Usually I’m all for getting more for my money. However at times issues of quality raise their heads.
It was standard during the record era to have less than 45 minute albums. The maximum seemed to be slightly over 20 minutes that could be put on a side of a record. That changed with the more recent era of the compact disk. Indeed it was decided from the get go to make CDs longer because there was a classical piece that lasted about 70 minutes and it hadn’t been recorded in one chunk yet.
It was trend setting acts in the 80s like Dire Straits who put out albums with bonus songs or extended versions if you were to purchase them on cassette or CD. Brothers in Arms was a solid album to try this on – still I don’t like every track of that album both on vinyl and the longer versions. In short, I do not let this album play through although there are chunks that I like. This is the problem I’d like to talk about.
It’s rare enough to get a solid album at 40 minutes in length. To me the acts that have managed to do so are heroes. The prog rock acts were probably the best at this like Yes, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. All these bands have at least one album I will play through to the end. And believe me Yes and Pink Floyd heard the accolades and tried to make songs their maximum length (the side of a record) even though that was met with limited success.
Other bands also would put out the occasional wonder album. Like the Who (Who’s Next), Van Halen (1984) or even Men Without Hats (Pop Goes the World)
But the world was listening to Dire Straits in 1985 and by the early 90s it was standard to have a 60 minute album.
In my opinion the only acts to have a solid 60 minute outing were Pearl Jam (Ten) and Nirvana (Nevermind). I’m not sure if it’s my mind or the music, I’m usually done listening to these albums before they are over. Do I not have the attention span or does the music become boring in such quantity?
Plus, in the 60 minute era, there were a number of outings that might have been very solid 40 minute albums, that didn’t quite work at 60 minutes. Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Blood Sugar Sex Magic), Alanis Morrisette (Jagged Little Pill) and the Smashing Pumpkins (Siamese Dream). Of course they would have to edit these albums the way I want.
So I found myself sitting up when I saw an interview with Chris Martin (Coldplay) and he had a post it on his keyboard that was pro- 45 minute albums.
In short, I’m expecting a shorter Coldplay album next time around. Indeed another newer act, Shinedown, released a pretty solid outing (the Sound of Madness) just over the last year. I discovered it because it had 4 songs as singles. It’s time is just under 42 minutes and I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll think it’s one of those album wonders.
Still, what’s driving this return to a supposed former golden age? It’s the backwards technology of that same vinyl record. Vinyl has reemerged in the recording industry and many of us now have turntables again. Vinyl has come back to the future and maybe that’s a good thing.