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album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Old 03-10-09, 11:53 PM
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album lengths -- quality or quantity?

I figured this would be an interesting discussion after talk about it in the Tori Amos thread. I think that it wouldn't hurt Tori to put out a brilliant 45-60 minute album out that doesn't wear out it's welcome or contain too much filler, while others feel that it's good that she maximizes the length of a cd for value. I can see where the other side is coming from, though for me, I feel like too much filler can really hurt an album as a whole.

I like to listen to a whole album in a sitting, and a lot of albums that go on past 60 minutes start to drag and have filler tracks that really should be b-sides or "bonus tracks". I feel like if you're going to put out an album that runs over 60 minutes, you better approach the album as an epic, like in the 70's and 80's where it would become a deluxe 2-record set instead of a single record set. The albums that were two-record sets... Exile On Main Street, White Album, Songs In The Key Of Life, London Calling, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Sign O' The Times, etc... were designated with enough great tracks that double the length meant double the value. However, in the CD age, way too many artists have filled up CD's to the brim with nothing more than ego, excess and half-baked filler tracks, and IMO it can really bog down an album as a whole.

I like the idea of bonus tracks and the sort, but considering it part of the original album sometimes makes what could be a 4 1/2 star effort a 3 star effort and can make a cd tedious to listen in it's entirity. Just look at many of the Greatest Albums Of All Time lists, those legendary Beatles albums (besides White Album which was meant to be something special) all ran 35-45 minutes or less in general and they're generally seen as flawless and perfect albums. Too many albums that run over an hour these days don't have that same magic. Did Bridges To Babylon truly deserve to run the same length as Exile when it's 1/10th the album?

What's your opinion on this?
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Old 03-11-09, 03:55 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

I think 30-45 minutes is rather short for an album, but then most of the music I listen to the songs generally are 5-6 minutes in length (sometimes 10+ minutes in length).

But I understand your point about "filler", the Lords of Acid album "Farstucker" is 19 (or 20) tracks in length and about half of that is filler. If it had been cut down to, say, 12 songs...the album would be a whole lot better.
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Old 03-11-09, 04:07 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

A great album has no filler, regardless of the length. Some of my favorite albums are under 40 minutes. I don't see anything wrong with that. Give me 8 perfect songs that take half an hour to hear and I'd be much happier than 80 minutes of music, of which only 30 minutes are actually worth hearing in the first place.
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Old 03-11-09, 04:30 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Well, I love a perfect three minute power pop tune, so a shorter album filled with Grade A music beats a longer album with some marginal tunes thrown in. Never hurt the Beatles.
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Old 03-11-09, 07:44 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
A great album has no filler, regardless of the length. Some of my favorite albums are under 40 minutes. I don't see anything wrong with that. Give me 8 perfect songs that take half an hour to hear and I'd be much happier than 80 minutes of music, of which only 30 minutes are actually worth hearing in the first place.
Well said.

One of the guys from Radiohead said it best (paraphrasing):

"Even if you really, really love Radiohead, most people can only handle about 45 minutes in one sitting."
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Old 03-11-09, 08:59 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

The problem with long albums are twofold, at least. One, like auto said, is that you can only listen to so much of an album. The second is that artists rarely have enough in them to make a great long or double album. The chances that something will seem like filler are astronomical.

There's a great way to get around this. One is B-sides, in the days when people bought singles. Today, a few artists release a special, longer version of the album and put some songs on a bonus disc. Two examples: In Rainbows and Rak, the second disc of Konk by the Kooks.

I do have to say that putting Is This It? and Room on Fire together on one CD makes for one spectacular long album.
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Old 03-11-09, 09:01 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

definately quality over qauntity - even though the Manic Street Preachers had great b-sides from the 'Send Away the Tigers' recording sessions, the album at around 45min is a perfect album.
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Old 03-11-09, 09:54 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Since the greatest rock album of all time (Exile On Main St.) is over 60 minutes and has zero filler, I say why not have both?

