Fill my eyes with that double vision

In this day and age, with downloadable music, iPods and such, it seems at least quaint, and at most obsolete, for me to discuss the concept of The Double Album.

Back in the ’60s and ’70s, and into the ’80s, artists typically released new music as single albums — i.e., somewhere between seven and 14 songs that fit nicely into the 40-minute limitations of a two-sided vinyl LP.

But now and then, artists found it necessary to release a double album — twice as much music, on two discs, spread over four sides.

Sometimes, these packages were bloated, self-indulgent and full of filler.  They were testaments to a band’s overinflated egos winning out over the common sense of the record label, who no doubt pleaded, unsuccessfully, for the artist to pare down the abundance of material to something more workable and consumable…like a single album.

Often, these double albums were “Live in Concert” affairs.  The artists defiantly claimed that, to duplicate the experience of a live show, the recording had to be of comparable length — closer to two hours rather than a mere 40 minutes.  The problem was, they often didn’t have enough great songs to fill two hours, in concert or on record, so they would take a decent 4-minute tune and turn it into an interminable 12-minute track full of excessive soloing and irritating crowd applause (think Humble Pie’s “Rockin’ the Fillmore,” Dave Mason’s “Certified Live” and Peter Frampton’s mega-seller “Frampton Comes Alive!”).  Sometimes this was acceptable if you were attending a show, but at home, on the album, the listener often found it grating and quickly lost interest.

The real rarity was the double album of new studio recordings that was truly worthy of its length.  It was hard enough for many bands to create enough quality stuff to fill a single LP.  Seriously, how many albums in your collection were great from beginning to end, with nary a dud song?  Maybe 10-15% at best?  For a band to think they could come up with 90+ minutes of great music in one fell swoop was not a challenge to be accepted lightly. Read More

These are a few of my favorite things

It seems like almost every day I see a new post on Facebook or in a magazine with someone’s selections for “Top Ten” this and “Top Ten” that — quarterbacks, guitarists, vacation spots, female vocalists, fashion designers, double albums, car models, concert venues, vegan recipes, and on and on.

3oxgxv5cThese Top Ten lists can be great fun, provocative, irritating, satisfying, or silly, but most of all, they get the conversation started.  Pretty much all these categories involve highly subjective choices, based as much on emotion as empirical quality, so there’s plenty of room for disagreement.

For more than 60 years, BBC Radio has had a program called “Desert Island Discs.”  Celebrities (some musicians, some not) are invited to list and discuss the eight records they would take with them to a desert island.  Bruce Springsteen recently picked his eight, which are all songs that had a dramatic impact on his life and career.  Others have selected tunes that reminded them of specific incidents or past relationships.

It’s certainly an intriguing idea, and a reader urged me to write a blog essay about the subject.  If you were banished to some remote location for, say, a year, and you could take along only a limited number of songs, which ones would they be?  What are the songs in your life that you simply don’t want to be without? Read More