Not all double albums should have been double albums, just as some albums had to be double albums in order for their point to be made. Each case is different with each band or artist.
The Who's Tommy and Quadrophenia had to be double albums to tell their stories of teenage wastelands and post-war angst. Personally, we would take Tommy over Quadrophenia any day, as far as albums go. As for their film adaptations, you can't go wrong with a pill-addled Ann-Margret rolling around in chocolate and baked beans.
Pink Floyd's The Wall, which will be performed in its entirety by main composer Roger Waters Saturday night at Toyota Center, is another album that absolutely had every right to be two slabs of vinyl.
Whether or not anyone skips the quiet places for the eight or so radio hits like "Another Brick In The Wall (Part 2)" and "Run Like Hell" is immaterial. If you wanted to throw out any modicum of a story line and instead go for the anthemic pop throat, it could be pared down to 13 songs, slashing its 26 tracks in half.
Obviously, with the advent of compact discs, most double albums in the vinyl age became single round plastic mirrored discs, but some artists could still get away with charging double for two discs, or even three. Forget double-disc hits sets, that's cheating, but good on you if you can command two discs of "hits."
Speaking of three-disc sets, you try sitting down and paring The Magnetic Fields' 69 Love Songs to ten songs without crying or calling your mother. Do you realize that Frank Zappa and Prince both made at least three triple albums? George Harrison's All Things Must Pass may be one of the best triple-albums ever made, with apologies to The Clash's Sandinista! juggernaut.
A core group of double albums cannot be trifled with. All killer no filler, to cop a phrase from one of the Killer's box sets. You can't mess with these albums for fear of social guillotine at the hands of a music-snob executioner.
Exile On Main St., Rolling Stones
Blonde On Blonde, Bob Dylan
London Calling, The Clash
Songs In The Key of Life, Stevie Wonder
Bitches Brew, Miles Davis
Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin
Not so with these...
10: The Beatles (The White Album), The Beatles: Oh boy, would this make a better single album. It's one of the worst offenders of overcooking. Yeah, it's the Beatles, but Jesus man, that was a lot of filler, coming off more like four solo albums cooked together like a meat loaf, which may have been it's charm. But check out our alternate track listing.
- While My Guitar Gently Weeps
- Happiness is a Warm Gun
- Rocky Raccoon
- Don't Pass Me By
- Yer Blues
- Mother Nature's Son
- Helter Skelter
- I'm So Tired
- I Will
See? It's pretty fun to imagine the White Album as a quick ten-song blast. And it's customary to throw tomatoes. Where did you get an eggplant?
9. Sign O' the Times, Prince: Nothing gets going until side three of the double vinyl edition, until "U Got The Look", and the songs were amazing but all at least a minute too long.
8. The River, Bruce Springsteen: The man needed 20 songs to get everything out of his system that the band recorded for Darkness On the Edge of Town. Slice off six songs here and there, open with "Cadillac Ranch," close with the title track.
7. Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast: Its been seven years, so we forgot that this thing was 40 songs long. Did anyone really listen to the other 35 songs that weren't singles?
6. Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, Smashing Pumpkins: Oh Billy, we hate to do this, but this could have been a single disc, and then you could have released the other stuff later on the next year in 1996. We are one of the biggest Mellon Collie fans too.
5. Forever, Wu-Tang Clan: Is too much Wu a bad thing? Not especially, but couldn't some of these songs gone on solo albums? The only person who could pull off a double rap album was 2Pac with All Eyez On Me, which was his Exile On Main St. if you wanna get really esoteric.
4. Tusk, Fleetwood Mac: The aftermath of touring behind Rumours yielded a double-album full of weirdo arrangements and Lindsey Buckingham and the band stretching their legs musically. A bonus disc has 21 more songs from the sessions. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
3. Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers: What gave the Peppers the right to make a clunky double album 25 years into their career? Maybe time will have to tell on this one, but it didn't hold up after two repeated listenings.
2. Life After Death, The Notorious B.I.G.: Like we noted, double rap albums suffer from way too many interludes and skits. Life After Death actually got away with this by being released to close to Biggie's death. It comes off as more of a window into the last months of his life than grandstanding.
1. The Fragile, Nine Inch Nails: After a five-year NIN drought we got one of the most depressing albums ever to come from Trent Reznor. Sure it has great moments, but it suffers from overkill and some sort of a weird storyline from what we can tell.
Electric Ladyland, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Tales From Topographic Oceans, Yes
Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, Derek & the Dominoes
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
the Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, Genesis
Zen Arcade, Hüsker Dü
Double Nickels On The Dime, The Minutemen