Also, since music is highly subjective, one person's idea of "filler" might be another's favorite song.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:07 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

^ and is it me or do most albums end on a down note, not all (I know we have had a thread dedicated to that subject) but most albums end with a song that I wouldn't normally would have added there.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:16 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

I do agree on quality over quantity. The best Black Sabbath, Metallica, Van Halen, Deep Purple, Ramones, etc. albums has 10 or less songs.

I guess on of the problems is that most of the artists are not releasing albums, but singles. They try to release songs that are going to be a hit and be played in the radio a lot of times, and then just fill the rest of the album with mediocre songs.

Regarding the b-sides, The Color and the Shape from Foo Fighters is the best of their albums in my opinion, but the special edition with the extra songs is just too long for me. The original version is better.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:16 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

I would much rather have a short album of nothing but top notch material than one that has that material along with filler. Its actually one of the biggest problems with rock albums as of late IMO. Artists really fall in love with everything they create and just can't get themselves to edit themselves.
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Old 03-11-09, 10:27 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

^ well that was kind of the point with UK singles, add one or two non-album tracks to the singles for the ardent fans. I think it'd be hard as a record producer to say to bands 'well, hey guys this track isn't worth the inclusion on the album, despite all that hard work'
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Old 03-11-09, 10:40 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by Giles View Post
I think it'd be hard as a record producer to say to bands 'well, hey guys this track isn't worth the inclusion on the album, despite all that hard work'
I actually completely disagree. It is a producers job to say, "listen guys...this doesn't fit, its a great track but it doesn't fit." For example, if you like Coldplay there are some tracks on the "Prospekts March EP" that are much catchier than the ones on the "Viva La Vida" album. But Brian Eno gave the thumbs down cause they just didn't fit. Rick Rubin & Brendan O'Brien are also very notorious with this practice.
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Old 03-11-09, 11:05 AM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
A great album has no filler, regardless of the length. Some of my favorite albums are under 40 minutes. I don't see anything wrong with that. Give me 8 perfect songs that take half an hour to hear and I'd be much happier than 80 minutes of music, of which only 30 minutes are actually worth hearing in the first place.
+1, the Mars Volta make killer records that are 80 minutes long, but Ziggy Stardust if 54 minutes and equally good.

It is all about quality.
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Old 03-11-09, 12:17 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Similar to Roger Ebert's quote about films, I feel that no good album is too long and no bad album is too short. If it's good, that's all that matters.

Best example of a spectacular short album: the barely 35 minute Reign in Blood by Slayer.

Best example of a long album: anything by Opeth.
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Old 03-11-09, 12:46 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by KillerCannibal View Post
Similar to Roger Ebert's quote about films, I feel that no good album is too long and no bad album is too short. If it's good, that's all that matters.

Best example of a spectacular short album: the barely 35 minute Reign in Blood by Slayer.

Best example of a long album: anything by Opeth.
Heartily agree.

Also, I am assuming you checked runtime on the remastered Reign In Blood - the original was under 30 minutes. Just a punishing record from start to finish.
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Old 03-11-09, 01:02 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by starseed1981 View Post
I actually completely disagree. It is a producers job to say, "listen guys...this doesn't fit, its a great track but it doesn't fit." For example, if you like Coldplay there are some tracks on the "Prospekts March EP" that are much catchier than the ones on the "Viva La Vida" album. But Brian Eno gave the thumbs down cause they just didn't fit. Rick Rubin & Brendan O'Brien are also very notorious with this practice.
I think this was a mistake by Brian Eno. I love Coldplay but they're not an arty band. They're a pop band playing very loud, catchy quiet rock. The EP has almost as many good tracks as the LP. This was a missed opportunity to make Viva a better record than it was.
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Old 03-11-09, 01:03 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by slop101 View Post
Since the greatest rock album of all time (Exile On Main St.) is over 60 minutes and has zero filler, I say why not have both?

