Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #2

Bored CD

Are Albums Too Long These Days?

Having just recently brought the recent box set of The Flower Kings A Kingdom Of Colours II which was released last month. Whilst I am still working on my review for the box set, the question of are albums too long with everything one tries to cram on a CD in particular did arise. I was also wondering if this also had an impact on why album sales were not that popular any more due to the fact of all the gap fillers they put on them just to make up the space, and the extra time it will take to listen and digest all the material.

There are many artists these days who tend to try and squeeze the life out of the space of a compact disc by filling them up to the brim with information. But could this also be too much food for thought?. Many artists tend to cram an whole double albums worth of material onto a single disc. But could this really be seen like giving their fans something more for the money?. It really begs the ?.

For example I myself prefer the old 40 minute album time slot, especially if you have a large record collection like myself. It helps you to devote more time to your collection as well. I cannot say I am a fan of this longer time slot and even down to the fact that shoving near enough 80 minutes onto a compact disc is classed as a single album. It takes up the time slot of a double album from back in 70’s, and an album this size would benefit more by sticking it on 2 discs in reality.

I am not saying I cannot sit here and listen to an whole album this size in one sitting. But I do feel making single albums this long could have some downfalls. The first being that it will certainly be a lot harder to make a solid album over this distance, and some could not even do that over 40 minutes never mind the 60 – 80 minutes they cram on the things these days. Also most albums this long do tend to come with gap fillers.

Secondly unless you can be completely on your own. The chances are that you have got twice as much chance of being disturbed whilst listening to the album. And last of all. Albums this length may have also contributed to why these days people would rather buy single tracks than albums.

Unless you are a serious music listener like myself, a 60 – 80 minute album will be too much for most people I would of thought. It’s a bit like an artist making a double albums worth of material with every release. The very fact that most artists only ever released their albums on CD over the past few decades, and are now these days finally getting around to putting them on vinyl now since it’s become a bit more popular again. Proves they was double albums in the first place. Simply because it’s going to take up 2 vinyl albums to put the material that came off 1 CD.

It’s not a case of the artist giving you extra value for the money at all by shoving more material onto a disc, and I have never seen the longer album in that way. The art of making a good album is so that when the last track on the album finishes, it leaves the listener wanting more. By giving them more in the first place is never really gonna do the trick I feel.

So what are your thoughts on the longer album time slot. Do you think there is any real benefit from artists making albums this long?. Do you see them as extra value?. Do you think it puts people off buying them because of all the gap fillers?. Do you think that the long album has contributed to why more people have turned to buying just certain tracks?. It makes you wonder, or am I just talking a load of Dingo’s Kidneys :)))))).

7 thoughts on “Lee Speaks About Other Oddities… #2

  1. This is an interesting topic. In my own opinion the length of an album does not matter at all for me as a listener. But I can only speak for myself. For an example I can enjoy a full length opera of Richard Wagner following the textbook, though I have seldomly the time to sit down for six hours. On the other side of the extremes I would name Slayer’s album “Reign in blood”, which stays under the thirty minutes mark and I can also enjoy it. What really matters is the quality of the content, so if the artist can come up with 70 minutes of good quality material, why he should not pack it on one CD? Of course the artist should care for an inner consistance and a dramatic curve within the album regarding song order or a thematic order. Then the listener as you say will still want more after the last song. And here I see the pitfall. You critizise the length of modern CD productions because of “gap fillers” and I guess that many bands fill their CD the wrong way thinking “Okay, we still have space, let’s add this Jam and this outtake” at the end. Then instaed of leading the listener to a highlight at the end of the work the listener is left disappointed. Talking about building up a good song order I think you should not end with the weakest song. It does not matter for me so much, when a band present some weaker songs on a longer album or double album, when they use it as a kind of breathtakers before they catch your full attention again with the next masterwork. And so you create a dramatic curve, ups and downs of excitement and relaxation. A good example for me is “A night at the opera”. Nobody would call “Lazing on sunday afternoon”, “Seaside rendevouz” or “Good company” the best songs of that album, but they functioning perfectly to relax on a high niveau and then the effect of the best songs is even higher. And they save “Bohemian rhapsody” for the end.

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    • That’s a very well detailed and interesting comment that takes in quite a lot Dirk and I agree the quality of the content does matter a lot and just because I mentioned Roine Stolt’s Flower Kings does not mean that he is filling CD’s up with gap fillers and he is an artist who is quite capable of writing very well written material to do such a thing with all honesty just as are many others.

