Friday, 1 July 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 104 (Top Ten): Shortest and Longest AAA Albums

A real anorakky top five for you this week! What AAA artists offer the best value for money – and the worst? The difference between the shortest albums on our list and the longest really shows the differences between the 1960s and now, in the modern CD age, when albums are often double or triple the length of ones from 40-50 years ago. Only one entry per top five per artists is allowed, we only take original album releases into account (ie no bonus tracks) and no live sets are allowed –otherwise they’d win by miles! (with the deluxe Who Live at Leeds and Beach Boys in Concert right behind Wings Over America and Neil Young’s Weld!) Anyway, here are the top five shortest AAA studio albums:

5)The Beatles “A Hard Day’s Night” (1964) – a total length of 29:29: AAAA review no 2, The Beatles’ first entirely self-composed album is also their shortest, perhaps because the band were being pushed into doing so much in this period (two albums a year, four singles and a film). A Hard Day’s Night always seemed short – it’s full of the Beatles’ punkiest, most breathlessly youthful songs from the title track to Can’t Buy Me Love. It also has just 13 songs when every other Beatles LP up till Sgt Pepper’s has more – and it’s the first time ever the Beatles had written a whole album themselves, so there’s pklenty of excuses for this album’s brevity. But I have to say it’s amazing how much shorter it is than it’s nearest rival Please Please Me (two and a half minutes). 

4) Simon and Garfunkel “The Sounds Of Silence” (1966) – a total length of 29:09: The second simon and Garfunkel album is, interestingly, much shorter than the first (with a running time of 32 minutes). Perhaps the brevity is because it was made in such a hurry – the album was released on the back of the surprise hit for the re-entry of ‘The Sound Of Silence’ with electric instruments overdubbed on top in the folk rock style of the day, so surprising in fact that neither Simon or Grafunkel knew of it’s release. Record company CBS wanted more and luckily Paul Simon had the pick of a flop album (‘The Paul Simon Songbook’) for the duo to re-record. It’s puzzling, though, that some excellent songs such as ‘The Side Of A Hill’ ‘Patterns’ and ‘Cloudy’ were passed over for the album (the latter two making it to follow-up album ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme) and that the record company didn’t insist on more – after all, 29 minutes is short even by 1966 standards!

3) The Hollies “The Hollies” (1965) – 28:36: The third Hollies album is the shortest, just winning the award from second album ‘In The Hollies Style’. The Hollies were quickly running out of steam in their third year, with less Clarke-Hicks-Nash compositions than before (aka their colective writing pseudonym L Ransford), although it’s surprising that its their most ‘folk-rock’ album that’s the shortest, not either of their two earlier primal Merseybeat rock albums. Nearly all these songs are short, with the exception of album highlight ‘So Lonely’, which at three minutes is clearly showing the path the band will go on to take.

2) Neil Young “Everybody’s Rockin’ (1983) – 24:55: This one is the joker in the pack, released some 20 years after the others here. Basically this album’s brevity is down to two factors: the fact that Neil Young was back to recording real early 1950s rock and roll covers and spoofs (which were naturally short) and the fact that Young wanted to annoy the heck out of record label boss David Geffen. You see, Neil had just been sued for ‘not making records that sounded like Neil Young’ and, when he asked what ‘Neil Young’ was meant to sound like he was told ‘rock and roll’. Neil being Neil, he decided to take this sentence literally and delivered 10 slabs of basic roots rock and roll, many of which were his shortest compositions. Ironically, Neil hadn’t released as many as 10 songs on an album since ‘Comes A Time’ in 1978, an album almost double the length of this one!

1) The Beach Boys “Surfin’ USA” (1962) – 24:15: Not content with releasing six whole instrumentals on an album, the Beach Boys second LP is also the shortest overall – by miles from ‘Surfin’ Safari’s 29 minutes. No song here passes the three minute barrier – few songs actually make it past 2:30. It’s a long way from the epic seven minute songs of the 1970s! Thank goodnes ‘Safari’ and ‘USA’ are out together (with outtakes) on a two-fer-one single CD disc or I’d feel really cheated!

And the five longest albums:

5) Pink Floyd “The Wall” (1979) – 81:09. No prizes for guessing that Pink Floyd is in the top five! A few sound effects over the length of a single disc, this album has already been covered as AAA review no 76 and is an epic double album about the mind-set of a troubled musician let down by family, friends, band and manager. It’s just a shame it has to cost the price of two CDs for the sake of a few grunts and groans!

4) The Who “Quadropehnia” (1973) – 81:36. Closely followed by AAA review no 60. The Who’s double album is even more irritating in term sof price – the cost of two discs gets you an extra 1:36 of listening to a sound effect of the sea! Again, we’ve already covered this album elsewhere, many many times, but Quadrophenia is so great it doesn’t outstay it’s welcome and is so epic it seems even longer than it’s 81 minutes.

3)The Beatles “The White Album” (1968) – 93:35. AAA review no 25 and the third to be covered by this site in a row – no wonder I’m feeling so blooming tired! It’s also by far the longest album from the 1960s in this list and covers – literally – every style known to man including pop, rock, ballads, reggae, ska, soul, heavy metal and avent garde, inventing a few genres along the way.

2) George Harrison “All Things Must Pass” (1970) – 105:59. Good grief another album from our original 101 reviews - no 42 – and a triple LP no less. While most of disc three is a ‘bonus’ disc of ‘Apple Jams’, this album would have made the list anyway as a double LP lasting 79 minutes, featuring some absolutely epic songs – and no less than two versions of ‘Isn’t It A Pity?’, easch lasting seven minutes plus!

1) Godley and Crème “Consequences” (1976) – 110:59. The mummy of all concept albums, this is a part-serious, part tongue in cheek epic from the 10cc duo who make ample use of spaced-out inastrumentals, long speech passages and oodles of their new invention, the ‘Gizmo’ stringbender guitar. Heavy going even as a single highlights LP! 

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