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In Your Opinion, Is There Such a Thing as an Ideal Album Duration?

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The thing is, the double album was a real rarity.  I suppose Blonde on Blonde was the first studio double album (rock), though I'm not 100% sure.  It seems that most great groups did it once (not counting live albums)--think Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Elton John.  I don't recall Bowie ever releasing a double. 

My first jazz album was Bitches Brew, a double studio LP.  It's a classic, but not many artists are named Miles Davis.

 

   

Edited by Milestones

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The great thing about TWA was that each side was complete in itself, had a beginning, middle, and end. Not just a great double album, but 4 great single "albums".

Don Ellis' Autumn, I only - only - play Side two. Played Side 1 at most 3 times, and that was when I first got the record (1972 or so). So when I think of it - and recommend it - as a "great album", I really mean a great album side, albeit one that's about 30 minutes long.

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4 minutes ago, JSngry said:

The great thing about TWA was that each side was complete in itself, had a beginning, middle, and end. Not just a great double album, but 4 great single "albums".

Don Ellis' Autumn, I only - only - play Side two. Played Side 1 at most 3 times, and that was when I first got the record (1972 or so). So when I think of it - and recommend it - as a "great album", I really mean a great album side, albeit one that's about 30 minutes long.

I ditched my copy of “Autumn “ , perhaps I got no further than side 1. I recall enjoying Pussy Cat Stomp ( approximate title) but the rest left me comatose. 

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Depends on the person listening.  

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1 hour ago, Clunky said:

I ditched my copy of “Autumn “ , perhaps I got no further than side 1. I recall enjoying Pussy Cat Stomp ( approximate title) but the rest left me comatose. 

Here's what you missed, or didn't, that's your call. Frank Strozier, and then...just a WHOLE lot of noise!

 

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I think I'd rather listen to Frank Strozier elsewhere and forget I ever heard the rest.

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14 hours ago, Milestones said:

The thing is, the double album was a real rarity.  I suppose Blonde on Blonde was the first studio double album (rock), though I'm not 100% sure.  It seems that most great groups did it once (not counting live albums)--think Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Elton John.  I don't recall Bowie ever releasing a double. 

My first jazz album was Bitches Brew, a double studio LP.  It's a classic, but not many artists are named Miles Davis.

 

   

Elton John did it twice (Yellow Brick Road and Blue Moves), as did the Who to spectacular results (Tommy and Quadrophenia), but overall you are absolutely correct.

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1 hour ago, felser said:

Elton John did it twice (Yellow Brick Road and Blue Moves), as did the Who to spectacular results (Tommy and Quadrophenia), but overall you are absolutely correct.

No mention of CTA/Chicago.

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Double albums are too long.  Single CDs that are double-album length are too long.  I had to laugh when I saw the latest (this month?) release from Anthony Braxton: 11 discs worth of Charlie Parker compositions.  Did Charlie Parker release 11 discs worth of his compositions in his lifetime?  Yet this is seemingly a month's work for Braxton.  Can anyone listen to Braxton's output alone and still have a life?

I also remember the complaint that Swedish filmmakers had about Ingmar Bergman during his lifetime, that Bergman was sucking up all the attention and money available in the (not too big) Swedish film industry, leaving nothing for others to create.

So albums should max out around 40 minutes, with tunes maxing out around 6 minutes.  No twenty-minute freak-outs, with the first 10 minutes just getting around to stating the point.  Make it pungent.  Hire an editor.  And include some standards, to help people understand your point of view.

 

 

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8 minutes ago, mjzee said:

Double albums are too long.  Single CDs that are double-album length are too long.  I had to laugh when I saw the latest (this month?) release from Anthony Braxton: 11 discs worth of Charlie Parker compositions.  Did Charlie Parker release 11 discs worth of his compositions in his lifetime?  Yet this is seemingly a month's work for Braxton.  Can anyone listen to Braxton's output alone and still have a life?

