Monday, 11 November 2013

The Longest Average AAA Songs Per Album (News, Views and Music Top Fifteen)

'Be Here Now', then, is an album that seems to go on four hours, with nearly every song seemingly extended past it's natural point of resolution. Which got us thinking: what are the longest AAA albums in terms of average length per song (yes, ok, we have weird thoughts we know). Surprisingly as it turns out, 'Be Here Now' is only the 14th longest song on this list. Less surprisingly, the list is dominated by Pink Floyd and Neil Young, with a few cameos from John and Yoko's avant garde albums (we're not sure if they count as 'proper' AAA albums either - I'm going to need all my wits about me when I review those three!) For the purposes of this article we've only counted studio albums, not live albums or compilations/box sets (otherwise we'll be here all day!), 'bonus' tracks not part of an album's first issue do not count and as an unusually large number of these albums include 'reprises' we've decided to count them as one song (so 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' is listed as one song, for instance, despite being split up into nine 'parts' and being split down the middle by the other three songs on the album). Now, I'm not too bad at maths (all this was done in my head, honest - I love doing calculations like these!) but I'm far from a maths genius so all amounts are approximate (ie we've rounded each album to the nearest minute and then divided into sections of five seconds to make it easier on my poor tired brain). All this seemed deeply unfair to the two-minute pop wonders on our list (The Beach Boys and The Beatles in particular( so we may well run a 'shortest average AAA songs' next week! Enjoy!

1) John Lennon and Yoko Ono "Wedding Album" (1969)

(48 minutes ÷ 2songs = 24 minutes each)

'John!....Yoko!....John?!...Yoko?!....JOHN!!!!...YOKO!!!!' etc etc. The third in Johnandyoko's trilogy of avant garde albums wins this week's AAA prize by a mile, even though few fans have ever actually managed to get to the end (believe me, this track gets boring by the third call of 'John!') Actually this track (titled 'John and Yoko' by the way) is the shorter of the two at a, umm, lowly 22 minutes - it's the 26 minutes track 'Amsterdam' on the other side (with the pair intoning newspaper reports about their bed-in honeymoon as if they were madrigals) that's the epic here.

2) Pink Floyd "Wish You Were Here" (1975)

(44 minutes ÷4 songs = 11 minutes each)

It's the 25 minute eulogy for Syd Barratt 'Shine On You Crazy Diamond' that pushes this album so high up the region. The song is divided up into two 'parts' for the record (the first 13 minutes, the second 12) but several compilation edits of this track have merged different parts together down the years ('Dance Songs' features sections 1,2,4 and 7; 'Echoes' 1-7 and 'A Foot In The Door' 1-5). However, even the other three songs have an average running time just short of the six minute mark, making this the longest running Floyd album of them all.

3) Neil Young and Crazy Horse "Psychedelic Pill" (2012)

(87 minutes ÷8 songs = 10 minutes 50 seconds each)

When I first read about this album coming out on two CDs I thought it was either a mistake or a con - after all, there were just eight songs on it (plus one 'remix' which doesn't count). In actual fact, this is an album of extremes - two songs last 16 minutes each and the opener 'Driftin' Back' is the single longest AAA song of all time at 27 minutes, while no less of four of the songs clock in at under four minutes (which is very short by Neil Young standards). I'm sure a bit of trimming could have turned this into an 80 minute album though - quite a lot of the extra running time comes from extended endings and feedback (although despite all this 'Pill' is still Neil's best album in almost a decade!)

4) Pink Floyd "Animals" (1977)

(41 minutes ÷4 songs = 10 minutes 15 seconds each)

We've elected to count 'Pigs On The Wing' as one song for this entry, even though it's split into two parts on the album. That song doesn't make much difference, though, lasting only 3 minutes in total (I still reckon it was added at the last minute when Roger Waters realised he'd be getting less publishing royalties than normal if the album went out with only three songs!) This Orwellian divide of the world into 'dogs' pigs' and 'sheep' is still pretty long otherwise though - and in case anyone is interested in the competition the dogs win it (woof!) by a bark with 16 minutes compared to the pigs (11 minutes) and sheep (10 minutes).

5) Pink Floyd "Atom Heart Mother" (1970)

(52 minutes ÷ 5 tracks = 10 minutes 12 seconds each)

The Floyd feature on this list again, with what must surely have been one of the longest running times of any album in 1970 (anything over 40 minutes compacts the grooves in vinyl so badly that it often sounds distorted - my poor old battered copy used to sound terrible until I bought it on CD!) Most of the extended running time comes from the 23:44 title track, although even on the four-song second side you have the likes of 'Alan's Psychedelic Breakfast' at a length of 13 minutes! (By contrast 'If' sounds positively brief at 4:31!)

6) Pink Floyd "Ummagumma" (1969)

(86 minutes ÷ 9 tracks = 9 minutes 35 seconds each)

Yet more Floyd, with this the band's fourth album no less than a double record (we've relaxed the rules a little since strictly speaking only half of this album studio and the other half is live). Most of the entries on the 'studio' side are 'suites' anyway, lengthy multi-part epics about Sysyphus and The Grand Vizier (which might sound enticing but turn out just to be some woefully extended instrumentals). The live sides aren't much more compact, though, with the shortest of the four songs clocking in at 8:32 (it's not an album for the fainthearted Floyd fan, this!) No less than three songs reach 12 minutes in length!