      However I seriously think that some of these artists in this day and age are now seriously regretting shoving all that information onto 1 CD. Especially as most of these particular artists are finally deciding to put their back catalogue of albums finally onto vinyl these days.

      Putting music onto vinyl is a more expensive game, it’s even more expensive if your so called single albums you put on CD years ago are now gonna require 2 vinyl albums to put them on. Most artists are generally going to sell a double vinyl album at a cheaper price and most double vinyl albums do not cost the same price as 2 single vinyl albums.

      So for example an artist may charge £20 for a single vinyl album and £30 for a Double vinyl album. Effectively the artist is losing a lot of money himself by doing such a thing. Also the fact that he is gonna have to do this for all his albums does not really make things any better and it just goes to show that they was double albums in the first place.

      Classical music as always comes in all shapes and sizes, for example most operas you could not even fit on a double vinyl album although it’s true to say you may squeeze some of them on a double CD. But effectively is this really a double CD or a box set as would of been the case when they was released on vinyl before CD’s came out.

      The Flower Kings have released at least 4 studio double albums on CD over the years and to put those onto vinyl you are going to need 3 to 4 vinyl albums, so effectively they was never double albums in the first case and were box sets.

      For ultimate listening pleasure I have always seen a downside to shoving 60 – 80 minutes of material onto 1 disc. For me the double album I always felt was better on 2 discs rather than 1. Music is much more easier to digest over the smaller time spot than the larger scale of things. I can also fit in a lot more albums in my day to listen too if they use the old time slot of 40 minutes to go by. Effectively your record collection benefits a lot more by them being 40 minutes as well, and you can devote more time to it than any longer album is really gonna do for it. Unless your record collection is not that vast of course.

      In some cases the longer album could be seen as stealing another artists time. That’s not their intention at all of course and that could even be seen as a ridiculous statement but effectively it can do such a thing when it comes to devoting the time to your record collection.

      By the way those songs you mention on Queen’s Night At The Opera album are very good in my opinion. The band do an awesome job on them and it shows how good they really are. That album has a lot of versatility and there is nothing wrong with that if you can pull it off like they did. I don’t think that album really as a bad track and it certainly does not have any gap fillers.

      But of course there a plenty of albums that have gap fillers and it could even be said for those albums over the old 40 minute time slot as well, and not just the longer albums that get shoved on a CD. Some albums were just so badly made and it’s hard in some cases to spot if they were just gap fillers or really bad songs. I mean look at Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy album. That’s only a 40 minute album and the biggest part of it is abysmal LOL…. Now that is what I call a bad album that has very little to say. But a lot of that is down to the production I feel too.

      I have actually just stuck that album on whilst writing out this reply, but it’s not getting my full attention because I amore focused on writing this out. But every now and then I stop for a listen :))))).


      • I would also not call “Lazing on a sunday afternoon” a gap filler, because it’s a great little number and song and well crafted. A gap filler is something bad, not ready, half baked. No song on ANATO sounds half baked or unfinished, but “Lazing …” is not that serious, a brillant sidestep back to the music of the 40s or 20s, but not a dramatic peak like others. “The crunge” of Houses of the holy would much more deserve the label “gap filler’ with its unfinished song structure. About stealing time with a long album I get your point and I am confronted with a similar problem, because I plan to bulid up a little vinyl collection. Which album is worth it to spend more time with and to even buy it on vinyl? A tough question, if your pocket is limited. I think I will start with only one album of my favorite artists with very few exceptions, one of them could be Queen.

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  2. The advent of the CD did usher in a period where albums became longer and longer as though increasing size meant better value for money. Or perhaps the additional content was a cynical attempt to kill off the desirability and viability of the vinyl format when huge profits were available from this highly priced new medium? It did lead to many albums being one or two tracks longer than they should have been. I could cite Powerslave by Iron Maiden and Hold Your Fire by Rush as ones which immediately spring to mind. Of course different music and bands hold your attention in different ways. Motorhead and AC/DC can sound like the greatest bands I’ve ever heard, but I’m done with them after 20 minutes or so, so one side of vinyl suffices. Queen is a great example of a band who can hold your attention through the sheer variety of the music they present. Few bands are so accomplished. Of albums which have fully exploited the CD format, Brave by Marillion is one which can keep me transfixed for the whole 70+
    minutes of its duration. It does this not because of its variety but because of the immersive nature of its theme and soundscapes. I speak only of those albums released in the CD era. The Wall, for example, I own on the original four sides of vinyl. It was edited accordingly when released.