 

Don't be ridiculous. That Braxton box set simply contains every concert of the tour. All good music. Not like that hasn't been done before. It's meant to be listened to one CD/concert at a time. The tracks have been rearranged by Braxton for optimal listening, though. 

Is sitting through a single concert too much for you, old man? Then seek psychiatric help or find another hobby.

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11 CDs of standards, seems like a sell-out to me.

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Caravan put out consecutive albums in '70 and '71, and in my dorm room Side 2 got most of the listens.

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56 minutes ago, Chuck Nessa said:

No mention of CTA/Chicago.

Great point, their first three and #7, so four double LP's for them.  And the first two were glorious.

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Over the last few days (among other things) I listened to 4 longish form improvisations of ~ 15, 18, 25 & 19 minutes plus a 70 minute or so continuous Grateful Dead Live segment. Thank jah there are no time limits like 6 minutes per track.

those improvised pieces were made by musicians such as Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Agusti Fernandez, Peter Evans, Lucas Niggli & others. There are many brilliant recordings of Evan Parker of pieces up to or longer than 45 minutes. Are there too many? Ha

I saw Evan in a quartet with John Escreet, John Hebert & Tyshawn Sorey when one piece lasted almost 50 minutes. Maybe someone should have stopped the set!!

hopefully that show gets released on disc one of these days

Edited by Steve Reynolds

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A few variables factor into this question for my listening habits.

1)  Instrumentation.  It's much easier for me to stay involved for longer periods with music performed by a band, which could be anything from a trio to a big band.  The variety offered by these instrumentations and the back and forth or conversations between musicians hold my attention better.  Solo outings, which are usually either by pianists or guitarists in my music collection, are simply more difficult for me to stay connected with for lengthier periods of time.  There is likely just too much sameness of sound in a solo recording for me, even if there are varieties of tempos, keys, ballads, standards, blues, originals, etc.

2)  The musician's intent or or involvement with the material on an album.  Let's face it, not all albums are created equal; some are more worthy of attentive listening than others.  There are musicians who I would gladly listen to every note they ever played -- Louis Armstrong, Ruby Braff, Johnny Hodges, Jack Teagarden, Thelonious Monk, Paul Desmond, Sonny Rollins, etc.  But does Louis Armstrong's album of Disney songs really require the kind of attentive listening that, say, his Hot Fives and Sevens recordings do?  The Disney album is a fun listen, but it's the kind of thing I might put on as background music if I have chores to do around the house, not for an evening of devoted listening.  I doubt if Mr. Armstrong was as committed to the material on that album as he might have been to the material on his W.C. Handy album, for example.  Disney simply met Joe Glaser's asking price, so Satch went into the studio to record a Disney album; he probably wasn't even familiar with some of those songs before the recording date.

3)  I'm not a musician, so I might enjoy what the musicians on a recording have done without ever being able to analyze, describe or adequately discuss it.  Those of you who are musicians will glean more from focused listening than I ever will, I'm sure.  I can perhaps deeply listen for a track or two, but if I were to be honest, I'd say I rarely block out all other things in order to sit down and deeply listen to/analyze a recording.  I sure don't have the ability to closely analyze the (sometimes slight) differences between various alternate takes.

4)  Is the recording in question an original album or a compilation?  If it's a compilation, particularly those of the "Chronological" type which include every track done by a given performer, it's likely harder for me to stay completely involved from start to finish of the CD.  There were a lot of forgettable songs pushed by publishers back in the day and while Fats Waller might have been able to make something worthwhile out of the lamest of songs, not every musician could do that.  While it might be nice to have 75 minutes of music on disc from a favorite performer, if say 20% of the tracks are weak songs which were pushed on them by publishers/producers/managers, it can actually be a hindrance.  A couple of weak tracks in a row on a compilation disc can cause my mind to wander and then it is harder to get focused back on the music when some good tracks come up next.  Original albums can have this problem too.  I'm sure we all can think of an album we generally love, but are still thankful for the "next" button on the CD player to jump over the one or two tracks on that album which don't really excite us much.

