It's 4:20 in California, so here's some good music to elevate you towards the zenith of your weekend.
Last weekend I wrote my first diary in 3 years. This one is the second half of that one. If you're hungry for more rock and discussion, you can start over there, where I posited 4 different types of double album, and recounted a brief history of the double album in rock. We also talked about what makes a double album (do double CDs count?), what makes a great double album, and why I excluded most live double albums from the initial list.
The best reason to go look at last weekend's diary is that it covers the first half of my Top 30 Double Albums (i.e. my 16th to 30th greatest). All the double albums listed in orange, right below here, were discussed last week. In this diary, I merely list their names, with links to one song off each of them, in case you'd like to hear a sample. Actually, some of the video links go to live versions, not the tracks as you know them from their albums (e.g. Sara, The Cross, Teen Age Riot, Trouble Every Day); other of the links go to boring static videos, just so you can hear the song (e.g.Whipping Post, Goin' to Acapulco); but many also have the songs' original versions with fine or fitting videos (e.g. Mushroom, This Ain't No Picnic, the opening of Tales From Topographic Oceans).
If you'd like to read more about albums 16-30 (and vote in the poll there for your favorite of those 15 double albums), just jump through this link. If you'd rather jump straight to the Top 15 Double Albums (the ones listed in black below), that compendium of criticism and links starts right after this list of all 30:
At Fillmore East (Allman Brothers Band; July '71; 76:26) "Whipping Post"
The White Album (The Beatles; Nov. '68; 93:35)
Aerial (Kate Bush; Nov. '05; 80:04) "King Of The Mountain"
Tago Mago (Can; 1971; 73:15) "Mushroom"
Trout Mask Replica (Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band; June ’69; 77:38) "Moonlight On Vermont"
London Calling (The Clash; Dec. '79; 65:13)
Wheels of Fire (Cream; July '68; 80:32)
Bitches Brew (Miles Davis; April ’70; 93:53)
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (Derek and the Dominos; Nov. '70; 76:43)
Blonde on Blonde (Bob Dylan; May '66; 71:23)
The Basement Tapes (Dylan & the Band; June ’75; 76:41) "Goin' To Acapulco"
Tusk (Fleetwood Mac; Oct. ’79; 68:57) "Sara"
The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Genesis; Nov. ’74; 95:17)
Electric Ladyland (Jimi Hendrix Experience; Sept. '68; 75:47)
Zen Arcade (Hüsker Dü; July ’84; 70:23) "Pink Turns To Blue"
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John; Oct. '73; 76:12)
Physical Graffiti (Led Zeppelin; Feb. '75; 82:15)
Double Nickels on the Dime (Minutemen; April ’84; 73:35) "This Ain't No Picnic"
The Wall (Pink Floyd; Nov. '79; 81:09)
Sign o’ the Times (Prince; March ’87; 80:06) "The Cross"
Metal Box (Public Image Ltd.; Nov. ’79; 60:29) "Careering"
Exile on Main St. (Rolling Stones; May '72; 67:17)
Something/Anything? (Todd Rundgren; Feb. ’72; 86:15) "Hello It's Me"
Daydream Nation (Sonic Youth; Oct. ’88; 70:47) "Teen Age Riot"
The River (Bruce Springsteen; Oct. ’80; 82:58) "Hungry Heart"
Tommy (The Who; May '69; 74:00)
Quadrophenia (The Who; Oct. ’73; 81:33)
Songs in the Key of Life (Stevie Wonder; Sept. ’76; 105:04)
Tales from Topographic Oceans (Yes; Dec. '73; 81:15) The first ten minutes of Tales.
Freak Out! (Frank Zappa & the Mothers; June ’66; 60:55) "Trouble Every Day"
If that's not enough double albums to amuse you, here are several hundred more.
TOP 15 DOUBLE ALBUMS:
Now we have 15 compiled album reviews. Before we begin, here's a key to what their headers signify:
'The album has no discernible center: it is a sprawling collection of songs...and there is no stylistic unity: the tracks range from Paul's folkish "Blackbird" to John's doo-wop flavored "Happiness Is A Warm Gun" to Ringo's galumphing "Don't Pass Me By" (his songwriting debut) to George's stately "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" (which featured Eric Clapton playing lead).' RS100
'A sprawling double album of many moods, and even the up-beat numbers have an undertow of fragmentation. Lacks the polish of most of the other Beatles records, but makes up for it with the individual strands of brilliance - including George's best outing, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps".