7) Dire Straits "Love Over Gold" (1982)

(41 minutes ÷ songs = 8 minutes 5 seconds each)
Five songs doesn't seem like much return for your money, but the gorgeous 14 minute 'Telegraph Road' is arguably my favourite Dire Straits track, balancing Knopfler's guitar solos, his protest lyrics and the 'space' that makes up so many DS songs better than any other (unlike some songs higher up on this list, this song deserves to be 14 minutes long!) The other four songs aren't exactly all that short either: the shortest of them is 'Industrial Disease' which comes in at a punk-slapping 5:58!

8) Grateful Dead "Anthem Of The Sun" (1968)

(39 minutes ÷ 5 songs = 7 minutes 55 seconds each)

The earliest entry on this list, 'Anthem Of The Sun' was a really daring album when it came out, a hybrid live-studio set (again we've relaxed the rules because this album sits in a 'live' category all of it's own) where the band 'jump tracks' every so often during a song, one recording of the song cross-fading into another version of the song which takes it in a completely new direction. What's more impressive is that one 'song' here is really just the feedback ending of the epic 'Alligator' jam, although as the band themselves indexed it as a separate track we've followed suit, and the fact that this average running time takes into account the 2 minute adrenalin rush 'Born Cross-Eyed'.

9) Neil Young "Greendale" (2003)

(78 minutes ÷10 songs = 7 minutes 45 seconds each)

Another lengthy extended jamming session from 'Greendale', unlike 'Pill' this is one of those rare NY albums where the jamming really doesn't suit. All these ten songs - which tell the story of an ecology protestor and her rather odd family - could have been told in half the time, maybe a quarter of the time. Most of these long songs (which vary in length from 3:16 to 12:03) are built on such similar chugging chords that all the songs sound the same anyway, even if I do have a soft spot for nine minute closing epic 'Be The Rain'. There is a film of this album out on DVD too. which stretches the running time even further...somehow I haven't got together the strength for that one yet!

10) Pink Floyd "Meddle" (1971)

(46 minutes ÷ 6 songs = 7 minutes 40 seconds each)

The last of our list's Pink Floyd entries, I'm surprised this one isn't higher. It does, after all, contain the Floyd's single longest song (the 23 minute masterpiece Echoes, just beating 'Atom Heart Mother' by a little less than a minute) and at six songs isn't exactly over-generous with material. The difference is that the songs on side one are rather short (well, by Floyd standards at least), with the 2:16 'Seamus' barely trying (it's the shortest Floyd song until 1987!), although the 6:08 'Fearless' is still longer than about three songs put together by other groups!

11) Pentangle "Cruel Sister" (1970)

(38 minutes ÷ 5 songs = 7 minutes 30 seconds each)

This is another album to have made the lost by virtue of a side-long epic, in this case the 18 minute suite 'Jack Orion', a traditional song extended by some thrilling instrumental passages (and some not so thrilling instrumental passages too). Two of the songs on side one are a more 'normal' length, although the title track itself is another epic clocking in at a little over seven minutes.

12) Cat Stevens "Foreigner" (1973)

(36 minutes ÷5 songs = 7 minutes 10 seconds each)

This is another case of one long song skewing the album figures. 'Foreigner Suite' isn't a very characteristic Cat Stevens song - only one other songs lasts more than five minutes but this one lasts for a whopping 18:19! A selection of songs stringed together loosely, it deals with Cat's time as an exile in more ways than just being a tax exile in Brazil. The other songs on side two actually make up one of the smallest 'sides' back in the vinyl days, all four of them running to four minutes something each.

13) John Lennon and Yoko Ono "Life With The Lyons" (1969)

(51 minutes ÷ 7 songs = 7 minutes 5 seconds each)

The second of JohnandYoko's avant garde releases, this is the second and best, voyeuristically recording the couple's heartbreak at the stillborn death of their child John Winston Lennon II. Like 'The Wedding Album' a heavy chunk of the album is taken up by the pair reading out press reports (the moving 'No Bed For Beatle John', Yoko ad libbing her way through a tale of her husband having to sleep on the floor by her bedside), a jam session from 'Cambridge, 1968', eight whole minutes of John turning a radio on and off at random and the sound of their unborn baby's heartbeat looped to last longer than he was actually alive, together with several minutes of silence as a requiem for him. In case you're wondering about the title, 'LIfe With The Lyons' was an Archers-style radio soap popular in 1969 with an everyday story of everyday folk - the album title is Lennon's pun on how the press have labelled him and his wife.

14) Neil Young "Chrome Dreams II" (2006)

(66 minutes ÷10 songs = 6 minutes 35 seconds each)

This is another album with a confusing title. The first 'Chrome Dreams' only ever saw the light of day on bootleg, despite the fact that if it had come out in 1977 as intended it would have been surely hailed as one of Neil's greatest ever albums (featuring all of Young's most famous work from his next three albums, plus juicy songs not available even today). This sort-of sequel isn't half so interesting, with many of the songs again extended long past the point they should have been, the biggest causes of this album's long running time being the 1988 outtake 'Ordinary People' (at 18 minutes too long for the 'Bluenotes' album that is its natural home) and the album's best song, the 14 minute 'No Hidden Path'.

15) Oasis "Be Here Now" (1997)

(71 minutes ÷11 songs = 6 minutes 30 seconds each)

Here's our old friend back again, with Oasis' third album one of those records where every song is un-naturally long (although a full nine minutes-plus-a-two-minute-reprise of 'All Around The World' helped inflate the timings). As we've seen in our companion review this week, this is the sound of a band not knowing when to stop and the musical equivalent of a group so in need of inspiration that they're playing on regardless, willing the muse to come if they keep playing long enough. For all that, though, I'd gladly have seen longer versions still of album highlights 'Fade In-Out' and 'D'Yer Know What I Mean?'
And that's that! Join us for more news, views and music of varying lengths next week!

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