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    • Interesting Dorian and no doubt the CD had an advantage over the vinyl due to its restrictions of what you could fit on a vinyl record before the sound deteriorated. At first artists did cram more on to CD’s when they came out and I think what pressured them to do so was not just the case that they could fit their albums now on them and they sounded better and had no deterioration on them, but it was the price of the CD itself that made them put more material on them.

      For example when CD’s first came out the vinyl album was priced at around £5 – £6. The CD however was priced at around £12 – £14. More than twice the price of a vinyl album. Eventually vinyl albums went up in price to around £10 to draw more in line with the price of a CD but CD’s were still more expensive. And at the time they phased vinyl out they was still around £10 to buy brand new in the shops.

      Over the past few years since they re-introduced vinyl the prices of vinyl rocketed sky high and in most cases they was charging around £22 to £30 for a single album released on vinyl. It was near enough 3 times the price of a CD.

      These days vinyl has come down a bit and some artists sell their vinyl albums at around £15 but that is only major artists who can afford to do such a thing like Led Zeppelin for example. Many prog rock artists who are lesser known acts are still charging £20 – £30. But then again you still can get your completely greedy artists like Pink Floyd who will also charge those higher prices even though they could afford to sell them at the same rate as Led Zeppelin and other well known artists.

      But one of the biggest disadvantages of cramming up so much information onto a CD in the first place is that many of the prog rock bands today are now finally putting their albums on vinyl for the first time, and I have to say it’s the most stupidest thing I have ever seen.

      For example a lot of these artists made lengthy tracks like 25 to 35 minutes long and though they sat comfortably on a CD they do not on vinyl at all, and what they are doing is putting it out in 2 parts because they simply cannot fit them on one side of a vinyl album. Even Led Zeppelin had to do the same with some of the tracks on their live album How The West Was Won they put out more recently on vinyl for the first time.

      Another example is of The Flower Kings. I am pretty sure it was their 2012 album Banks Of Eden. Well the album they put out on CD at first and this is actually the shortest length of all their albums and was around 53 minutes long. As with most of their albums they tend to put out limited editions where you get an extra CD with bonus tracks on it.

      Now to put a 53 minute album onto a vinyl record you are still going to need 2 LP’s to do so. The very fact that Roine Stolt also released this album on 2 vinyl LP’s meant that he also had to include the bonus tracks as well on the 2nd LP. So now they have a double vinyl album with tracks on it that was not even intended to be on main album at all, and was not even written for the main album. That is how stupid the situation as evolved over all these years.


      • I held off buying CDs for a long time because I felt they were a rip off, the prices just seemed absurdly high, and I resented the fact that bands would add songs to the CD that were not available on the vinyl album, Deep Purple with Perfect Strangers, for example. But towards the end of the 1980’s it became obvious that the quality of vinyl was no longer what it had been. The discs themselves had become flimsier and the closer cutting of the groove to accommodate the extended playing time meant that they were audibly quieter than they had been in the past. The format was simply no longer fit for purpose. There were exceptions. Iron Maiden released Fear of the Dark as a double album, but few bands would take such trouble.

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      • Yes that was so true they started to use thinner vinyl as well and they was filled even more with static. I used to buy them brand new in town and had to take them to the Hifi shop and pay another £1 to have them professionally cleaned to get rid of the static. And yes at first they do different things with the CD release. I remember buying Dire Straits Brothers In Arms on vinyl and not long after they released it on CD. It was the first ever pure digital CD as well that had a DDD pressing. There was quite a few things on it that was different to the vinyl album. Some of the tracks were longer and the track “You’re Latest Trick” was completely re-recorded and was more of a slowed down Jazz version of the vinyl release.

        I also remember when they first started to re-release artists back catalogues of albums onto CD as well and they sounded purely dreadful because they were rushed out. I remember buying Deep Purples older albums on CD. I already had them on vinyl and I stuck to the vinyl too for those albums for a decade or more cause the CD’s sounded dreadful. They really butchered that bands recordings of their older albums and It was not until they re-issued more remasters on CD further down the line that they got any better.


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