5)  Live recordings are usually easier for me to stay engaged with for some reason.  I guess it's because we expect a set in a club or concert setting to be around 65 - 75 minutes, so listening to a 75 minute recording, even if it was edited together from different performances, simulates what it must have been like to hear the music in person.

 

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6 hours ago, duaneiac said:

3)  I'm not a musician, so I might enjoy what the musicians on a recording have done without ever being able to analyze, describe or adequately discuss it.  Those of you who are musicians will glean more from focused listening than I ever will, I'm sure.  I can perhaps deeply listen for a track or two, but if I were to be honest, I'd say I rarely block out all other things in order to sit down and deeply listen to/analyze a recording.  I sure don't have the ability to closely analyze the (sometimes slight) differences between various alternate takes.

 

I'm reminded of (truth or urban legend) Sonny Rollins' response to the scholarly Gunther Schuller analysis of Rollins' great 'Blue Seven' solo.  Something along the lines of "Really, did I do all that?  I thought  I just played my saxophone"

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Well, sure, but what did he have to do the just play his saxophone to the point where that music came out of it when he did?

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The length of any individual track is its own issue.  Someone mentioned 6 minutes as about the ideal (or even max) length for jazz tunes.  That is way too limiting for jazz.  I'm sure we've all heard 8-10 minutes jazz pieces that sounded intolerably long.  But we've also heard 20-minute masterpieces.  However, I usually find it hard to get past 20. I don't find it appealing when every track on a CD runs 15-20 minutes. There are exceptions, such as Coltrane at the Vanguard; but even here there is more variety in song-length than you might think.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Milestones said:

Someone mentioned 6 minutes as about the ideal (or even max) length for jazz tunes.   That is way too limiting for jazz. 

Take a look at a typical Blue Note release, and see how many tracks are in the 5 to 8 minute range.  More than you might expect.  Now consider Dexter's "Tanya" from One Flight Up.  18+ minutes.  Think of how much better that would have been if they had edited it down to half its length.  Tightness, punchiness would make it more memorable, and wouldn't impose on the listener.  

I found this an instructive exercise: compare the originally-released, edited performances on Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Dynasty to the full performances now available.  Editing made these tracks simply better.

Of course Coltrane (or the Grateful Dead) on a tear was indescribably thrilling.  But most performers aren't on Coltrane's level, and you have to work to (maybe someday) get to that level.  Even Coltrane spent many years as a journeyman, performing tracks that were standards and about 6 minutes in length.

I'm not talking absolutes.  But jazz went way too far in the other direction, and lost a good part of the audience in the process.  Just my opinion, of course.

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Well, the maximum length of the an LP might be "artificial" insofar as it is the technology and not the music that sets the limit. But I don't think that it's a coincidence that the format seemed to work well. A club set can be anywhere between 30 minutes and over an hour, but a typical length is maybe somewhere around 45 minutes, before both musicians and audience are expected to need a break. That time span often seems to be just about right also at home in front of the hifi set. 

 

Edited by Daniel A

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3 hours ago, mjzee said:

Think of how much better that would have been if they had edited it down to half its length.  Tightness, punchiness would make it more memorable, and wouldn't impose on the listener.  

A generic response to Jazz is to hear the improvisation as noodling - the corollary of which is to wish they'd get back to the melody (or "the point"). Anyway I remember hearing it like that -  so that a solo which sounded straightforwardly melodic, I remember one by Joony Booth on a McCoy Tyner live album, was extra special. But that's not a question of editing, that's a question of a fusing of a Jazz sensibility and the expectations of the rock listener. The Joony Booth solo was off a double album (Enlightment) - and it just gave me a way into the whole thing.

Edited by Simon Weil

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