The death of the album is an ongoing debate that looks like it will continue for the foreseeable future. October 13th marked the first ever National Album Day - with the resurgence of vinyl sales coupled with artist's taking ever more innovative approaches to releasing their fuller artistic vision (for example Drake releasing "playlists"), we think the album whether in a traditional or evolved form will be with us for years to come.
In support of this beloved format we thought we would share a few of our favourite album tracks from over the years, that may have never seen the light if it hadn't been for the trusty old Long Player.
(Pictured left to right: Rachel Menzies, Dan Neale, Fred Ashworth, Joe Skinner.)
Tomorrow Never Knows - the Beatles (from 'Revolver' 1966)
When I first heard this, I couldn't believe it had been recorded in 1966. Ahead of its time and truly original. The freedom of creating a long form piece of work allows experimentation to thrive.
Cold Little Heart - Michael Kiwanuka (From 'Love & Hate' 2016)
The opening track off one of my favourite albums from the last few years, this 10 minute epic builds and develops to take you on a journey of twists and turns no radio-friendly, 3 minute single ever could. Some might say self-indulgent, I say genius.
You've Got A Friend - Carole King (From 'Tapestry' 1971)
Tapestry was number one for an impressive 15 weeks, a record for a female solo artist (she held onto this record for more than 20 years!) Not only did King secure a platform for women as hit songwriters, but as a singer, she broke down the double-standard that allowed men like Bob Dylan to use their imperfect voices to express personality, but restricted women to harsher standards of perfection. Despite never being released as a single, 'You've Got a Friend' went on to win a Grammy Award for 'Song Of The Year', as well as being covered by everyone from Michael Jackson, Roberta Flack, Dusty Springfield to The Brand New Heavies and McFly!
After the Gold Rush - Neil Young (From 'After the Gold Rush' 1970)
I took a cassette of this from my home when I left for University, and I became a Neil Young fan. It is probably the album I have listened to most in my life, and this may be my favourite song from it. Nick Hornby wrote in his book "31 Songs" that the songs we love the most don't take us back to any one particular time, as we have listened to them often throughout different stages of our lives. I wasn't sure about that when I first read it, but have learned that to be true with this song and album.
The Chain - Fleetwood Mac (from 'Rumours' 1977)
Arguably one of the most iconic riffs of all time, yet never actually released as a single. The Chain was certified Platinum in the UK earlier this year based on downloads sales alone.
Death On The Stairs - The Libertines (from 'Up The Bracket' 2002)
I remember finding 'Up The Bracket' amongst my brother’s CD collection, it caused me to spend the next 5 years of high school trying to be an indie rock star. Seeing as the Libertines only made the two albums (not including the 2015 reunion), I ended up listening through Up The Bracket hundreds of times. Death On The Stairs has always been my favourite track from the album.
Everything In Its Right Place - Radiohead (from 'Kid A' 2000)
The opening track to this iconic album probably never would have existed outside of the longer format. Radiohead famously turned away from traditional instruments in a reaction to the huge commercial success of "OK Computer" and the resulting copycat bands. "Kid A" and all of their albums since have been approached non commercially, as an artistic statement that require a long form format to deliver their cohesive vision. I must confess - this wasn't my favourite Radiohead album at the time, I loved OK Computer, and the change surprised me. But years later it stands the test of time, and repeat listens.
Bad Religion - Frank Ocean (From 'channel ORANGE' 2012)
One of my favourite albums and one I play over and over. Frank Ocean’s unconventional musical style and innovatively structured songs demonstrate the importance of the album as a storytelling vehicle and showcases the freedom of musical expression that just isn’t possible without the album form. Bad Religion is a beautiful song about unrequited love which perfectly displays Frank’s free-form vocal style.
N.Y. State Of Mind - Nas (from 'Illmatic' 1994)
Illmatic is arguably the greatest hip hop album of all time, so I had to include a track from it. I was amazed when I found out NY State of Mind was an album track; it turns out that it was the only track on his 2007 greatest hits that was never released as a single.
Prophets of Rage - Public Enemy (from 'It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back' 1988)
'Prophets Of Rage’ is just one track that helps form the political statement of an album that is 'It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back'. The album is a multi-layered critique of the government, the police and the media and you can still find new resonances 30 years later. Each track from this album is an important part of the statement Public Enemy are broadcasting, and 'Prophets of Rage' is jam-packed full of data, both musically and lyrically.
Brand New Day - Dizzee Rascal (from 'Boy In Da Corner' 2003)
I first came across Grime watching Channel U back in the early 2000’s, I was a bit sceptical about it at first but Boy In Da Corner completely changed my opinion. At the time grime music was mainly about showing off and acting hard, but Brand New Day tells a completely different story. This track definitely couldn’t have existed as a single back then, which is why artists of all genres need to keep on writing albums.
Mortal Man - Kendrick Lamar (from 'To Pimp A Butterfly' 2015)
Where to start with this one… Another epic, weighing in at a hefty 12 minutes, Mortal Man is part song, part poem, part interview. Packed full of clever metaphors, it perfectly concludes Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly, bringing the overarching themes of the album together in one thought-provoking finale. A track that grabs your full attention and certainly one I’ve given some heavy rotation. Would musical expression like this exist if it weren’t for the album?