Monday, January 10, 2005

Double fantasy.

In honor of the 25th anniversary reissue of The Clash's London Calling, I'm going to list my favorite double albums. The criteria: simple, they must have been released as two slabs of vinyl regardless of size or speed. You might be surprised by what goes missing below as well as the overall rankings.

The Five Essentials
1) The Clash, London Calling
As close to a perfect record as might exist out there. If this is what punk is, I'm down with it. Now a 2 CD, 1 DVD set.

2) New Order, Substance
For once Quincy Jones and Qwest got it right. New Order was a singles band and specifically a 12" singles band. A definitive mid-career anthology.

3) Marvin Gaye, Here, My Dear
Cynically dismissed on its original release, this divorce settlement album proves that while Gaye could make a non-commercial record on purpose, he couldn't make a bad one for the same reason. Right up there with his two career peaks, What's Going On and Let's Get it On. The sound of some of Gaye's screams here is heart-rending.

4) Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
A tad on the short side, but the downtown nosiemeisters come of age on this one. Closest they came again was Washing Machine.

5) The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Will the Circle Be Unbroken
Forget O, Brother Where Art Thou?, this 1972 release was the original backwards glance at our country/mountain roots.

Everything Else Alphabetically

The Beatles, 1962-66 (The Red Album)
While I like the Blue album (1967-70) too, I was old enough by 1967 to ask for the actual Beatles albums and I own them all from there on out. But this is how I learned about the British Invasion material.

The Beatles, Rock and Roll
As above except covering the early covers forward to "Revolution."

Bob Dylan & The Band, The Basement Tapes
I have a fraught relationship with Bob Dylan. However, Greil Marcus' Invisible Republic convinvced me to revisit him, and I can say for sure that this lp is the biz!

Hüsker Dü, Warehouse: Songs and Stories
A song cycle that is the sound of a band cracking up under the pressure. A fitting final testament to the greatest American band between The Ramones and Pavement.

Hüsker Dü, Zen Arcade
Indie dinomite. Their first truly great record.

Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Before he became a camp diva and composer of mediocre Disney scores, John was a talented musician/singer-songwriter/ pianist who managed to make the genre-spanning record the Beatles unsuccessfully tried to make in The White Album. Finally surpassed as a mix of songwriting styles and sounds by London Calling.

Little Feat, Waiting for Columbus
I've never bought the band in decline argument about this double slab of live down and dirty chicken shack boogie.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, One More For/From the Road
You know Ronnie Van Zandt WAS a Golden God! The liner notes on this double set made Cameron Crowe's career. Even if "Freebird" is the second most overplayed long song of all time, this record documents America's best live band in the mid 1970s (sorry Aerosmith). Three guitar attacks rule!

The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
A testament to one of America's first great post-hardcore indie bands cut down before their prime. D. Boon, we miss you so.

Prince, Sign 'o' The Times
Arguably the last time the little purple one really mattered. And America just didn't get this masterpiece.In fairness neither did I at first back in 1986.

The Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street
A very good record marred by some loose ends and the odd weak track. At its best as epochal as rock and roll has ever been.

Todd Rundgren, Something/Anything?
I could do without a bit of the studio tomfoolery. But this is as inventive as American Power Pop got in the 1970s. Thousands of geeks went out and built their own jerry-rigged home studios after hearing this masterpiece.

Talking Heads, The Name of the Band is
As the recent and long overdue reissue and expansion shows, THIS not Stop Making Sense is the definitive live album for one of the 1980s greatest bands.

Two new non-vinyl entrants

Drive-By Truckers, Southern Rock Opera
Conceptually brilliant, but do I really need to listen to the nine minute spoken word track on Disc 1 every time? I think not. They've gone from strength to strength with Decoration Day and The Dirty South.

Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Reinventing rap/hip hop much as Public Enemy once did. One wonders "what's next" in Stankonia?

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