'The Beatles were starting to come apart at the seams. If the demands of running a business weren't enough to contend with, John's relationship with Yoko Ono (who was now present at most of their recording sessions) was another source of friction, which was to boil over...Weeks of rancor culminated with the walk out of Ringo, who was of course persuaded to re-join, though the bad vibes refused to go away.' RGR
'With the breakdown of both communication and the old team spirit, the tormented sessions actually produced a rich, amazing record encompassing an incredibly wide stylistic range. From the compellingly visceral (Helter Skelter, Yer Blues, Birthday) to the comically whimsical (Honey Pie, Goodnight, Martha My Dear); from the obscured confessional (Julia, Everybody's Got Something To Hide) to political commentary (Revolution, Blackbird), the whole is rated by some as the pinnacle of the Beatles' genius, by others as disappointingly indulgent. Producer George Martin famously tried to persuade the band to trim the fat and make it a "really super" single album, starting a debate that continues to this day. McCartney's having none of it: "Come on, it's the Beatles' White Album".' MC4
'The Clash slowed down just enough to learn how to play its instruments, how to use a recording studio and how to lighten up. Mick Jones said "We had just been reaching the same people over and over. And the music - just bang, bang, bang - was getting to be like a nagging wife." This double album exploded with such a variety of powerful, tuneful songs that it garnered the Clash a wider following, and punk was left behind...On London Calling, the angry bite is still there in the title track, "Clampdown" and "Hateful," among others. Drummer Topper Headon, who joined the band with the second album, contributes the proper propulsive fury. But the record reveals a recognition of musical heritage. The songs not written by the band - "Brand New Cadillac", "Wrong 'Em Boyo" and "Revolution Rock" - touch base with rockabilly, New Orleans and reggae. Strummer and Jones's songwriting had gained new depth as well, most evident in slower, soulful narratives like "Jimmy Jazz", "The Card Cheat" and "The Right Profile". And they aren't afraid to sound pretty, as on the wistful "Lost In The Supermarket". RS100
'The Clash found the perfect producer in Guy Stevens, a kindred renegade spirit with impeccable credentials and an intuitive, if lunatic, genius for getting the essence of rock & roll on record...There was nothing strait-laced about Stevens's methods, which included pouring beer into a piano when the band wanted to use it on a song over his objections and slinging chairs around "if he thought a track needed zapping up," according to Strummer. Stevens nearly hit Jones with a ladder during one take. But Jones says Stevens - who has since died - was a "real vibe merchant" and was always "exhorting us to make it more, to increase the intensity, to lay the energy on".' RS80s
'Something in London Calling's musical scope, gush of ideas and feel good rock'n'roll zen brings to mind two other legendary doubles: Dylan's Blonde on Blonde and the Stones' Exile on Main St. In fact, it's confusing to think of this as a 'punk' record at all: London Calling was a celebration of the music the Clash enjoyed long before they became new wave iconoclasts - blues, reggae, ska, soul, jazz, funk, rockabilly. It was, as Strummer would put it, "probably our greatest moment".' MC4
'Three virtuosos - guitarist Eric Clapton, bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker - riffed like jazzmen, using such blues classics as Willie Dixon's "Spoonful" as occasions for prodigious, extended instrumental solos. Their skill, technical mastery and ambitiousness as players brought rock & roll a new respectability. Meanwhile, tracks like "Politician" and a sleepy cover of Howlin' Wolf's "Sitting On Top Of The World" flashed a more concise blues power. Wheels of Fire is the trio's recorded high point, before personal feuding brought the band crashing down.' RS200
This was the third double LP in rock. 'Wheels of Fire is a two-album set, one disc recorded in the studio, the second disc recorded on stage in San Francisco. Side three contains the definitive live version of what became Clapton's signature piece, Robert Johnson's "Crossroads", plus a version of "Spoonful". On such pieces, Cream approached blues-based rock with a jazz aesthetic, using the song as a framework to begin and end a performance. The strength of the performance is in the improvisation.' AMG3
'In many ways Wheels of Fire is indeed filled with Cream's very best work, since it also captures the fury and invention (and indulgence) of the band at its peak on the stage and in the studio, but as it tries to find a delicate balance between these three titanic egos, it doesn't quite add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. Taken alone, though, those individual parts are often quite tremendous.' RS4
'"In the Studio" expands the instrumentation to include violas, trumpet, organ and hand bells, while lyrical concerns have changed from love to politics, alienation and post-hippy paranoia. "Live at the Fillmore" is by turns magical and overbearing, but who would dare make - or could carry off without studio trickery - music of such power and ambition today?' RGR
'While Miles Davis had already broached the idea of jazz melding into rock with In a Silent Way, Bitches Brew was the real thing. It doesn't sound like other rock music, but it stood a country mile away from the post-bop and soul jazz which Davis's contemporaries had been creating as their response to rock's takeover. Miles liked the style and energy of rock, but he couldn't entertain any dumbing-down in his own music. So he sought players like John McLaughlin, the young British bassist Dave Holland and Chick Corea; spirits fresh enough to inject something new into his own outlook, but virtuosos in their own right.
