Back when I was a lad, we had these large black platters called “albums” or “LPs”, and if you know what “LP” stands for you’re right here with me. These albums virtually forced musicians into a 4o minute recording format, separated into two 2o minutes oeuvres that had their own flow and timing with the the context of the full 40 minute experience. Unlike today, when artists can create close to 80 minutes of stuff on a single disc (and beyond if they go pure digital), musicians had to pick the cream of the crop to be included within the 40 minute presentation. Judicious editing and and feel for the presentation had to be taken into account.
Thus, there were times when one 20 minute play, or one “album side” was an experience in itself. Many a radio station created promotions to boost audience share with such tricks such as “Perfect Album Sides” or “Desert Island Disc” or some other cutesy name (having worked in radio for many a year, trust me when I say that originality was not at the forefront of these promotions. Many a jock/program director would visit different cities to hear what other stations were doing and with fervent hedonism reproduce the promotion verbatim, claiming it as their own).
Given this babbling intro I was thinking back to what I considered to be the perfect album side; a collection of well written, well performed songs lumped together in perfect flow. Let’s take it for granted that side 2 of Abbey Road would be included. Additionally I’m avoiding sides encompassing a single piece (In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Close To The Edge, etc). Anyway – the five that readily come to mind in no particular order…
1. Side 2 – Tumbleweed Connection – Elton John: This was EJ at his peak. Sure he’s had massive commercial success since but this side has nary a flaw.
2. Side 2 – A Live One – Louden Wainwright: Yes he’s sick and twisted but this is such a fun series of tunes…
3. Side 2 – Aqualung – Jethro Tull: I still can’t figure out what Locomotive Breath is all about….
4. Side 1 – Dark Side of The Moon – Pink Floyd: Really this is perennial given like Abbey Road.
5. Side 3 – Quadrophenia – The Who: Mostly for Moon’s drumming but Bell Boy is MY song….