Vinyl GroovesIn listening to the new Lily & Madeleine album, with its excellent collection of ten tracks, has made me possibly realize something about vinyl production that benefits EVERYBODY, regardless of whether you are a vinyl enthusiast or not. This is not a new topic, but one that I feel has worth, especially now.

In the past, we have been getting CDs filled to the limit with songs whether they were good or not. In my own estimation, and with a few exceptions, the CDs of 15 or 15 tracks probably did its own fair share of devaluing music because, well, a bad song is a bad song. Put too many half-baked tracks in your album because you could, and that entire album begins to sound a little mediocre despite the possibility that a few of those tracks may be pretty damn good.

Now, with the popularity of vinyl, most everyone is getting on the vinyl bandwagon. With one noticeable problem. Length. If you have 15 songs, then either you have to figure out which songs do not make the cut, or you have to press double the vinyl to house the extra tracks. Which, the way I see it, pans out pretty good for music in general.If a band has to keep costs down, and therefore has to pare the tracks down to ten to guarantee greater fidelity, we, as listeners, gets the best that band truly has to offer. If the songs are bad, then you know that they have no future. Just like the old days. But if an album becomes more listenable because the lesser tracks couldn’t be included, then not only do we win, so does the band.

So, whether you’re a vinyl fan or not, you get to participate in this bettering of our available music. Less bad apples on a tree makes that tree look great!

 

By MARowe

14 thoughts on “Do Vinyl LPs Make Our New Music Better?”
  1. I agree completely. When CDs first came on the scene, I thought it was an advantage that artists could put more songs on a single album. Somehow I felt like I was getting a better value if a CD had 74 minutes of music on it instead of just 45. But time quickly showed that “more” didn’t necessarily mean “better”. It just meant I wanted to skip the lesser tracks (something I rarely did listing to an LP) and then hunt for the songs I did want to hear. The longer running times were great for compilations and putting albums which were originally on two LPs onto one CD. But in many cases it was totally not worth having to wade through four or five (or more) tracks of filler which would not have made a 45 min. vinyl album. If we now see a trend of artists being more selective about which songs get put on an album in order to stick to a single vinyl release, then that can only be a good thing, IMO. Plus, there’s always the inevitable “Super Deluxe” release in a few months that will include all the left over tracks anyway. :)

  2. An interesting question on which I’m a bit ambivalent. As we are now being flooded with extended sets of legendary concerts like Basement Tapes, Band Fillmore concert, Alman brothers (I’m very happy about those, by the way) with 4, 5,6 CDs. However if I look at the extended “Joshua Tree”, I shudder to think what would have happened if that was released in the CD years. I haven’t bothered ripping a single “bonus” track off that and the original is just stunning. One of the my favourite bands when I was growing up, Heads, Hands amp; Feet, brought out a record called Home From Home, the missing album. Well, tbh it should have stayed missing. If Blonde on Blonde came out in the CD years, it may have been only 1 CD, and we would more than likely have lost “Sad Eyed Lady of the Low Land”, which would have been extremely sad :-)
    Sorry, that’s a bit of a ramble, but at the end of the day, it’s all about quality, and I suspect we’re back on the way to The River, which may have been better in the CD era… I’d hate to limit Steven Wilson to 40 minutes, I want as much as he’s got.

    1. On the other hand, U2 had two phenomenal tracks from the Unforgettable Fire sessions (Love Comes Tumbling, The Three Sunrises) that should have been on that album.

  3. I agree with this on the surface but the question that I always pose is; as a consumer if a band put out a cd with 40 minutes worth of music and also put one out with bonus tracks exclusively at Best Buy, which one will you buy?

    It sounds good on paper but it’s real hard not to want those extra songs too, even if they bring the overall album down.

    1. IMHO it seems to me that when Best Buy or some other large retailer offers a disc with bonus tracks people will buy them because of the hope there might be something decent added. But in most cases that’s not the case and the addition of “bonus” tracks is just a come on. Why are they bonus tracks anyway? They were left on a cutting room floor – not to be used because the band felt they shouldn’t be included.
      It’s funny though – here I’m arguing why include bonus tracks when I fall into trap as well.

  4. I’m not so sure that vinyl is the reason why albums are getting shorter. There may be a bunch of factors playing into that, like the cost of recording sessions – now that labels aren’t pouring money into their bands anymore.

    It could just be that maximizing CDs’ capacity as a selling point was a fad that died out – and likely because of the quality control issues (anyone remember Michael Jackson’s ‘Dangerous’ or Prince’s ‘Emancipation’? They could have used some paring…)

    In the age of iTunes, the capacity for an “album” is even bigger – no artist is limited to just 74-80 minutes anymore. But how many artists are putting out albums that are multiple hours long? They’re not.

    And I highly doubt that vinyl has anything to do with that – no matter how trendy it is at the moment.

  5. I agree that there is a lot of wasted space on CDs but I wanted to also mention perhaps another angle. Artists that put out an album with a track listing for a designated purpose, i.e., drawing the listener in, taking them on a journey, concluding with a message or some dynamic musical finish, can make good use of the 74 minutes. If an artist is thinking fill ‘er up with tracks because we can, then the album can become nothing more than a collection of hits and misses, which personally leaves me cold. Albums, at least the way I view them, should be the artist’s vision and not some label exec’s opinion of what should be on them. I would prefer, as Steven Wilson did with Porcupine Tree’s The Incident, have a separate disc of extra tracks he felt should be presented but were not part of his album vision.

  6. “I agree that there is a lot of wasted space on CDs but I wanted to also mention perhaps another angle.”

    Another angle could have been using a higher resolution for CD’s in the first place.

  7. I’ve always felt loading up a CD with 15 tracks diluted the value of the music. When I pick up a CD from a band I like, it’s hard to wrap my brain around 15 (or more!) tracks in one shot. It’s too much to absorb, so I pay attention to the first few tracks, then it becomes background noise. The greatest albums of all time from the 70’s and 80’s typically have 10 songs or less. Led Zeppelin IV only has 8 songs (granted a couple of them are 8 minutes long), but you can easily wrap you brain around a 8-10 song playlist on a new album.

  8. Bonus tracks have always been my main concern. Many well structured albums have a fantastic ending track that finishes it all off on such an emotional level that only silence should follow so you can soak it all in. Instead, we are subjected to a song that didn’t make the album because it just wasn’t good or didn’t match the album at all.
    Good reissues put it all on a separate disc so that you can access the manually like a movie’s deleted scenes.

  9. Guys, I recently read an article in a music magazine stating that the age of albums is past. With the iTunes generation, it’s all about tracks, specially when you can stream music on Spotify and others and then identify the good ones. A more interesting idea would be for an artist/band to release tracks digitally at regular intervals (monthly) a few at a time. Concept albums can be released as a whole, but there aren’t too many of them.
    They can be released in high, even studio quality. I have never understood why studio quality is a premium. Surely there is more work to convert the original studio quality to 320k, 192K or even less. With apps like Winamp, I can convert FLAC to any format I want.

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