Monday 6 May 2013

From Start To Finish

That is how an album should be consumed, not just cherry picked for the best bits.
Although it seems that the un-packaging (is that a word?) of albums is becoming more and more commonplace.  That activity halps explain (at least to me) the following couple of news stories that have appeared in the past fornight.
  1. Calvin Harris (who I have nerver knowiungly heard) is now the holder of the record for the most Top 10 Singles released from a single album, with the 8th release going into the Top10 a couple of weeks ago (will the album now be re-promoted as 'Greatest Hits'?)
  2. Compilation Albums now account for for 1/5th (20%) of all album sales
Despite my archaic belief that an album should be consumed as a complete entity, it seems the great British public is more than happy with a world of 'Now Thats What I Call Music?'*, 'Stuff You've Heard On The Radio', 'Look At The Hits On That' and other compilation titles some of which aren't actually real.

* Question Mark added on purpose, and purely in a futile attempt to raise a smile from the readers of this tosh

A couple of years ago there was the battle between Pink Floyd and iTunes over the attempt to split up and sell individual tracks from 'Dark Side Of The Moon'.
Roger Waters vehemently fought against this, claiming that these tracks should be heard in context and as sequenced as originally intended.
A stance that I can understand, and wholeheartedly agree with.

Whilst on the surface an album is just a collection of tracks, probably recorded in the space of a couple of months and probably just randomly thrown together to create a 40/50 minute product, the tracks need to be sequenced to provide some sort of "journey" and to ensure that the listener remains engaged.  It's no good just lobbing your 3 best songs at the front of the album, and then padding ouit the remainder with any old rubbish, or sticking all the fast songs together on Side 1 (how old am I?), and filling side two with ballads and instrumentals.
No, all the tracks should be strategically placed in order to provide the listener with troughs and peaks of emotion, energy and (sometimes) enjoyment.  There also comes the point when the sequencing is so perfect that the listener would be unable to imagine any other track following another.
So people like Roger Waters or Pete Townsend will spend time sequencing the tracks to produce a cohesive explanation of their original vision of the concept/story, and then we come along with iTunes or Amazon and download only Tracks 3 and 7.

OK, I admit that everyone does pull single tracks off albums for inclusion on their own compilations, or to show a friend how good a particular band, or their album is.
I also freely admit to plundering an album and posting YouTube links to specific tracks on a website forum that I frequent (The Afterword, to be specific - come on over, have a look, the waters lovely etc etc)).
BUT ...
This is all done with the knowledge of the entire album.  The inbuilt hard-wiring that xxx follows yyy, the background understanding that Track 4 is stronger than the last single, and Track 8 is a bit of a duffer.
So my request to you all is listen to albums all the way through as the artist intended.  Let's not lose the art of the album, it's sequencing from barnstorming opening track to epic finishing track, interspersed with the signles, possibly a ballad, an instrumental track (unless you're listening to The Shadows, when it may well be an unexpected vocal track) and maybe a surprising choice of a cover version.
Otherwise, we'll end up drowning in a sea of Greatest Hits, Very Best Ofs, Essential Collections and generic SimonCowellisthdevilBritainsGotNoXFactorTalent blandness.

When it's good, it is a fantastic way to spend 40 minutes or so.
When it isn't that good, at least you've spent 40 minutes annoying the wife* (or is that just me?)

* common phrases heard in my house:
  • "what's this rubbish then?"
  • "do we have to listen to this?"
  • "does it have to be so loud?"
  • or when stuff turns up in the post, or when I return from a shopping trip "more crap!"

To return to a previous statement regarding the importance of sequencing and how taking tracks out of context may effect the overall experience of the album, I am now going to completely contradict myself (and probably annoy Roger Waters into the bargain):
Behold, the final two tracks from 'Dark Side Of The Moon' ("Brain Damage" & "Eclipse")

If you've never heard the above and like it enough to want to purchase it, please, please, PLEASE get the whole album, play it from start to finish and enjoy the experience.

If, however, you just want the individual track(s) - go ahead, but I still don't agree with the un-packaging of albums into single tracks.

It's just WRONG!

And relax ...

No comments:

Post a Comment