'The previous record had been put together with a lot of post-production work, but for this set, Davis simply took his men into the studio for three days and set them off...The result was an album of six tracks, two of them breaking the 20-minute barrier, and all of them (bar the brief John McLaughlin) by turns spacey, frenetic, ferocious and even whimsically funky (Miles Runs The Voodoo Down)...much of it still sounds almost primitive, with its wayward guitar tone and clanking electric keyboards. Davis himself, though, always cuts through; the most modern sound on the record.' MC4
‘Miles Davis grafted his own increasingly abstract style of jazz composition onto the electric crackle of rock & roll and the heartbeat pulse of ghetto funk. Jazz-rock fusion was born...It was his first vinyl outing with a radically expanded band, essentially an electric jazz orchestra, including three keyboard players, three drummers, two bassists and a rather unconventional reed section (Wayne Shorter on soprano sax, Bennie Maupin on bass clarinet).
'Bitches Brew was directly responsible for most of the new electric bop of the '70s. Weather Report, John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra and Chick Corea's Return to Forever were just some of the top fusion groups subsequently formed by members of Davis's all-star Bitches Brew band. But the album was also a quantum leap for black music in America: Davis incorporated the street soul and avant-rock of Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix into his own radical revision of jazz's traditional harmonic and rhythmic precepts.' RS100
'Quite simply, this is Eric Clapton's finest moment, full of gutsy, impassioned playing and tortured vocals.' AMG3
'Inspired by the classical Persian love poem "Layla," the song sprung from a love triangle between Clapton, his best friend (George Harrison), and the best friend's wife (Patti Boyd)...it was obvious that the pain and longing expressed in the single was real, and that the genuine show of emotion put an edge on Clapton's vocals and fire in his guitar playing, helping his churning rhythm work throw sparks against the tart counterpoint of Duane Allman's slide. But it's Jim Gordon's stately, pastoral piano figure that has the final word, adding an air of hope and transcendence that seems almost to answer the pleas of the opening verses.
'"Bell Bottom Blues" distills the pop-blues approach of Blind Faith and Cream into a memorable chorus and exquisite metaphor; while "Tell The Truth" brings the white-soul groove Clapton mastered with Delaney & Bonnie to its fruition." RS4
'The brilliant chemistry of the players, the uninhibited scene in the studio and Clapton's extreme emotional pain made Layla a near perfect blend of rock & roll looseness and white-hot romantic aspiration. Clapton's expressive reach as a player and singer has never extended further. With unfailing taste, he found precedents in wailing blues numbers like "Have You Ever Loved A Woman" and "Nobody Knows You When You're Down And Out" for the guilt and frustration he was chronicling himself in songs like "Bell Bottom Blues" and the title track. The album's epic cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing" provides a passionate tribute to one of Clapton's few rivals on guitar. 'When Jimi died," Clapton said, "I cried all day because he'd left me behind."' RS100
'Rock's first double album has Dylan in a touchingly romantic mood - with love anticipated, consummated and lost on "I Want You", "Sad Eyed Lady Of The Lowlands" and "One Of Us Must Know (Sooner Or Later)", while many other tracks find themselves laughing, often bitterly, at the absurdities (Rainy Day Women 12 & 35) and emptiness (Visions Of Johanna) of the world. Bizarre imagery and a sense of druggy dislocation help create this world where values are all wrong and also often evoke, alongside the music, a mood as much as meaning.