Also, since music is highly subjective, one person's idea of "filler" might be another's favorite song.
Your first point illustrates the problem. If an album is an hour long and has what many people consider indispensable songs, it's considered one of the best of all time.
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Old 03-11-09, 01:12 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by Giles View Post
^ and is it me or do most albums end on a down note, not all (I know we have had a thread dedicated to that subject) but most albums end with a song that I wouldn't normally would have added there.
Yeah, that's probably true, but an album I was thinking of as long and consistently great is The Clash "London Calling". But even that recording takes a teensy drop near the end. Ending with "Train In Vain" is not a normal way to close out a long record, though.
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Old 03-11-09, 01:22 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

As others have said, I think there are albums out there that are both great and long. One of my favourite albums is The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails. To me, every song is fantastic (except one).
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Old 03-11-09, 02:08 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by SomethingMore View Post
As others have said, I think there are albums out there that are both great and long. One of my favourite albums is The Fragile by Nine Inch Nails. To me, every song is fantastic (except one).
Thats actually really interesting considering that Trent Reznor himself has stated that its way to bloated & would've been a phenomenal single disc album.
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Old 03-11-09, 03:11 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by bunkaroo View Post
Heartily agree.

Also, I am assuming you checked runtime on the remastered Reign In Blood - the original was under 30 minutes. Just a punishing record from start to finish.
The audio cassette had the full album on each side.
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Old 03-11-09, 03:35 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

I think its possible to have quantity AND quality. My favorite Tor Amos album is the Extended edition of Little Earthquakes. it came out at a time when most pop/rock albums were 10-12 songs and 35-45 minutes in length. Because of that my favorite song off the album was cut (Take to the Sky {Russia}) . If it came out now I'm sure Russia would indeed make the cut.
Some artists (MOst are favorites of mine) like TOri Amos, Peter Gabriel, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins are capable of putting both quantity and quality on a record. I dont think Ive ever heard a perfect record. SO even most of my favorite albums of all time have at least one or two "filler" tracks. I am still more than happy they were included on the album. A weak song on an album is still a weak song that I own instead of something not on the album and I wasnt even given a chance to like.
SO yeah if I hap my way every album would run at least 75 minutes. Even if the album only lasts 40 minutes after the album ends they can put the "b-sides" or whatever the hell they wanna call them after the album "tracks" end. I hate nothing more than a CD with room still on it for more music.
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Old 03-11-09, 03:44 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by slop101 View Post
Since the greatest rock album of all time (Exile On Main St.) is over 60 minutes and has zero filler, I say why not have both?

Also, since music is highly subjective, one person's idea of "filler" might be another's favorite song.
There are some amazing double/long albums, such as Exile On Main St, Sign O' The Times, The Beatles, London Calling, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, etc. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. And those all happen to be by prolific artists at the absolute height of their powers. Many of those artists proved that they couldn't sustain such acts for long (Sandinista and Emancipation being two good examples, or when The Stones entered the CD era and started padding their albums out, like Voodoo Lounge). If an artist releases a great double/long album, I'm all for it. But most artists can't do that consistently and maintain a high level of quality.

And at the same time, many of those same artists made classic albums that were short. Dirty Mind is 30 minutes, Purple Rain is 40. Rubber Soul is 35 minutes, Sgt. Pepper's Loney Hearts Club Band is 39. The Clash's self-titled is 35 minutes. Between The Buttons is 38 minutes, Beggar's Banquet is 39. And so on. Those albums are as acclaimed as their longer brethren, and don't suffer from being shorter.

Last edited by Supermallet; 03-11-09 at 03:53 PM.
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Old 03-11-09, 03:45 PM
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Re: album lengths -- quality or quantity?

Originally Posted by starseed1981 View Post
Thats actually really interesting considering that Trent Reznor himself has stated that its way to bloated & would've been a phenomenal single disc album.
yeah, he said that after it tanked on the charts and he relapsed back to drugs and alcohol.

I'm sure he's expressed a completely different opinion sometime between With Teeth and Ghosts.
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