’s Similitude of a Dream and The Great Adventure, both interpretations from The Pilgrims Travels, Animals from Pink Floyd which is a very loose interpretation from Animal Farm, and The Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel which is inspired in part by The Diary of Anne Frank.
What are other albums that have been inspired by books? What are some songs? Let’s keep this discussion going!