'The most relaxed - and funniest - of Dylan's mid-'60s rock albums, he described it as "the closest I ever got to the sound I heard in my head".' Q100
'This is a sonic universe all of its own, where classic tracks like "Visions Of Johanna" and "Just Like A Woman" pass by in an amphetamine rush of dazzling music and imagery...Blonde on Blonde pushed beyond Highway 61 to wilder streams of surrealist imagery, backed by superb band performances. This album defined "the thin, wild mercury sound" that Dylan later claimed he was always seeking, the sound of staying up all night on coffee and ciggies.' RGR
'Dylan took producer Bob Johnston's advice and recorded Blonde on Blonde in Nashville, taking along only guitarist Robbie Robertson and organist Al Kooper to augment a crew of Tennessee's top session players. Used to recording three tracks in a typical three-hour session, the Nashville cats were surprised to find themselves left to their own devices for hours on end while Dylan finished writing the songs, whereupon Al Kooper - serving as musical director - would translate his ideas for the band..."It's an amazing record, like taking two cultures and smashing them together with a huge explosion", reckons Al Kooper."Dylan was the quintessential New York hipster - what was he doing in Nashville? But you take those two elements, pour them into a test-tube, and it just exploded." MC4
The liner notes credit "Enossification by Eno." ‘This, the last Genesis album with Peter Gabriel, is a sprawling two-disc thematic album concerning a character named Rael. Keeping with that theme, it includes pastiches of Broadway show music, plus the group’s typical mixture of folk, rock, and classical influences. If this is not the first Gabriel Genesis album to buy, it ultimately may prove the most satisfying.’ AMG3
‘Many fans see this as the group’s finest moment, and the culmination of Gabriel’s genius, for he alone wrote its songs...But Lamb was grandiosity personified, and a 102-date world tour, where each and every night they played the whole record live, was probably not a good idea, exacerbating the pressure between Gabriel (now appearing fairly nutty, with shaven forehead) and the rest of the group.’ RGR
'Even with the lengthy libretto included with the album, the story never makes sense. But just because the story is rather impenetrable doesn't mean that the album is as well, because it is a forceful, imaginative piece of work that showcases the original Genesis lineup at a peak
'The album is set up in a remarkable fashion, with the first LP being devoted to pop-oriented rock songs and the second being largely devoted to instrumentals. This means that The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway contains both Genesis' most immediate music to date and its most elliptical. Depending on a listener's taste, they may gravitate toward the first LP with its tight collection of ten rock songs, or the nightmarish landscapes of the second, where Rael descends into darkness and ultimately redemption (or so it would seem), but there's little question that the first album is far more direct than the second and it contains a number of masterpieces, from the opening fanfare of the title song to the surging "In the Cage," from the frightening "Back in NYC" to the soothing conclusion "The Carpet Crawlers".' AMG
'There was the whooshing sound of phasing everywhere on the album, Jimi's approximation of what his music would sound like underwater. His engineer, Eddie Kramer, explains, "Jimi would suggest things in a picture. He would say, 'Make that slide thing sound like it's underwater.' I'd try and get something for that effect and he'd say, 'No, more like blue water.' He was always having these underwater dreams." One day Kramer, who had already experimented with phasing on the Small Faces' "Itchycoo Park", surprised Hendrix with a phasing demonstration. "He fell on the floor. He couldn't believe it. He said, 'You're not going to believe this, but this is my dream. That's the underwater sound.' From that day on, we had to use phasing whenever we possibly could".' RS100
'"We call our music Electric Church Music",said Hendrix. "It's like a religion to us. Some ladies are like the church to us too. Some groupies know more about music than the guys. People call them groupies but I prefer the term "electric ladies". My whole Electric Ladyland album is about them." Physically, eight months and the Atlantic Ocean divided the first and last sessions for Electric Ladyland; spiritually, a lifetime sundered the set. The sessions could have produced two great single albums. But blended together, they were heart-stopping. Wild experimentation blurred into solid rocking grooves. "All Along The Watchtower" not only reinvented Dylan's original for the audience, it reinvented it for Dylan as well - he subsequently performed the song as a de facto Hendrix cover. The two "Voodoo Chile"s offer first a funkadelic jam with Winwood and Cassidy, then a screaming guitar exorcism (based around Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love" riff, played backwards).' MC4
'The chord progressions of "Burning Of The Midnight Lamp" echoed Bach (and featured perhaps the only example of a wah-wah pedal employed elegantly); "Crosstown Traffic" was the Experience at its most rocking; and, with "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," the songwriter reached back into gris-gris mythology to fashion a mock-cosmic persona. Like the sounding of a gigantic gong, the album reverberated across the airwaves; it also sounded the death knell for the Experience.' RS4
'Goodbye Yellow Brick Road is Elton's biggest, best, catchiest, silliest, most pretentious, and most rocking set, a fun house of pansexual perversion. It's packed with mythic hits and oddities.' RS4
'From the pomp of the anticipation-building overture "Funeral For A Friend", it was clear that this hulking masterwork betrayed a new set of concerns far removed from the country comforts and suburban dreams conjured up previously by lyricist Bernie Taupin: a growing obsession with the travails of fame (Candle In The Wind), excitement for primal rock'n'roll energy (Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting); nostalgia (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) and a decidedly confused attitude towards sexuality (All The Girls Love Alice). However the album's epic nature was achieved by accident. Mick Jagger recommended Dynamic Studios in Kingston, Jamaica to Elton after a happy sojourn recording the Stones' Goats Head Soup.
