Saturday, June 17, 2006

33 1/3

Originally Written: Monday, August 01, 2005

Lately I've been thinking about why albums of the 1960's and 1970's are, on the whole better than albums of today. There are probably a number of factors that are part of this situation but I believe that one is head and shoulders above the others, namely length. New albums are simply too long. Older albums were limited by the length of the LP record,about 40 minutes or so. Also because of their two sided nature artists had to seriously consider running order. Today artists don't even need to think about running order. Sequencing an album is a lost art. New albums can be as long as 80 minutes giving artists too much space. They don't need to ask if they are repeating themselves because they have the space and time to do so. The same thing goes for song length, they never ask if a given song is too long.

In the past if an artist really liked a song but it didn't fit on the album because of time they could hold it over for a later album or use it as a B-side. Led Zeppelin held many songs over because of too much material as did The Who. In fact many of the truly great double albums are roughly the length of today's single albums. Pink Floyd's "The Wall" is less than 79 minutes. Don't agree with me? Just imagine Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" 15 minutes longer. How about The Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band" with three extra tracks. In both cases the impact of the album would be greatly lessened and their genius would be diluted. Another circumstance that I believe supports this premise is that when I listen to classic albums that have been reissues with bonus tracks I usually stop the CD after the album proper is over.

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