If the term “concept album” conjures up images of keyboard players dressed as wizards and ten-minute drum solos then perhaps it is best to think of In The Hills of California as an album of interlinked ideas, an instrumental narrative or a series of scenes and scenarios told through music. Based around the idea of the album’s central character wandering the San Ynez mountains, the music is a description of their encounters with the oddballs and outsiders, misfits and madmen who make their home there.
The album takes the form of, largely, instrumental pieces, some funky and dance-infused, some more chilled and jazz inspired; it wanders the alternative side of soul and often plays with new forms of rock and indie expressions.
Crocodile feels like a strange dream-like take on jazz-rock and Typical is wonderfully funky and groovesome but it is the last three tracks which are the most compelling, a tryptic called Another Bend in The Road. Not only do these come with a beguiling, slightly out of earshot lyrical component but across its three chapters covers boundless sonic mileage from apocalyptic rock to funky disco dirges, from chiming soul breaks to warped R&B interludes.
If you think that concept albums have had their day then Clay Rodgers masterful and occasionally mind-blowing album will make you think again.