'But producer Gus Dudgeon soon encountered problems. "It sounded amazing when I'd previously been there. It had exactly what we were looking for, this massive bottom end. Things were looking great until we set all the equipment up." The bottom end had inexplicably vanished. After days of dickering, the team taped just one track, a rough run through of "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting", before repairing to trusted standby the Chateau d'Herouville in France. Here the tight band of musicians raced through the 21 songs John had stockpiled while holed up in his Kingston hotel room waiting for the studio problem to be resolved.
'"That's how it came out to be a double," says Dudgeon. "Elton just had more time to write than usual. None of us was particularly into doing a double, but the stuff he had was just too good." Goodbye Yellow Brick Road was stacked full of winners, including several hidden gems such as This Song Has No Title, which, combined with The Ballad Of Danny Bailey, apparently provided Billy Joel with an entire career template.' MC4
'A mature and diverse set of great power and cohesion - and, historically, one of the last great pre-punk heavy rock albums...Although the tracks are by no means all classics, between the staccato riff of "Custard Pie" and the closing bars of "Sick Again", the album contained some stunning material, like the epic version of the trad blues "In My Time Of Dying", the whimsy of "The Rover" and party fave "Trampled Underfoot", with its semi-funk beat. Indeed, much recent dance music owes more than a little to this display of Bonzo Bonham's drumming. The most enduring piece, however, was "Kashmir", the song that lit a thousand joss sticks." RGR
'Led Zeppelin's most ambitious work ever, spanning genres, tempos, and once again contrasting bombastic, rock-solid tunes alongside folksy spiritual quests. Page had been contemplating putting out a double disc for some time and went on a scavenger hunt in the band's vaults, unearthing outtakes from their previous albums and grafting them to the band's more recent compositions, giving a sprawling view of what they were capable of.
'Jimmy Page simply explains it by saying, "We were in that frame of mind in those days. That album's really good because we were having a long run working as a band, and it really shows. We had this beautiful freedom that we could try anything, do anything, which was what the beauty of how the band was, and how the music was made as opposed to how things are today. A band today has to constantly try to keep its head above water."
Within two weeks of its release Graffiti was perched at the top of the US charts, pulling all of the band's previous five albums in its wake back onto the Billboard album charts, making them the first band ever to have six albums in the top 200.' MC4
'Pink Floyd's most elaborately theatrical album was inspired by their own success: the alienating enormity of the tours after The Dark Side Of The Moon, which was when bassist-lyricist Roger Waters first hit upon the wall as a metaphor for isolation and rebellion...Rock's ultimate self-pity opera, The Wall is also hypnotic in its indulgence: the totalitarian thunder of "In The Flesh?" the suicidal languor of "Comfortably Numb," the Brechtian drama of "The Trial." Rock star hubris has never been more electrifying.' RS500
'The Wall is a stunning synthesis of Waters' by now familiar thematic obsessions: the brutal misanthropy of Pink Floyd's last LP, Animals; Dark Side of the Moon's sour, middle-aged tristesse; the surprisingly shrewd perception that the music business is a microcosm of institutional oppression (Wish You Were Here); and the dread of impending psychoses that runs through all these records–plus a strongly felt antiwar animus that dates way back to 1968's A Saucerful of Secrets. But where Animals, for instance, suffered from self-centered smugness, the even more abject The Wall leaps to life with a relentless lyrical rage that's clearly genuine and, in its painstaking particularity, ultimately horrifying.
