Funeral for the Album?
Apparently (according to the NYTimes) no one listens to Albums anymore what with the iTunes and the ability to create your own playlists. More importantly, no one is buying them. The record industry is not happy about this. They don't seem to be happy about anything these days. They have started to sign acts to 2 song deals. Kinda like the old days of 45 records and B-sides, only there are no B-sides here - only hits or misses.
I have thought a bit about the difference between a greatest hits album / compilation and buying an album with a hit on it. Most times all you want are the songs that you know you are going to like. The rest of the album is pretty mediocre.
But sometimes an artist will sneak one by you - gem, something really special. And sometimes an artist puts out a really really solid album or even an amazing album. The kind of album where every track is strong. Where you just have to listen to the whole thing from start to finish - to do otherwise would be a crime. Sometimes you get a really amazing and cohesive album in which every song a part of the story or a piece of the picture.
After I bought "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" (on Cassette) I was afraid to buy any other albums by Elton John because GYBR was soooo good. Every track was stunning. How could anything else live up to this?
Obviously there's the Beatles' "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club"
Other great albums:
(Entirely subjective and unscientific list that demonstrates my age and level of shlocky cheesiness.)
The Counting Crows' "August and Everything After" is just gorgeous.
Joni Mitchell's album "Blue."
Marc Cohn's self-titled first album.
The Shin's "Chutes Too Narrow."
Tracy Chapman's self titled first album.
Peter Gabriel (1980), "So," "Us"
Tori Amos "Little Earthquakes"
U2 "Joshua Tree"
Sting "Nothing Like the Sun"
Pearl Jam "Ten"
Fleetwood Mac "Rumours"
Green Day "Dookie"
Indigo Girls - for me they have done this four times:
The self titled, "Nomads Indians Saints," "Swamp Ophelia," and " Rites of Passage"
Mentioned today by DG on his LJ - Paul Simon "Graceland"
To that I would add his album "Hearts and Bones"
And maybe, Michael Jackson's "Thriller"
This is the tip of the iceberg. I know I have overlooked a lot here. What are your favs?
My hope is that reports of the death of the album are premature. That there are artists in popular music with the talent, the vision, and the ambition to reach beyond the 3 minute song. To conceive of the album as more than a collection of songs. To conceive of the album as having potential as a form worth exploring. And that there is an audience of listeners hungry for what they have to offer.