'Longtime Pink Floyd fans will find the requisite number of bone-crushing riffs and Saturn-bound guitar screams ("In the Flesh"), along with one of the loveliest ballads the band has ever recorded ("Comfortably Numb –"). And the singing throughout is–at last–truly first-rate, clear, impassioned.' RS
'Awesomely grim double album that's just too miserable to play end to end, but superb in parts, particularly "Comfortably Numb" and "Run Like Hell"...a hopelessly ambitious album, concert tour and film project (starring Bob Geldof as the alienated central character), first inspired by Waters' hatred of the whole stadium-rock concept. Self-indulgence is the word here, but the conceit of literally walling off the audience during the live performance was surprisingly effective.' RGR
'Exile on Main St. was the summation of everything that the Rolling Stones were working towards. This double album was the only Stones album where the music didn't declare its intention with Keith's first riff. Exile showed the Stones using the studio as an instrument that was as fundamental to its blues sound as a harmonica or guitar: the album was shrouded in a bleary, narcotic haze that was sometimes so thick that it sounded like Charlie Watts was recorded underwater. Jagger's voice was so blurred and slurred that it frequently faded into the horn charts, while the guitars of Richards and Taylor sounded hoarse, stale and hung-over.' RGR
'The album which holds pride of place in the Stones' mythology has a shambling, expansive feel on the surface, but is underpinned by a brooding, barbarous quality which reflects the trying conditions in which it was recorded. Having left Britain to avoid paying their taxes, the band set up shop for the summer in the basement of Keith Richards's villa in the south of France, recording on their 16-track mobile. The house had been the headquarters of the Gestapo during the Nazi occupation of France. The sessions turned into what's been described as "the biggest house party of Keith's hospitable career."
"It was a right sodding pain in the arse, actually," Mick Taylor recalls. "We bloody hated it almost from the moment we started work on it - thought it was crap. Keith wanted to trash it all and start again. It was party time all the fucking time. It's a wonder we got anything done, the place was so overrun with people. It was ideal for Keith because all he had to do was fall out of his bed, roll downstairs and voila, he was at work."' MC4
'The Stones transformed themselves into a classic R & B band for the album's sessions by adding Nicky Hopkins on piano, Bobby Keys on Sax and Jim Price on trumpet and trombone. The Stones persisted in their love of blues by covering Slim Harpo's "Shake Your Hips" and Robert Johnson's "Stop Breaking Down", and they worked blues, R & B and gospel riffs into scorching originals like "Casino Boogie", "Ventilator Blues", "I Just Wanna See His Face", "Let It Loose" and "Shine A Light". The country strain in their music flowered with "Sweet Virginia", "Torn And Frayed" and "Loving Cup".' RS100
'Tommy was both credible and captivating, orchestral links lending gravitas to the Who's characteristically colorful pulsating rock which swung from the proto-prog grandeur of "Amazing Journey" to the music-hall jauntiness of "Tommy's Holiday Camp" and the searing rock of "Acid Queen".
"Tommy wasn't as big a success as people now imagine," says Roger Daltrey, "not when it was released, anyway. It wasn't particularly big at all - it was only after we'd flogged it on the road for three years and played Woodstock and things like that it got back in the charts. Then it stayed in the charts for a year and took on a life of its own."' MC4
'The beginning of the plot - the loss of a father in the war - is a key to the themes of personal loss and directionlessness that characterized so much British music of the time. The ideas may be outdated, but musically Tommy still stands up to scrutiny, especially in "Pinball Wizard", "See Me Feel Me" and "Amazing Journey".
Much of the hippie movement's more mystical ideas had rubbed off on the Who during extensive US touring...Townshend was having the first of many mid-life crises, and as he pondered The Meaning Of Life he came up with the idea of a rock opera which combined the themes of religion, stardom, perception of the world, perception of self and the quest for Truth. Tommy was released in 1969, a few weeks before Woodstock, in a climate where experimentation was hip and the word "pretentious" did not exist.' RGR
'Tommy's biggest crime is that it inspired lesser artists to attempt the same trick, and by the late '70s, bands like Styx had turned operatic concept albums into rock's lamest joke.' RS4
‘A mod elegy and an attempt to render in music the characters of the Who’s four members...the foursome had conquered entire new worlds in rock & roll, but their ambition would not let up. Horns and orchestral adornments sometimes threatened to overcome Townshend’s most complicated set of melodies and lyrical ideas – but on a song like "The Real Me", the group flourished its mastery of the baroque gesture, the operatic stance.’ RS3
'The title did allude to the ultimately useless technology of quadraphonic sound, but more significantly to the four sides of the personality of central character Jimmy as he struggles to assert his identity in the face of peer pressure, drug confusion, family condemnation and sexual disappointment. To Townshend, it also reflected the split personality of the Who, "Roger the fighter, John the romantic, Keith the lunatic and Pete the self-dubbed 'beggar and hypocrite'."...The band were less than enamored with the whole idea. While Moon's alcoholism took its toll on his abilities, Daltrey remained staunchly unimpressed, complaining that his voice had been buried in the mix, and Entwistle growled that all the songs sounded the same to him. But the quartet produced peak performances on songs such as "5.15", "Dr. Jimmy" and "Love Reign O'er Me".' MC4
'Some of Townshend's most direct, heartfelt writing is contained here, and production-wise it's a tour de force, with some of the most imaginative use of synthesizers on a rock record.' AMG
‘Despite the mod theme and the heavy use of brass, Quadrophenia was the closest the Who ever came to heavy metal.’ RGR
Elton John used to own 25,000 LPs, until he sold his collection for charity. He said, "Let me put it this way: wherever I go in the world, I always take a copy of Songs in the Key of Life. For me, it's the best album ever made, and I'm always left in awe after I listen to it."
'By Songs In The Key Of Life, Wonder is clearly at his peak, effortlessly sustaining the focus required of a double album while demonstrating an almost frightening capacity for hit singles. Even better, he's able to deal with an astonishing range of material.' RS4
‘Making this record, Wonder would often stay in the studio forty-eight hours straight, not eating or sleeping, while everyone around him struggled to keep up. "If my flow is goin’, I keep on until I peak," he said. The flow went so well, Wonder released twenty-one songs, packaged as a double album and a bonus EP. The highlights are the joyful "Isn’t She Lovely" and "Sir Duke," but Wonder also displays his effortless mastery of funk, jazz, balladry, Afrobeat and even a string-quartet minuet.’ RS500
'The sweep of styles, from the big-band jazz of the Ellington tribute "Sir Duke", via the string-driven street opera of "Village Ghetto Land" through the driving polemic of "Black Man", is the broadest of any Wonder album.' MC4
'Songs in the Key of Life maintained Wonder's remarkable level of consistency and stormed to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as soul-funk hits like "Another Star", "I Wish" and the jazz-inflected "Sir Duke", it featured "Pastime Paradise", a song covered almost twenty years later by rapper Coolio on his 1995 hit "Gangsta Paradise". However, "Isn't She Lovely", which opened the second half of the album, a song dedicated to his newborn daughter, hinted that a shift to MOR wasn't far away.' RGR
The quotes above come from many of my record guides and magazines with "best album" lists. Here is a key to the abbreviations: MC4 (The Mojo Collection, 4th Ed.); RGR (Rough Guide to Rock); Spin (Spin Alternative Record Guide); Spin100 (Spin Magazine, 100 Greatest Albums ’85-’05); RS3 (Rolling Stone Album Guide, 3rd Ed.); RS4 (RS Album Guide, 4th Ed.); RS100 (RS Mag. 100 Best Albums ’67-’87); RS200 (RS Mag. 200 Best Albums, ’97); RS500 (RS Mag. 500 Greatest Albums ‘03); RS80s (RS Mag. 100 Best Albums of the 80s); RS (Rolling Stone Online); Q100 (Q Mag. 100 Greatest Albums, '97); AMG3 (All Music Guide, 3rd Ed.); and AMG (All Music Guide Online). That’s a lot of sources, I know, but I really wanted to find quotes that gave you a sense of the specific flavors of the different double albums.
Before you go, please Pick your Favorite Double LP in the poll. Thanks!
If you have another, much better, personal favorite, please explain why you like it so much, in a comment below. Thanks for coming in and playing. I hope to see you again next Friday.